2006-11-09 / About Town

Author to speak on Newport and American spirit

The Friends of the Jamestown Library will host a book talk with Rockwell Stensrud, the author of "NEWPORT: A Lively Experiment, 1639-1969" on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Jamestown library.

Newport is known as "the City By The Sea," a retreat where the wealthy and powerful spend their summers in comfort and opulence. But in Rockwell Stensrud's new book, he shows that this underestimated city is far more than a playground for the rich: it is also the birthplace of the American spirit.

In this book, Stensrud shows how Newport's unprecedented level of freedom among the 13 colonies - obtained directly from King Charles II by an almostforgotten local minister - has become part of the American way of life, even 400 years later. "Lessons learned in Newport over the centuries-religious tolerance, political freedom, artistic experimentation, architectural grandeur - helped transform the nation at every phase of its development," Stensrud writes.

Cities such as Boston and Philadelphia have eclipsed Newport in the American historical record, but Stensrud argues that to disregard this smaller city would be a mistake. Its harbor made Newport a critical port in military campaigns and for trade; its residents accepted newcomers of all faiths and creeds, contrary to the way other colonies handled religious affairs; its climate made it "Queen of the Resorts" beginning as early as the 1720s; and its grand mansions were an unmistakable symbol of America's dominance in commerce in the early 20th century.

Stensrud is a writer whose work includes books, television documentaries, screenplays, and

magazine articles. He and his wife divide their time between Newport and New York City.

"NEWPORT: A Lively Experiment, 1639-1969," is the first comprehensive, in-depth book written about this city, and is being published independently by Newport's Redwood Library and Athenaeum, one of the nation's oldest libraries. The program is free and open to the public.

For more information, call the library at 423-7280.

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