Filed Under Hotel

Fort Adams

The Band Plays Pleasantly, Over All Shines the Summer Sun

As reported in an 1854 Harper's Monthly piece, the Germania Musical Society was likely the "band" who played at Fort Adams one afternoon when the Fort was "turned into a Hyde Park" with "Horsemen and chariots" parading to the music. The scene depicted by Harper's was idyllic: "The lovely ladies…smile and bow. The ribbons flutter, the gloves glisten. The air is soft, the band plays pleasantly; over all shines the summer sun."

Undoubtedly, music and dancing were main attractions in Newport as it emerged throughout the 19th century to become a world-class resort destination. This impactful feature of the summer experience extended from Bellevue Avenue all the way to the tip of the island at Fort Adams. Opened in 1799 to function as a coastal defense site, Fort Adams also became a place where people gathered to celebrate the natural beauty of their surroundings, oftentimes with music.

An article from the Newport Mercury on July 25, 1857 mentions a reunion of the Germania under the direction of William Schultze, including a performance at Fort Adams which commenced their season. Later that summer, the Mercury added, "On Monday closed the drives to the Fort…the fashion of driving to the Fort on stated days to hear the music of the Germanians is at an end." By 1857, both Newport's "hotel period," and with it the era of Germania Musical Society performances, was coming to a close.

The boom and decline of Newport's "hotel period" and the Germania's heyday took place 100 years prior to the more contemporary summer celebrations that Fort Adams is now famous for. As if the Newport Mercury foretold this story, the paper stated in 1857: "…the crowds thronged there on pleasant days out-numbered the gathering at any other point on the island. The distance from town is about the right one for such a drive, the parade ground is admirably adapted to the purpose, and the music in itself was an attractive feature."

With the rise of Newport's renowned music festivals and cultural events during the 20th century (many of which take place at Fort Adams), the legacy of the Germania Musical Society and the central role of music in Newport's summer experience continues today.

Images

Colored Print of a View from Fort Adams Named in honor of President John Adams, Fort Adams was opened with an extravagant ceremony on the Fourth of July in 1799. In addition to its main function as a coastal defense site, Fort Adams also became a place where people gathered to celebrate the natural beauty of their surroundings. Date: c. 1850
"Fort Adams March" Title Page The "Fort Adams March" was composed by esteemed Germania first violinist William Schultze. The piece was published in 1857 by E. H. Wade of Boston, MA, around the same time that reports surfaced of a Germania reunion at Fort Adams under Schultze's direction.
Newport Folk Festival Crowd at Fort Adams Since 1965, when the State of Rhode Island acquired the site, Fort Adams has been a state park that includes facilities for sailing, athletics, and other recreational activities. The fort has also been the setting for groundbreaking musical celebrations, such as the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, which were founded in 1954 and 1959 respectively. Date: 2010

Location

90 Fort Adams Dr., Newport, RI 02840

Metadata

Brian Knoth, PhD, “Fort Adams,” Rhode Tour, accessed December 2, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/339.