Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission:
The Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission was created in January 1921 to establish an official memorial to those who died in the armed services during World War I. Efforts to create a war memorial began soon after the end of the war. The Committee of Ten, or the Newport War Memorial Committee, was incorporated on July 18, 1919 after the Honorable Clark Burdick, Mayor of Newport, called a meeting to discuss the establishment of a war memorial. Plans were adopted to purchase Miantonomi Hill and create a memorial park.
Prior to European settlement, Miantonomi Hill was the seat of Wampanoag Chieftain, Wanumetonomy, Sachem of Aquidneck Island. As the highest point in Newport, the site offered panoramic views of the island and surrounding bay. During the colonial period, the hill was used for beacons, public gatherings and lookouts. A fortification was built under the command of Colonel Putnam before it was used by the British during their occupation of the island during the Revolutionary War.
The City of Newport purchased Miantonomi Hill and the surrounding area on July 12, 1921 from Helen Phelps Stokes, whose family had owned the property since 1881. Mrs. Stokes specified that the 30 acres be used “for a public park.” Architects R. Clipston Sturgis and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. led the landscape design efforts of the park. The Commission dedicated the site as a war memorial on Armistice Day, 1923. The architecture firm McKim, Mead & White was hired to design a memorial tower. This culminated in the dedication of the Memorial Tower on August 29th, 1929.
The Memorial Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Over the following decade James Edward, then chairman of the Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission, lead an effort to acquire Sunset Hills, an area adjacent to the park, and add it to the National Register. This undertaking was unsuccessful, despite the support of Antoinette Downing and other preservationists who sought to protect the area from development. Decades later the Aquidneck Land Trust secured a permanent conservation easement for Miantonomi Memorial Park in 2005, and the same was secured for Sunset Hills the following year.
In 1978, the memorial tablets honoring the 56 servicemen from Newport who were killed in World War I were stolen. In 2017, an award was granted by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, in part, to replace the memorial tablets. New tablets were mounted to the Memorial Tower in 2018.
James Gibson Edward:
James Gibson Edward (1902-1990) was a correspondent and editor of several Newport newspapers. In 1968 he was nominated to serve as the President of the New England Associated Press News Executives Association for the following year. Around this time he also became Chairman of the Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission. He resigned from the Commission in 1984.
Before beginning his career at the Newport Daily News in 1932, he was a correspondent for the Newport Herald, Time, Life, Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazines. He was Managing Editor of the Newport Daily News from 1936 to 1975. He was a trustee of the Newport Public Library and member of the Redwood Library and Newport Historical Society.
During his tenure as chairman of the Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission, he oversaw numerous ongoing caretaking and maintenance issues pertaining to the park. He was committed to having Sunset Hills, an area adjacent to the Memorial Park, placed on the National Register of Historic Places and incorporated into the park. This never came to be; however, a conservation easement was placed on Miantonomi Memorial Park in 2005, and the same was secured for Sunset Hills the following year.
This collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, photographs, architectural and landscape plans pertaining to the Miantonomi Memorial Park Commission. The earliest records of the collection lead up to and encompass the establishment of the Commission in 1921 and dedication of the Memorial Tower in 1929. Meeting minutes continue until 1938. Later records from the second half of the 20th century pertain to the park being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, along with correspondence regarding ongoing maintenance of the park and tower through the 1980s.
There is also correspondence regarding efforts made to place Sunset Hills, an area adjacent to Miantonomi Memorial Park, on the National Register of Historic Places. The correspondence offers a first-hand account of the efforts required to place a park or building on the National Register of Historic Places.
This collection contains plans and correspondence from several noted architectural and landscape design firms. R. Clipston Sturgis and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. collaborated on landscape design soon after the site was acquired. Architectural blueprints from the New York firm McKim, Mead & White outlining the design of the Memorial Tower are also included.
Several photographs from the August 29th, 1929 dedication ceremony of the Memorial Tower are also included. Many have extensive descriptions on the back of each photograph. Names of the people in the photographs are also noted.
Correspondence, financial records and commemorative pamphlets throughout the collection give insight and detail into the history of the Miantonomi Hill site and development of the park and tower.