Was the mysterious Newport Tower built by the ancient Norse, shipwrecked Portuguese merchants, The Knights templar or maybe even some very lost Chinese Explorers? No one really knows for sure.
It could be the oldest standing structure in the United States, maybe even all of the Americas. It’s anyone’s guess but the one thing for certain the tower in Newport Rhode Island has been drawing visitors for centuries. The tower goes by many names such as the old stone mill tower, the round tower, and Touro Tower although Newport Tower it the most common moniker. The tower is hollow inside although the remains of wooden slats seem to imply a former second floor. The design is dissimilar to any other buildings in the area. The stone arches are similar to Scottish buildings of the 17th century (hence the Knights Templar hypothesis). The Knights Templar were a secret group affiliated with the FreeMasons Thre towers arches are very similar to other buildings known to have been designed by them in Scotland and throughout the Mediterranean.
One of the most popular theories is that the tower was built by Viking settlers who sailed down the North American Atlantic coast from Iceland. It is known that the Vikings were in Nova Scotia and told stories of sailing further south and building a lighthouse as a marker. The Tower does sit on a hill and could be seen from the harbor.
The least probable idea is that the tower was built by the Chinese who were rumored to have explored the area in the early 1400s. The stonework is very inconsistent with the design of lighthouses the Chinese built at the time and the general architecture of the tower is much more western.
What is known for a fact is that the tower was used as a stone mill in the 1600s and was probably built for that purpose at about the same time. Although, there has been some carbon dating on the stonework and based on the data received it was determined to have been built in the mid-sixteenth century. So sometime before the pilgrims maybe 1580’s which would still make it one of the oldest buildings in the US. Whatever the tower’s true past is, one can not deny the mystery is certainly part of the charm.
There is an interesting museum close by where you can read about the different origin stories on the tower. The whole Newport is worth visiting not just for the tower but the many palatial mansions that dot the area. One that is worth noting is the Carey Mansion which became famous in the late sixties as the external shots on the gothic horror soap opera “Dark Shadows”