Newport Tower or Touro Tower
The Newport Tower, which was probably
once used as a windmill, is one of many
tourist attractions in Newport, Rhode
Island. It is also known as the Touro Tower,
the Round Tower, the Newport Stone Tower,
the Old Stone Mill and the Mystery Tower. It
is made with shell lime, sand and gravel. It
is over twenty feet in diameter and twenty
eight feet high. The tower’s weight is
carried by eight stone columns. The walls
are three feet
thick, leaving an interior
diameter of around eighteen feet. There are
four and three windows on the main floor and
upper floor respectively. The tower is
similar in appearance to the Chesterton
Windmill in Warwickshire, England. This
was constructed during the 17th
century and patterned after those built in
such as the Moulin de Grondince and
the Moulin de Vincelotte. As revealed by
investigations and mortar comparisons done
by Rev. Dr. Jackson of Newport,
the tower is
similar in composition with the oldest
structures in Newport, which
Easton House of the 1640s.
There are many beliefs and probable
explanations as to the origins of the tower.
Some believe that it was built in the 16th
century by the English, while others claim
that it was built by the Vikings. The
Newport Tower is also believed by most to
have been constructed during the 17th
century for colonial governor Benedict
Arnold. This belief is called the Arnoldist
theory. Arnold was responsible for the
reconciliation of the colonies of Rhode
Island and Providence Plantations. His
great-grandson was the infamous Benedict
Arnold who was a General in the American
Revolution. During which, the tower was used
as both as a lookout and a storeroom. In
1760, the Newport Tower was converted into a
storage area for hay. In 1767, it was used
as a powder store.
In 1947, the state of Newport gave the green
light for scientific investigation to the
Society for American Archeology.
|It was headed by Hugh Henken of
Harvard University and by William Godfrey. Through a series
of site excavations, Godfrey discovered 17th century
artifacts that supported the Arnoldist theory. However, James P. Whittal, Jr.
of the Early Sites Research Society claimed that none of
Godfrey’s finds may be used as a reliable basis for
determining the date in which the structure was built.
In 1992, a team of researchers from Denmark and Finland
conducted radiocarbon dating tests using the tower’s mortar.
The results of the test signify that the building was
constructed between 1735 and 1698. Again, the findings were
contested by another group of scientists. Among them are
James L. Guthrie, an analytical chemist; Dr. Alan Watchman
of Data-Roche Watchman, Inc. and Professor Andre J. de
Bethune, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Boston College.
Bethune worked closely with Professor Willard F. Libby – the
man who devised carbon dating.
The Newport Tower has undergone a long series of tests,
excavations and investigations, but, to this day, there is
still no certainty as to its origin.