15 Sep 2014
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Historic 1697 House Museum to be Transformed into Revolution House

The Newport Historical Society's only whole-house museum, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, is about to be transformed into a dedicated epicenter for the history of the birth of the American Revolution here in Rhode Island.

Historic 1697 House Museum to be Transformed into Revolution House
It only took a few hundred years, but scholars of American History are finally acknowledging that the American Revolution was born here in Rhode Island, with Newport playing a key role.

"We have found that our visitors are extremely interested in learning more about the American Revolution when they visit Newport.  After all, in many ways, it all started here,” explains the Society’s Executive Director Ruth Taylor. 

Today, the society's traditional house museum, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard house, circa 1697, is a whole-house museum that offers a glimpse into daily life in that era with displays of chamber pots and rope beds.

But in 2015, the house will open its doors, reborn as Revolution House.

It's the latest undertaking for the Newport Historical Society and its team of researchers is in the process of reinterpreting the museum.

The plan is to provide a detailed exhibit space to showcase how Newport played a pivotal role in the buildup and operations of the Revolutionary War with "innovative exhibits and displays' that will be installed using artifacts and documents from the society's near-limitless collections.

"The property will fill a void in the current cultural offerings throughout Newport's Old Quarter," a release states.

The work will coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act Riot, the first in a series of events that led to the war. Along with riots in Boston, there were riots in Newport — including one that began at the Colony House in 1765 that patriots sacked and attempted to tear down the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, then owned by Martin Howard, a tax collector.

Not a good time to be a tax collector.

The historical society will be celebrating the the Stamp Act riots this summer with a re-enactor led public "riot" and other programs.

It all leads up to the debut of the new Reveolution House musuem, which means that this tour season is your last change to see the house as a convential house museum.

Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House is open for tours April, May, November & December on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-3pm; it’s open daily 11am-3pm June through October. Tours cost $8 per person and are free for NHS members. For more details, call 401-841-8770 or visit www.NewportHistory.org.

Details of the Revolution House plans, history of the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House and the 1765 Stamp Act are avaialble on the historical society's Web site at  http://www.revolutionarynewport.com/.

From the historical society release:

Although well-known history celebrates the Boston Tea Party and the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first episodes of armed resistance against the British happened right in Rhode Island on Narragansett Bay.

In the wake of the Sugar Act of 1764, violence broke out when colonists took over Fort George on Goat Island, off the far end of Long Wharf, and fired cannon on the British ship, St. John whose crew allegedly stole merchandise from Newport businesses but which was also enforcing tax laws against local ships.

More violence erupted in 1765 when a long boat from the British ship the Maidstone was captured by an angry mob, dragged through the streets, and set fire in the square. This ship had been impressing Rhode Islanders into the British Navy, that is, capturing them and forcing them to serve on British ships, a common but highly unpopular practice of the British here and elsewhere.

 In 1769 Newporters destroyed the British revenue sloop the Liberty. After harshly questioning the captains of two ships out of Connecticut, the Captain of the Liberty was surrounded by an angry mob of Newporters and forced to bring his crew in from the ship. Locals boarded the empty ship, cut it loose and it floated around the Point where it was stripped and burned. London protested to Rhode Island officials, but decided to let the matter drop.

Burning of the Gaspee 1772

An even more significant incident, one that some historians claim actually sparked the American Revolution, didn’t take place here in Newport but started with the departure from Newport of a packet ship, one of the ships that made regular runs between Colonial ports. This incident involved an encounter between the packet ship, the Hannah, and the British ship HMS Gaspee.

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