When it comes to colonial history, Rhode Island sometimes gets overshadowed by its neighbor to the north (we won’t name names). Nevertheless, as one of the original 13 colonies, Little Rhody has played an oversized role in American history. A visit to each of these 10 historical sites – some of them well known, some less so – will perfectly demonstrate why the Ocean State is so significant.
1. Rhode Island State House
You may just associate the State House with Ocean State politics, but the building is a fascinating historical site in its own right. Made from Georgian marble in 1895, the building was designed by the architectural firm that designed the Boston Public Library and numerous other notable buildings. If you're looking for real significance to American history, though, visit the museum inside, which houses the Colonial Charter granted in 1663 by England's King Charles II.
2. Fort Adams, Newport
Named for John Adams, who was President at the time the fort was built in 1799, Fort Adams was rebuilt in the mid-19th century. It was active in wars from the War of 1812 to WWII, but never fired a shot in anger. In 1958 and 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed in the fort while summering in Newport. In 1965, the fort was given to the state of Rhode Island and it became part of Fort Adams State Park. You can find the fort, which is open for tours in the summer, at 90 Fort Adams Dr., Eisenhower Trust Building, Newport, RI.
3. Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport
Founded by colonists in 1747, the Redwood Library was the nation's first lending library open to the public. It's absolutely gorgeous, and open for tours. Learn more
, and find it at 50 Bellevue Ave., Newport, RI 02840.
4. Touro Synagogue, Newport
The first Jewish synagogue in America, Touro was built in 1763. Its congregation was also instrumental in ensuring that the United States Constitution protects religious freedom. Learn
and visit at 85 Touro St., Newport, Rhode Island 02840.
5. Fort Barton, Tiverton
Fort Barton was an important Revolutionary War fort used to launch ships during the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island. Today, you can visit the site, where you can see the earthworks but not much else. However, you can climb up to an observation deck with a great view of the harbor! Visit at Lawton Ave. & Highland Rd., Tiverton, RI 02878.
6. Gilbert Stuart Birthplace, Saunderstown
Gilbert Stuart was a famed Colonial portrait artist who painted the famed portrait of George Washington that you grew up seeing in all of your history textbooks. His home is now a great museum that lends insight into life in that period. Find it at 815 Gilbert Stuart Rd.., Saunderstown, RI 02874.
7. First Baptist Church, Providence
You can take this church's name literally - it was in fact the first Baptist church in America. The first congregation gathered here in 1638 with Roger Williams, and the church was built in 1775. Don't miss peeking inside at the incredible Waterford crystal chandelier! The church is still actively operating, and you can visit at 75 North Main St., Providence, RI 02903.
8. Great Swamp Massacre Site, West Kingston
In 1675, during King Philip's War, New England's colonial militia fought the Narragansett tribe in a brutal battle that nearly wiped out the Narragansetts. Today, a monument marks the site of the battle on the South County Trail, West Kingston, RI.
9. Jamestown Windmill, Jamestown
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jamestown's famed windmill was built in 1787 to grind corn and was operational until 1896. Visiting will remind you of Rhode Island's agricultural past (and that of the United States) and the difficulty of producing food in the preindustrial era. Find it on North Rd., Jamestown, RI 02835.
10. Smith Castle, North Kingstown
The site of a 1638 trading post created by Roger Williams, as well as land disputes between several New England colonies and the Narragansett tribe, this home has a dark history. It was destroyed in King Philip's War, and then rebuilt into a slave-holding plantation. It's been wonderfully restored, and now you can tour and learn about plantation life in Rhode Island. Find it at 55 Richard Smith Dr., North Kingstown, RI 02852.