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7 Unconventional Historic Places to Stay in Newport, Rhode Island

by Lindsay Riddell

How many of you will only go on vacation if you can stay at a big, old house? Right, us too! We like to think of traveling as an opportunity to live vicariously through someone else’s marble mantel. Today CIRCA presents our selection of AirBnb rentals in lovely, historical Newport, RI! All photos courtesy of AirBnb.
My mom has talked about her dream vacation — fall in Rhode Island — for as long as I can remember. Naturally her obsession with visiting the Ocean State also became my own, and though it wasn’t quite fall, we finally checked one off our bucket lists last August. We started in Newport, where a main highlight (other than the seafood, the oceanside cliff walk, and the mansions of a bygone era) are the quaint streets lined with sweet homes dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. And what’s better than spending a few days and nights in one of those beauties?

Suite in Historic Newport Victorian

Built in 1881, Larna’s Victorian charmer is centrally located within walking distance to both the beach and historic downtown, and is only mile away from those famous Newport mansions. This historic Newport home was faithfully restored about ten years ago. Grab some bikes from the nearby rental shop and enjoy your stay in Larna’s third floor suite!

Trinity School House

Take your pick of either the Gilbert Stuart Room (named after a student at the schoolhouse in the mid-1700s) or the Red Room while staying in this unique school house, which happens to be a National Historic Landmark. Each room has access to a Garden room that is shared only by one other set of guests. The hosts, Robert and Michelle, offer warm breakfast sandwiches in the morning to make sure your day starts out well. The location of Trinity Schoolhouse is ideal, nestled in the heart of the Historic Hill neighborhood on one of the many tree-lined streets full of old houses. It’s on a quiet side street with easy access to many restaurants, and there is a trolley service at the end of the street to help you get to around Newport. For those of you flying in and out, you can pick up the airport shuttle at the Viking Hotel which is a short 2 blocks away.

Central Historic Mansion

$7,500/night or $13,000/week
Those of you looking for something super fancy ought to check out Nick’s ten-bedroom historic Newport mansion. Here you can experience the dream of living like the Vanderbilts (really, they used to own the place). Set in a beautiful, quiet residential neighborhood within walking distance of mansions, shopping, restaurants, beaches and museums, this place is perfect for the polished traveler. The house features lovely fir parquet floors and is furnished with beautiful antiques from the 1850s-1920s. It was built as the summer cottage for George Champlin Mason, Newport’s most revered architect of the mid nineteenth century. Some say his most exceptional craftsmanship and design went into this house, which was later owned by a Countess from Russia and the Brown family, to name a few.
This 6000 square foot mansion can sleep to 18-19 or more people when done as a house rental. Whatever the occasion, this house is provides a historic flare to your vacation that is the perfect topping for your Newport vacation!

Jailhouse Inn

Starts at $169/night
It’s hard to say no to turning in at an historic jailhouse each night, especially one built nearly 250 years ago! The Newport Jailhouse Inn was built for the city in 1772 by George Lawton and Oliver Ring Warner, replacing an earlier jail built in 1680 on the same location. The first mention of a jail in Newport was in 1658 when it was decided that “the prison then building in Newport, was to be the prison for the whole colony.”  Throughout New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, jails served as temporary holding facilities for prisoners passing through the criminal justice system, rather than a form of punishment or an attempt at reform.  Most infractions resulted in fines or various forms of public humiliation such as being brought to the center of town and placed in the stocks.
In 1800 the building was enlarged, and in 1888 it was renovated by architect Dudley Newton.  According to the Newport Mercury, the jail was “never considered a particularly strong place” and there were a number of notable escapes.  During the winter of 1859-1860, a mason incarcerated there removed bricks from around the window and escaped.  He was captured when newly fallen snow allowed his tracks to be traced to his hiding place in the Ocean House Hotel.
The building remained the headquarters of the Newport Police Department until 1986, when a new police facility was constructed on Broadway and the original jailhouse was converted into the Jailhouse Inn.
Renovated again in 2005, the Jailhouse is a comfortable, convenient and interesting place to stay while enjoying the diverse pleasures of Newport, also known as the City by the Sea.

Newport Summer Cottage

If you’re looking to be close to town, but not too close, look no further than this charming summer cottage where you can book one private room or the entire mansion. Constructed in 1856, this place is oozing with the sort of American charm you imagine finding at a beach house on the east coast. The Mansion is 9,000 sq ft and sits in 1.5 acres of manicured gardens with a beautiful fountain and elegant front porch where you can catch a cool breeze around cocktail hour most days.

Historic Waterfront Cottage

If you’re crazy for gambrel roofs, quilts, and sailboats like I am, then this is the place for you! This little charmer was built in 1725 in Providence, and was moved to its present site on Narrgansett Bay (near Newport) in 1965. There are three bedrooms, a galley kitchen, living room, a deck overlooking the bay, and two modern bathrooms. The house is located in a quiet neighborhood within easy walking distance of downtown. What could be more relaxing than watching the sun set on the bay from your own private deck? Gather a few friends and book a long weekend in this adorable cottage!

Sailor’s Loft in Historic Firehouse

If you like unique architectural spaces over the standard unmemorable room, this 1886 fire station (Station No. 1, to be exact) is for you. More hip and fun than luxurious, you will ending up loving this space. Perfect for sailors and close friends, this loft-style space just says “cool”! It features a mid-century bunk bed and trundle, plus a futon if you want to add more friends. Just steps to Thames St and Bowens Wharf–as close as it gets to Newport’s center–which means you will have trouble staying indoors (despite the uniqueness of this historic firehouse). Be sure to check out the antique store adjacent Sailor’s Loft.

Lindsay is a Brooklyn, NY-based architectural historian with a soft spot for all things Victorian. Her obsession with beautiful houses began when she discovered her dad’s collection of house plan and construction books as a child, to which she attributes her enthusiasm for hunting down the most perfect wooden windows, most over-the-top gingerbread, and the most impressive arrangement of Minton Tiles.


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