An Afternoon of High Drama in Newport, R.I. June 6, 2019

Part One: Outside the Vernon House
Part Two: The interior of the Vernon House
Part Three: The Re-Dedication of the Rochambeau Statue, Plinth, and Pyramid

 

My husband, John and I arrive in Newport about noon on June 6th where we meet our Connecticut friends, Nancy, and Patrick at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. Here is the first part of our visit. The other two parts will be posted soon. In this way the suspense builds!

Nancy Callahan, President of the Alliance Francaise of NW CT and Jini Jones Vail by the corner of the Vernon House

 

Part One: Outside Vernon House

It took me a few days to line up our first event on June 6, 2019. I have wanted to visit the William Vernon House, 46 Clark Street, since the early years of research and writing: Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant. Every time I came to Newport, I found that the house was inaccessible as it was privately owned. Vernon House was General Rochambeau’s headquarters from July 1780 for at least a year before he marched to the Hudson with his 4,000 troops to coalesce armies with his commander, George Washington.

Vernon House is the ‘crème de la crème’ of dwellings to visit in Newport in my estimation. Even now, it is not a simple task finding the key to the house of my dreams. It takes a circuitous route to find an ‘entrée’. First I write to my friend, Mary-Gail Smith, President of the Alliance Francaise of Newport. I know that if anyone could help, it would be she. Certainly, Mary-Gail knows the one person who would come to my aid with the golden key.

It is she who will be feted today at 5:30 at King Park where the newly re-furbished Rochambeau statue, plinth, and pyramid stand in all their glory to be enjoyed in their perfection for another 100 years. Mary-Gail is the woman of the hour today. Her four years of fund-raising and travail are to be celebrated in a few hours.

I wait for her response, knowing how busy she is today. She sends me an email with a name and a phone number. This is how I find Mark Thompson, Executive Director of the Newport Restoration Foundation. He left me a note at the most helpful Laura of the Yankee Pedlar Inn who assisted greatly in the plan.

So, here we are, Nancy Callahan, President of the Alliance Francaise of NW CT and myself by the corner of the Vernon House. Do you recognize my Rochambeau necklace from an earlier post?

Nancy and I are standing below the copper relief bust of General Rochambeau in profile. We arrive a little early to take a couple of photos before we tour the house. The suspense is building as we will meet Mr. Thompson at 1:30 around the corner at the front door.

On this date in History…

November 1, 1780 –After Rochambeau and his army restored war-damaged homes in Newport, RI., it was moving-in day for the French.

The British had vacated Newport in November 1779, leaving many buildings in poor repair.

Rochambeau made Newporters am offer they could not refuse. He would, at French expense, restore many of their damaged homes in order to use them for billeting his officers. They would then occupy them during their mission in Rhode Island.  Following their departure, Rochambeau would return the homes to their original owners at no expense.

He did just this and made many new American friends!

map november 1

November 1779 Brits vacated Newport, RI, after 3 year occupation.