The Hotel Viking
The first group of English settlers arrived in modern day Rhode Island following Anne Hutchinson, who was driven out of Boston for challenging the beliefs of the Puritan church. A separate group, led by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton, moved south from this settlement to found Newport in 1639. Since the early Colonial Days, Newport has been the poster-child for religious diversity. In 1641, a policy of liberty of conscience and religion was adapted into the Newport Town Statutes, as the town housed a number of settlers with varying religious beliefs.
In the coming years, Newport housed cadres of settlers from varying religions from Baptist, Quakers, Jews, and Catholics. The Quakers were heavy influencers on Newport's early congregations and dominated the political, social, and economic life of the town. The Quaker plain style of living was reflected in the town's architecture, decorative arts, and early landscape.
During the Gilded Age (1870-1900), Newport was undergoing rapid economic growth. Wealthy plantation owners and East Coast families were building summer cottages and mansions in order to spend their summers in breezy Newport. Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist Edith Wharton wrote about the social scene in her novel The Age of Innocence. She also had a summer cottage in Newport called Land's End. These mansions, such as Kingscote and The Breakers, are still standing. And while some have remained private residences, others are open to the public for walk-throughs and tours.
In the early 20th century, a group of local investors saw the need for a grand hotel in Newport. Through the sale of a common stock, a half million dollars was raised. The sum was needed for the erection of a hotel of such scale that it would attract tourists to the City by the Sea. On May 25, 1926, The Hotel Viking opened to the public with two lavish parties. By the 1970s, two motel units were added.
In 2007, the original Viking guestrooms underwent a $6.8 million renovation to restore them to their Gilded Age splendor. For its 90th anniversary in 2016, The Hotel Viking underwent renovations in fresh tones of blue, gray, and taupe as a play on Newport’s maritime heritage. The wall separating the lobby lounge and bar was removed to create an open living-room style space centered on a double-sided fireplace with a seating plan to encourage conversation. “The goal of the renovation is to enhance interaction and stir up conversation,” said Keith Chouinard, director of sales and marketing, The Hotel Viking. “This is the place to make new friends and reconnect with old friends.”