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“Walking in the footsteps of the American Forefathers”

Redwood Library & Athenaeum
Ranked #41 of 117 things to do in Newport
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: About the Redwood Library and Athenaeum: Chartered in 1747 by 46 prominent citizens of Newport with "nothing in view but the good of mankind," the Redwood Library & Athenaeum is a hybrid museum, rare book repository, and the oldest continuously operating lending library still in its original structure, the nation's oldest public Neoclassical building. Designed by Peter Harrison, the Library is a registered National Historic Landmark. The Redwood contains over 200,000 titles in its Circulating and Special Collections, with another 751 titles forming the Original Collection, purchased by the founders in 1750 and housed in the historic Harrison Room. Collections strengths include: colonial American history and material culture, early modern architecture and garden design, the history of Newport, Aquidneck Island and Rhode Island. The Redwood also possesses substantive holdings of historic printed materials, archives and private papers. Featured on permanent view is an exceptional collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century portraits by such artists as John Smibert, Robert Feke and Gilbert Stuart, in addition to a range of sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts. Two gallery spaces feature temporary exhibitions, while the Redwood's Reading Room, with its iconic green leather chairs and original Palladian windows, is a welcome sanctuary for visitors. Lectures, gallery talks, and musical events are scheduled throughout the year, and unique gift items and used books are available in the gift shop. As an athenaeum born of the American Enlightenment values of liberty, equality and democracy, and capitalizing on its unique position as a catalyst for intellectual pursuit across periods and disciplines, the Redwood is approaching its fourth century in the service of a rigorous and accessible humanities education for the benefit of the widest possible audience.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Bathroom facilities, Activities for older children, Wheelchair access
Newport, Rhode Island USA
Level 5 Contributor
96 reviews
26 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
“Walking in the footsteps of the American Forefathers”
Reviewed 15 September 2013

The magnificent collection of Books, Documents and Paintings contained in the Redwood Library is a must experience. To see where the very seeds of the United States were sewn and the sprouts of Freedom grows from. Looking into the painted eyes of some of the Founders of the United States will send chills through you.

Visited August 2013
Thank Joseph S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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71 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“A Must see for all those who love Librarys”
Reviewed 6 July 2013

This was very historical! A must see for those who love librarys and art! Beautiful enclosed books, leather bound, and amazing to look at the old leather bound books! A must stop and see how beautiful it is. Parking was so easy, free and up close! What a great site, I hope thay never change a thing!

Visited June 2013
Thank Dolly H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Middletown, Rhode Island
Level 3 Contributor
8 reviews
4 attraction reviews
“Oldest library”
Reviewed 27 May 2013

A step into the past. Oldest working library in the country. There are colonial paintings and always a special exhibit to view. A gem from the past.

Visited May 2013
Thank Renee K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Portsmouth, RI
Level 6 Contributor
97 reviews
37 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 56 helpful votes
“The oldest circulating library in the USA”
Reviewed 17 October 2012

Newport, RI is packed with historic buildings and the Redwood Library is one of the most outstanding examples. Founded in 1747 by Abraham Redwood the library thrives as one of the archives of American history and architecture.

There is an art gallery, a beautiful reading room and the Harrison room with its priceless American portraiture collection, all open to the public. One can also sign up for tours.

This is the perfect place to go if you have maxed out on the Gilded Age mansions and now need a little peace and quiet.

Visited June 2012
Thank CarolMaeRay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Branson, Missouri
Level 6 Contributor
391 reviews
179 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 186 helpful votes
“Great History”
Reviewed 30 September 2012

We put the Library on our to do list because of the incredible history and it's story. Since it's the oldest continuously operating lending library in America we had to check it out. It was founded in 1747.

The staff was very friendly and happy to answer any questions. They pointed us in the direction of the oldest part of the Library. Other than old books it didn't seem all that old anywhere inside. I was disappointed that it seemed to be updated and in my opinion it took away from it's Historical value.

We were glad that we stopped, but we were expecting to see an old room or something that would tend to suggest the building was old. It could have been build in the 1980's and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. 95% of it seemed to be a modern library. As far as Library's go, it was really nice. If we lived here I would check out a few books.

Visited September 2012
Thank Eric S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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