Roger Williams National Memorial commemorates the life of the founder of Rhode Island and a champion of the ideal of religious freedom. Williams, banished from Massachusetts for his beliefs, founded Providence in 1636. This colony served as a refuge where all could come to worship as their conscience dictated without interference from the state.
Rhode Island's only national park is Roger Williams National Memorial, in Providence, commemorating the first government to declare religious freedom for all.
An extensive shoreline and mild summer climate contribute to Rhode Island's renown as a vacation state. Resorts along the coast and offshore islands are major centers for people interested in boating, fishing, swimming, and other water sports. Notable resorts in the state include Block Island, which lies about 10 miles offshore, and Newport, one of the nations most popular resorts.
Rhode Island is also noted for its numerous places of historic interest, some of which are designated as state historic sites. Among the best-known tourist attractions of historic interest is Touro Synagogue National Historic Site, in Newport. It preserves the oldest synagogue in the United States.
There are about 25 state parks, beaches, and management areas in Rhode Island. The largest, Beach Pond State Park, is in the hilly western part of the state and has facilities for swimming, boating, camping, and nature study. Also in the west is Dawley State Park, which has picnicking, hiking, and riding facilities. Diamond Hill State Park, in the northeast, has picnic facilities and wooded terrain. Located in the south is Fishermen's Memorial State Park, a camping facility along Point Judith Pond, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean.
Burlingame State Park lies on Watchaug Pond in southwestern Rhode Island. The park includes a bird sanctuary, picnic sites and campsites, hiking trails, and facilities for boating, swimming, and fishing.
State Historic Sites:
World War I Memorial State Historic Site, located in Providence, includes a granite shaft 115 ft tall that supports a heroic figure representing peace. Noted for its excellent acoustics, Rhode Island's Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence is the state's World War II memorial.
General Stanton State Historic Site, in Charlestown, is a granite shaft erected in honor of Joseph Stanton, Jr., a prominent soldier in the French and Indian wars and one of the first two U.S. senators from Rhode Island. Also in Charlestown is Indian Burial Ground State Historic Site, an 20 acre plot that contains the graves of Narragansett Native Americans. Fort Ninigret State Historic Site in Charlestown holds the original outline of a fort supposedly built by Dutch traders before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620. On the boundary between the towns of Exeter and North Kingstown is Queen's Fort State Historic Site, which includes the ruins of an ancient Native American fort abandoned in 1676. Other state historic sites are Great Swamp Fight State Historic Site in South Kingstown, Jireh Bull Garrison State Historic Site in South Kingstown, and Bell Schoolhouse State Historic Site in Exeter.
Other Places to Visit:
Among the many other places to visit in Rhode Island is the State House in Providence. A beautiful domed building of white marble, it stands on a hill overlooking the city. The First Baptist Church in Providence is the oldest Baptist church in the United States. The city's Roger Williams Park includes lakes, gardens, rolling wooded hills, and recreation areas. Also within the park are a planetarium, extensive zoo, natural history museum, and aviary. The main United States post office in Providence was the first fully automated post office in the United States. With its 66 carved figures and baroque-style organ, the Crescent Park Carousel, located in East Providence, is one of the finest examples of carousels left in North America. The Green Animals topiary gardens were started by Thomas Brayton in the late 1800s. There are 80 sculptured trees and shrubs, formal flower beds, fruit and vegetable gardens at the Portsmouth gardens.
At Block Island the bluffs rise abruptly to a height of about 200 ft above the sea and stretch for nearly 3 mile along the southern shore, offering spectacular scenery. The lighthouse has the most powerful beacon on the United States East Coast.
In Newport, long a fashionable summer resort, some of the city's palatial summer mansions and estates are open to the public. Many of the estates can be seen from Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive. The Breakers, considered the most beautiful summer residence in Newport, was built in 1895 in Italian renaissance style. A 70-room mansion, it is adorned with mosaics and carved stonework, and contains the original furnishings. Among the numerous historic buildings to visit in Newport is the Old Colony House, or Old State House, which was erected in 1739 and housed the general assembly of Rhode Island from 1790 to 1900. The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House dates from 1675 and is the oldest existing and restored house in Newport.
Also in the city is the Old Stone Tower, a structure once believed to have been built by the Norse. However, excavations carried out on the site in 1948 and 1949 showed that the structure is probably the ruin of a windmill dating from about 1670. Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, now preserved as a museum, was built in 1793. Visitors there can view demonstrations of early methods of producing textiles. In North Kingstown is the Gilbert Stuart Memorial, built in 1751, which preserves the birthplace of the famous American portrait painter. On the grounds is an 18th-century snuff mill, which is still in operation. The National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame and Tennis Museum, in Newport, houses exhibits relating to the history of lawn tennis in the United States.