Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Barstad's Comments About Newport Tower (A Rant)

by JimP

From Larry Harrop's blog comes this item. Janet F. Barstad, president and historian of Chronognostic Research Foundation of Tempe, Ariz., just presented her conclusions to the City Council of Newport, RI following two excavations of the Newport Tower at Touro Park. Click here to read the story.
Barstad makes the following comments:

"I'll come right out and say it," Barstad said in a written report to the City Council. "The tower is not 17th century, and it wasn't built by Benedict Arnold. Arnold owned the land on which it stood, and he might have tried to make a windmill out of it. But he and his contemporaries built in wood - their houses, churches, windmills, even their ironworks at Saugus, Rhode Island stone-enders notwithstanding."

Barstad apparently missed some history. Surely, one cannot argue that most 17th century colonists built in wood. However, the first leader of the Warwick colony in Rhode Island was a man named John Smith. Not only was Smith a master stone mason, he built what was known as his, "stone castle," in Warwick in the 17th century. The stone castle was demolished in 1795.

So not all of Arnold's contemporaries built in wood. In fact, one of his contemporaries -- a man Arnold surely knew well -- is known to have built in stone.

But you don't even have to go to historical records to find 17th century stone buildings in Southern New England. In Guilford, CT still stands the Henry Whitfield House built c. 1639.

Furthermore, Daniel Gookin specifically praised the Warwick and Narragansett Indians for their hard labors, particularly at erecting stone fences.

So we've got proof of a 17th century master stone mason in Rhode Island, and we've got proof of the 17th century labor needed to build large structures in stone.

We've got absolutely no documentation whatsoever -- not a single letter or diary entry -- out of all the materials that we have -- where anyone at all that visited Newport in the 17th century said anything like, "Golly, what an odd stone tower to find out here among the heathen," at a time when such a thing would've been such an enormous curiosity. People would've come from miles around to see it.

I don't get why we're still talking about 12th century European origins.


pwax said...

Well there was that bit from Verrazano.

JimP said...

There are numerous gaping holes in all the alleged 16th century citations for the tower. The Verrazzano citations in particular are a stretch at best.

The preponderance of the indisputable evidence that we have about the Newport Tower is decidedly slanted towards a 17th century construction date.

Anonymous said...

To me, it sounds like someone in NEARA put pressure on this woman to change her tune, since initially she came out with the story that nothing was found to dispute the idea that the tower was erected in the 17th century.


JimP said...

I also forgot to mention, right there in Newport on Spring St. is a house -- still extant -- built in 1639 for Henry Bull. It is the oldest house in Rhode Island. It was built almost entirely of stone.

The mortar used on that house, as well as the mortar used on Benedict Arnold's tomb, and the mortar used in the Newport Tower, were all found to be of nearly identical make-up and quality.

There was one type of mortar used in 17th century Newport, and it was used on all colonial stone constructions from that time period that are still standing today in that city -- sand, shells, and water.

pwax said...

How come there are solsticial and other calendrical alignments through the windows?