2015-10-22 / Front Page

'Navies in Miniature' Featured at Seamen’s

By Jack Kelly


USS Minnesota was a wooden steam frigate that was launched in 1855 and commissioned 18 months later. The ship served in east Asia for two years before being decommissioned. USS Minnesota was a wooden steam frigate that was launched in 1855 and commissioned 18 months later. The ship served in east Asia for two years before being decommissioned. The Seamen’s Church Institute is currently hosting “Navies in Miniature,” a remarkable exhibit of model ships on loan from the United States Naval War College Museum. The models trace the naval history of Newport and Narragansett Bay from Colonial times through World War II, and highlight the many historical advances that have been achieved in the region over the past two centuries. (The War College Museum is undergoing renovations and is closed until Jan. 4, 2016.)

Newport was known globally as the site for torpedo research and development, and the exhibit examines this history with a number of models depicting the Navy’s advances in this field of ocean warfare. From the earliest “spar torpedo” boat, the USS Alarm, to the USS Cushing, the first steel-hulled, ocean-going torpedo boat, built in 1890 by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, R.I., to PT Boat 596, a World War II patrol torpedo boat, the exhibit outlines what it took to defend the United States against an historical range of aggressors. Even on its own soil: the exhibit also includes a pair of German U-boats.


USS Cushing was the first torpedo boat. USS Cushing was the first torpedo boat. PT boat 596 also serves as a tribute to the 2,007 officers and 12,500 enlisted men who diligently trained at the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center at Melville Basin in Portsmouth. One such young officer, Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy, trained at the center before being deployed to the South Pacific in 1943. It is said that JFK’s love of Narragansett Bay began with that training regimen.

Colonial era models include the USS Providence, commanded by American naval hero John Paul Jones from 1776-1779, which seized over 40 enemy prizes—more than any other Continental navy vessel.

Apprentice seamen training ships that were stationed in Newport are represented by models of the USS Minnesota (launched in 1855) and the USS Constellation (attached to Newport from 1894-96), sister ship to the USS Constitution, also known as “Old Ironsides.”

The exhibit, located on the second floor of the Institute’s 1930 Georgian Revival home on Market Square in Newport, is free and open to the public daily from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. It will continue through the end of December. Visitors should not miss the Institute’s Memorial Chapel with the Chapel of the Sea murals, painted in 1933 by Newport artist Durr Freedley (who is also currently being featured in an exhibit at the Newport Art Museum’s Cushing Gallery, through Jan. 18). The Seamen’s Institute has been serving mariners and the Newport Community since 1919, and it continues its mission today, which is “to provide men and women of the sea, and persons referred from the community, a safe haven in which they may find comfort, benefit and aid.”

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