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Goat Island: From Pirate Hideout to Modern-day Oasis

Have you ever wondered about the history of Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island? The island has a fascinating history dating back to the 17th century. In this blog, we'll go back in time to see how Goat Island evolved from a pirate haven to a thriving modern-day oasis.


Historic Goat Island Lighthouse

Newport, Rhode Island is a city steeped in history and culture, with a long maritime history. Goat Island, a small but significant landmass that has played a pivotal role in the city's past and present, is one of the most fascinating locations in Newport.


Despite its small size, Goat Island has a long and illustrious history spanning several centuries. The island has undergone many changes and adaptations over the years, from its early days as a pirate hideout to its more recent transformation into a thriving resort destination.


We'll start at the beginning, when the island was used as a hideout for pirates and a base for privateering during the colonial era. Following that, we will look at how the island was used during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.


Then, in the twentieth century, we'll look at how the island was transformed into a naval training center during WWII, and how it evolved into the thriving resort destination that it is today. We'll also visit some of the most popular attractions on the island, such as the Newport Harbor Island Resort


Whether you're a history buff or simply curious about Newport's past, this blog is sure to give you a new appreciation for the rich history and unique charm of Goat Island. So come along on this journey through time and discover the captivating story of this beloved Rhode Island destination.


 

The Early Days of Goat Island


The history of Goat Island dates back to the 17th century, when it was used as a pirate hideout and a base for privateering during the colonial era. The island's strategic location just off the coast of Newport Harbor made it an ideal spot for pirates and smugglers to stash their loot and avoid capture.

Goat Island's Strategic Location

Thomas Tew, a local sailor who became one of the most successful pirates of his time, was one of the most notorious pirates associated with Goat Island. Tew used Goat Island as a base of operations and is said to have buried some of his treasure there (though it has never been found).


Goat Island was also used by privateers, or privately owned ships that were authorized by the government to attack enemy vessels during times of war, during the colonial era. During the Revolutionary War, these ships would frequently use Goat Island as a base of operations, taking advantage of its secluded coves and protected harbor to launch raids on British ships.


The island gradually became a hub of activity for sailors and merchants, with a number of taverns and shops springing up to meet their needs. Despite its reputation as a haven for pirates and smugglers, Goat Island was an important part of the local economy, providing jobs and opportunities for Newport residents.


Goat Island remained an important landmark in the years that followed, a reminder of the city's maritime heritage and a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the people who called it home.

 

Goat Island during the American Revolution and the War of 1812

As tensions between the American colonies and the United Kingdom rose in the years leading up to the American Revolution, Goat Island became a hub of military activity. The island was used by both British and American forces during the war, and it played a role in several key battles.


Newport's Role in the Revolutionary War

The daring raid on the British schooner HMS Gaspee in 1772 was one of Goat Island's most notable events. The Gaspee was tasked with enforcing British trade laws and was notorious for its harsh tactics and aggressive searches of American ships. A group of Rhode Island colonists led by John Brown and Abraham Whipple set out in June of that year to capture the Gaspee and burn it to the waterline. The raid was successful, and it was one of the first acts of armed resistance to British rule in the colonies.


During the Revolutionary War, both American and British forces used Goat Island as a base. General George Washington stationed troops on the island in 1775 to defend Newport Harbor from British attack. The island was also involved in the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island, when American forces attempted to retake Newport from the British. While the Americans were ultimately unsuccessful in their goal, the battle demonstrated the strategic significance of Goat Island and the surrounding waters.


Goat Island was involved in the War of 1812 for the second time. The island served as a base for American naval operations and saw several clashes with British ships. While the war eventually ended in a stalemate, Goat Island's role in the conflict highlighted Newport Harbor's continued importance as a strategic military location.


Despite the upheavals that occurred on and around Goat Island during this time, the island remained a thriving center of commerce and activity throughout the nineteenth century. However, as we'll see in the following section, the island's significance in American history was far from over.

 

Goat Island in the 20th Century: Naval Training and Tourism


Goat Island took on a new role as a training center for the United States Navy in the early twentieth century. During WWII, the island was used as a training ground for sailors to learn how to use small boats and other naval techniques. Because of the island's strategic location and protected harbor, it was an ideal location for this type of training, and many sailors went through its facilities before serving in the war.


Following the war, Goat Island entered a new era in its history, becoming a popular tourist and vacation destination. The Newport Bridge was built in the 1960s, making the island more accessible, and a number of hotels and resorts sprang up to accommodate the growing number of visitors.


The construction of the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel and Spa (now Newport Harbor Island Resort) on Goat Island in 1974 was one of the most notable developments during this time period. The hotel quickly became a popular tourist and local destination, offering stunning views of Newport Harbor as well as a variety of amenities and attractions.


The historic Newport Harbor Island Resort on Goat Island

Despite its changes over the years, Goat Island remains a testament to Newport's rich maritime heritage and its enduring legacy as a commercial and recreational hub. Goat Island is a must-see destination that has something for everyone, whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or just looking for a fun and relaxing getaway.

 

To wrap things up, Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island, has a long and intriguing history dating back to the 17th century. As a haven for pirates, a base for privateers, a strategic location during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and a naval training center during World War II, Newport has played an important role in the city's past and present. It is now a thriving modern-day oasis as well as a popular tourist destination, with attractions such as the Newport Harbor Island Resort. The island's rich history and distinct charm make it an intriguing place to visit, as well as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the people who have called it home over the centuries.

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