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 windmill was constructed during the 17th century and patterned after those built in Europe such as the Moulin de Grondince and the Moulin de Vincelottes.

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 include the 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.