History Comes Alive

The Brick Market c 1762-63

Peter Harrison, renowned as America’s first professional architect, blossomed from merchant and ship-owner to designer and architect of a number of Newport’s well-known buildings. In his early years Mr. Harrison labored on the Redwood Library from 1748-1750 and later constructed the famed Brick Market.

The design of the building reproduced Indigo Jones’ Old Somerset House in London but Harrison decided to use brick instead of stone. Constructed in 1762 with final details completed in 1772, the street level was created as an open shopping arcade surrounded by immense pilasters and slated for use as a market house. The two upper floors composed of dried goods and offices. The rents and profits went to the Newport town treasury and later used to purchase grain.

During the British occupation of Newport during the Revolutionary war, almost every wooden building in the city had been burned in the troops’ effort to keep warm, but being brick, the Harrison’s creation was spared. An interesting history evolved after the Revolutionary War. At that time, the upper floors were used as a printing office and in 1793 remodeled and billed as a Theatre until 1799.

As time continued to meet her fate, in 1842, The Brick Market was again transformed and served as a town hall with the third floor removed and the second one made into one huge room featuring galleries on three sides. Used in the capacity of Newport’s City Hall from 1853-1900, Brick Market was an exceptional case in point of Harrison’s established work and one of the few enduring colonial business structures to continue to exist in Colonial America today.

In 1928 the exterior was completely restored. And two years later, the interior.

In the present day, The Museum of Newport History makes her home at The Brick Market offering an impressive synopsis of Newport’s history. The museum houses fine ship models, radiant paintings and delicate colonial silver along with the actual printing press used by James Franklin. Additionally, an enlightening introduction of the people who have lived along the lively bustling waterfront in Colonial times compliments the museum.

The museum surveys the Newport Historical Landmark District which is available on an interactive computer plus an 1890 omnibus plays a video tour of historic Bellevue Avenue.

The exterior of the front of the building, three stories high, hosts Pilasters, decorative Capitals and arcade columns topped with fine dentil work and peaked and arched Pediments above each window. More impressive is the side of the building where the detail is additionally doubled in width.

At the moment the concept of the open brick market can be seen in the two surrounding buildings amassing numerous shops and restaurants amid a center courtyard plus housing upper level condominiums.

Located on 127 Thames Street, The Museum of Newport History offers a self directed tour of the interior of the building along with guided walking tours on the streets of yesteryear.

For more information on times and dates of tours, call (401) 841-8770 or 846-0813.



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