Newport, Rhode Island, is located at the
southern end of the island of Aquidneck. Surrounded on the north
and west by Narragansett Bay, and on the south and east by the
Atlantic Ocean, Newport was an isolated maritime settlement for
the first two centuries of its existence.
Religious Haven Settled in 1639 by a group of dissenters from
the Puritan Church, Newport became a haven for different religious
groups. Members of the Quaker, Catholic, Antinomian, and
Unitarian faiths settled peaceably among the town's merchant traders
and seafarers. Newport's Jewish settlers were important figures in the town's early history, establishing the first American synagogue in 1763. 
Slave Trading Center
Newport merchants actively engaged in the
triangular slave trade between America, Africa, and the West Indies.
Newporters shipped rum, flour, and iron to Africa's Gold Coast
in exchange for slaves. The slaves were sold in the West Indies.
West Indies ports shipped molasses for sale to Newport's distilleries.
Slaves were also shipped directly to Newport for sale. 
Newport's reputation as a slave trading
center drew planters from southern colonies and the West Indies.
Inspired by the town's mild climate and pleasant scenery, many
of these visitors returned to Newport each summer.
By the late 1600s, Newport was one of the
colonies' leading ports. Newport's
harbor and inland resources contributed to its prosperity in colonial
times. Whale oil and candlemaking were important industries.
The Revolutionary War and the War of
1812 damaged Newport's economy, as did an 1807 law abolishing
the slave trade. Newporters revived the town's economic base through exportation of local goods and establishment of hotels and boarding houses to accommodate
Social and Intellectual Center By the mid-nineteenth century,
Newport had shifted from a mercantile to a resort-based economy.
Newport's summer residents included old-monied families from New York, Boston, and the South. Artists, writers, and other intellectuals also made Newport their summer home.
Ocean House (1840) and the Atlantic House (1844) were Newport's
first large hotels. Newport's other establishments included
Bateman's Boarding House, Aquidneck House, Perry House, the
Kay Street House, the United States Hotel, and the Cliff Avenue
By the 1870s fashionable society had discovered Newport. The
1875 edition of Bachelder's Popular Resorts and How to Reach
Them hailed Newport as "the fashionable queen of all American
watering resorts, for summer pleasure." 
Alfred Smith and Joseph
Bailey contributed to Newport's transformation into a fashionable
resort. They purchased 140 acres of oceanfront property on Ochre
Point and convinced the town council to extend Bellevue Avenue
down to the property. Smith then sold parcels of land to wealthy
industrialists, earning a large profit on the investment. 
the 1880s forward, Newport was the summer home America's
wealthiest families.  The resort attracted people primarily from the
East Coast, who built palatial estates along Bellevue Avenue and
on the rocky coastline of Ochre Point (see Newport map).
An 1888 article in the Newport Mercury reported that excursionists,
"who come in goodly force," occupied the bath houses and pavilions
at Easton's Beach. 
An 1894 article in Scribner's confirmed the popularity
of the resort:
"On Sundays it is given
over to excursionists and servants, as was quite to have been
expected, of course, with the increase of Newport's general
popularity and its facilities of access by rail and water. But
even on week-days it has 'developed' immensely in a popular