Old Stone Mill

One of the best known landmarks in Newport, Rhode Island, the Old Stone Mill dates back to around 1660 and is the city’s oldest building.

According to signage: “The Old Stone Mill’s past is clouded with historical uncertainty. No direct proof exists confirming the date of its construction but there is considerable evidence suggesting it was built sometime between 1633-1677 by Benedict Arnold (1615-1678), the first colonel governor of Rhode Island, and the great-grandfather of the famous Revolutionary War traitor.

Arnold owned the land on which the tower stands. A document describing the boundaries of his land, dated 1668, mentions “George Lawton’s Mill.” (George Lawton was a millwright from England, known to have built two mills in Portsmouth.) Arnold’s will is dated December 24, 1677, and in it, he refers to his “stone build windmill.”

There have been a number of other theories about the Mill’s origins, however, linking it to French, Irish and Portuguese explorers of the area. The best-known theory proposes Vikings as builders. In 1839, a Danish antiquarian, Carl Christian Rafn, made the first connection between the tower and the Vikings who may have visited the area in approximately 1000 AD.

A 1948-49 archeological investigation found 20,000 artifacts — none of which, however, could be dated earlier than the 17th century. In 1993, the Committee for Research on Norse Activities in North America AD 1000-1500 utilized carbon-14 dating with conventional forms of research and ruled out a Viking origin.

The Old Stone Mill has been an icon for Newport since the mid-19th century. Located in Touro Park, it is a symbol for the rustic, historic nature of the town, and a popular image in attracting visitors.”

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