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HISTORICAL OVER VIEW
The history of Miantonomi Hill goes back to the days when it was the seat of power of the Narragansett Indian chieftains. Other phonetic spelling of the name show its Indian origins: Tonomy and Wanomitonomo.
Colonial settlers used the hill for a lookout, for public executions, and for beacons. By 1667, a beacon had been established on the hill. In 1776, another beacon was established on the hill to "give the country an alarm in case of invasion". At this time, the fortification on Miantonomi Hill was constructed.
In 1881, the site was purchased by Anson Phelps Stokes and remained in the family until 1921 when Mrs. Stokes sold it to the City so that the historic area could become a memorial to Newport men who died in "The Great War". In deeding the property to the City, she stipulated that the premises should be for the free use of the public forever.
An act of the General Assembly gave control of the park to the Miantonomi Park Commission. This developed the site and dedicated it as a war memorial on Armistice Day, 1923. In 1929, the Memorial Tower was erected and dedicated on the 150th anniversary of the Baffle of RI.
Many famous persons have been associated with Miantonomi Hill, Count Rochambeau, commander of the French forces in Newport, and other high-ranking officers visited it for inspections. In addition to President Monroe and Commodore Perry, two famous World War1 leaders toured the park in 1927. Rear Admiral William S. Sims, who commanded the American Naval Forces in Europe during the war and later was president of the Naval War College; and General of the Armies, John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force.
A major goal of the Commission has been to involve Newport residents in assisting the Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Tourism with the maintenance and improvement of the park.
In 1977, the City obtained Community Development funds to make improvements in the park to benefit the City and the immediate neighborhood. In 1990 the City obtained a State of RI Recreation & Open Space Grant to reinforce and celebrate the park's importance as a WW1 Memorial and expand the range of recreational activities.
Recently the City completed masonry repairs to the Miantonomi Park wall and upgrades to the picnic area. An engineering firm is currently completing a structural analysis of the tower, including specifications for needed repairs and an estimate of costs. This documentation will provide the basis for future grant applications and fund raising efforts to complete the much-needed repairs to this Newport landmark.
(This Historical Overview was taken from the pamphlet handed out at the Miantonomi Tower on Veterans Day weekend, November, 2001. Sponsored by the Newport Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department and the Miantonomi Park Commission.)