Redwood Library and Athenaeum

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Redwood Library
Redwood Library Newport.JPG
Redwood Library in 2008
Redwood Library and Athenaeum is located in Rhode Island
Redwood Library and Athenaeum
Location 50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island
Coordinates 41°29′12″N 71°18′34″W / 41.48667°N 71.30944°W / 41.48667; -71.30944Coordinates: 41°29′12″N 71°18′34″W / 41.48667°N 71.30944°W / 41.48667; -71.30944
Built 1747
Architect Peter Harrison
Architectural style Georgian-Palladian
Part of Newport Historic District (#68000001)
NRHP Reference # 66000015
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL October 9, 1960[2]
Designated NHLDCP November 24, 1968

The Redwood Library and Athenaeum is a private subscription library at 50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1747. It is the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States.[3] Its original building was designed by Peter Harrison and built in 1750, and is a National Historic Landmark.


The original section of the building was constructed in 1750 by architect Peter Harrison. Only the Library Company of Philadelphia is older, founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. The Redwood Library and Athenaeum predates the Charleston Library Society (founded in 1748), New York Society Library (founded in 1754), and the Boston Athenaeum (founded in 1807).

It was the first classical public building built in America, designed in the manner of Italian Renaissance Architect Andrea Palladio, in the Georgian-Palladian style. The main facade facing Bellevue avenue is based upon a plate in Edward Hoppus' Andrea Palladio's Architecture published in 1735.[4] The oldest section, today called the Harrison Room, still houses the majority of the original books that were purchased as a collection in London. Occupying British troops allegedly looted numerous books (many of which were later returned) prior to the Battle of Rhode Island during the American Revolution.[5]

In 1932, historian and architect Norman Isham restored the eighteenth century Harrison room to what he concluded was its original appearance. The Library's modern collection now includes more than 160,000 volumes as well as a museum collection of art and artifacts. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.[6]

Ezra Stiles was one of the most prominent librarians at the Library, the influential founder of Brown University and later president of Yale University.

The ceiling of the library collapsed in 2003 and extensive renovations took place.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Redwood Library". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved June 29, 2008. 
  3. ^ Davis, Paul (March 12, 2006). "Unrighteous Traffick-Rhode Island and the Slave Trade-First of Six Parts-Abraham Redwood, Antigua and the West Indies Trade". Providence Journal. p. A.11. 
  4. ^ The Center for Palladian Studies in America, Inc., "Building America."
  5. ^ Haley, John Williams (1929). "The Old Stone Bank" History of Rhode Island. Providence, R.I.: Providence Institution for Savings. p. 91. LCCN 30013826. 
  6. ^ NHL listing summary, accessed June 20, 2008

External links[edit]