2015-06-25 / Opinion

A Slice of History, Easily Missed

Driving south down Broadway, the motorist who glances to the right as he or she passes Equality Park may notice something different—three good-sized trees that formerly stood tall in the triangular park bounded by a rusty iron fence have been reduced to mere stumps, and a few leftover carvings from the chain saw that performed the deed.

Now that might be good or bad. There is less shade, of course. However, the north end of the triangle still has its trees, and the grass beneath them is much fuller and greener. With more sun (and some grass seed and top soil, please) the southern tip of Equality Park will surely become more inviting.

A first-time visitor to the park might find the symbolism displayed there a bit jarring, especially in the parts that once had shade. The large anchor once belonged to the Spanish naval cruiser Reina Mercedes that was sunk on June 6, 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Then there is the steel gray gun (you could call it a cannon), one of two 4.72-inch “Armstrong Rifles” once a part of the Fort Adams battery in the late 1800s. During World War I, these munitions were moved to Sachuest Point to protect the mouth of the Sakonnet River.

It is not clear whether these weapons were ever fired at an enemy of America.

There is history at Equality Park.

On July 19, 1769 the little triangle was a common where boats belonging to the British ship H.M.S. Liberty were burned by Newport citizens in what is described as “the first overt act of violence to Great Britain in America.”

As you stand there, looking at this small plot that needs a new lawn, you think, did it really all begin here? And if so, this is truly sacred terrain, is it not?

After looking at the large "Lady Liberty” stone monument at the park’s center dedicated in 1923 to Newport citizens who served in the war with Spain, you might glance across Broadway to a small green oasis known as Congdon Park. There stand two statuesque soldiers from days gone by, rifles at the ready.

“In memory of the brave men who fought for their flag that the nation might live,” the inscription reads.

Lingering in this small slice of Newport for a while longer, you cannot help but wish that just once, over the years, while driving down Broadway, past Equality Park, rushing to get to some place to do something that seemed more important at the time, you had just stopped for a moment or two to take the measure of this small slice of Newport.

It would have been well worth your time.

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