Newport Historical Society.
Old Stone Mill
Architectural Style: First period vernacular.
Look for: Window in upper part of the structure and offset columns at the base.
The Old Stone Mill is one of Newport's best known landmarks.
The Old Stone Mill's past is clouded by historical uncertainty. No direct proof exists confirming the date
of its construction but there is considerable evidence suggesting it was built sometime between 1653 and 1677
by Benedict Arnold (1615-1678), the first colonial governor of Rhode Island, and the great-grandfather of the
Revolutionary War traitor. Arnold owned the land on which the tower stands. A document describing the
boundaries of his land, dated 1668, mentions "Georg 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
"my Stone built 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 the Vikings as its 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 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 along 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. It is a symbol for the rustic, historic
nature of the town, and is a popular image used in attracting visitors. It remains the oldest building in Newport.