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      A RESPITE ON ROGUES ISLAND small black logo
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH
Newport tallship as seen in American Public House Review



Presidents and privateers, scalawags and socialites have walked the wharfs of Newport, and few stretches of waterfront on Aquidneck Island have been witness to as much history as that of Long Wharf.

On the 19th day of July in 1723 twenty six men convicted of piracy were hung at Gravelly Point at the west end of the wharf. The London Board of Trade and the British government pressured local officials to curtail those particular unorthodox styles of maritime commerce that were having a negative impact on English tax coffers. This rather exuberant use of the rope did not sit well with the locals. The citizens of Newport had for many years provided safe haven for pirates and any number of unconventional sorts that were spurned in the more conservative New England settings. In fact this open-minded attitude that was prevalent throughout the colony earned it the nickname “Rogues Island.”       

Eleven years before the first muskets were fired at Lexington and Concord the inhabitants of Rhode Island had taken up arms against the Crown. On July 9th, 1764 citizens from Newport launched an attack from Long Wharf on the British installation at Goat Island. Upon seizing the fort they turned the guns on the Royal Navy frigate Squirrel. The ensuing cannonade might just have been the unofficial opening salvo of the American Revolution.



                                                   Photo courtesy of http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~scwhite/OldPictures.html
Long Wharf, RI as seen in American Public House Review
LONG WHARF IN THE 19th CENTURY



Five months after King George was officially put on notice about America’s intent to part company the British fleet arrived in Narragansett Bay. From December of 1776 until October of 1779 Newport suffered English occupation. Nine months after His Majesty’s troops had abandoned Rhode Island a different cut of boots were scraping the planks of Long Wharf. In July of 1780 the French and the Comte de Rochambeau had arrived. On the 6th of March of the following spring Rochambeau’s troops would stand three deep along the wharf waiting to be reviewed by General George Washington, who would come ashore in Newport in order to make final preparations for the joint naval and land operations against the British forces in the south. And in the summer of 1790 Washington would once more disembark at Long Wharf; but this time in the capacity of president of the new nation. Accompanied by Thomas Jefferson, he came to Rhode Island to acknowledge and celebrate the state’s entrance into the union and its ratification of the Constitution.



For an excellent article on George Washington's visit to Rhode Island in August of 1790 after that cantankerous state finally consented to join the union please click here.



During the 19th century Long Wharf received the gentry of the Gilded Age. The Morgans, Vanderbilts and Astors were just a few of the names of American aristocracy that appeared on Newport’s social registry.



Celtica Bar in RI as seen in American Public House Review
THE BAR AT CELTICA PUBLIC HOUSE IN NEWPORT RHODE ISLAND


  U.S. NAVY FILE PHOTO       
For a good portion of the twentieth century the United States Navy drove the local economy. By the middle of the Second World War over 150,000 civilian and military personnel were stationed at naval installations on Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay. Among these young sailors and aviators were three future presidents: John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and George H. W. Bush. If by chance they were able to break away from the rigors of training they probably joined their fellow officers and crewmen at “LEO'S FIRST AND LAST STOP,” a legendary rough and tumble establishment located at the end of Long Wharf. The joint got its name from the fact that it was the first stop for any sailor arriving in Newport by train, and the last stop before they boarded launches bound for their ships anchored in the bay.
PT boat as seen in American Public House Review
PT BOATS IN NARRAGANSETT BAY



Celtica logo as seen in American Public House ReviewWith the departure of the Cruiser - Destroyer Force of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in 1973, the naval presence in Newport was greatly diminished. In order to revive its failing economy the city focused on promoting tourism. Today most of Long Wharf has been redeveloped in favor of luxury resorts and high end marinas. There a few traces of its storied past left to indicate the importance of this pathway through history. Leo’s is long gone; but there is CELTICA.



Lounge at Celtica as seen in American Public House Review
CELTICA'S ENGAGING LOUNGE



My wife and I recently discovered this handsome Irish tavern while hoofing it across the wharf, after getting off the ferry from Providence. The first thing that caught my eye was the murals that adorn the side and rear of the building. Here on these walls of what was previously the NARRAGANSETT CAFE, the heart and soul of this location have been wonderfully rendered and captured by local artist Patricia Conti. The interior of Celtica, which is the result of the painstaking handiwork of the proprietor Mark Brennan, is equally impressive.



Toucan Mural by Patricia Conti as seen in American Public House Review

Mural by Patricia Conti as seen in American Public House Review
STRIKING MURALS BY LOCAL ARTIST, PATRICIA CONTI



Here is one of those rare moments when I, who always favors the high ground, am torn between a good bar stool and a comfy leather armchair. But my wife and I opt to settle in at the end of the rail with some afternoon attendees and our host Jenni B. Somehow what was supposed to be just me poking my head in the door for a quick inspection turns into two hours of local lore and great conversation.

At some point I grab another pint of Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale and head toward a cozy corner by the window. A gentle breeze blows in from the bay as I watch the moored pleasure boats dance on the water. A tall ship in the distance stirs thoughts about the presidents and privateers, and the rogues and royalty that have passed this way! 




Celtica all decked out for the Holidays as seen in American Public House Review
CELTICA PUBLIC HOUSE ALL DECKED OUT FOR THE HOLIDAYS





CELTICA PUBLIC HOUSE

95 LONG WHARF
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND 02840

(401) 847-4770

www.celticanewport.com




For an APHR article about another Rhode Island public house, THE WHITEHORSE TAVERN  which is steeped in the legacy and history of our nation's birth please click - here.
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