2016-01-14 / Front Page

Historic Adams Bust Relocated Inside the Fort

By Olga Enger

After standing bare to rain, sleet and snow for 81 years, a bronze bust of John Adams, the second president of the United States, has been moved inside Fort Adams. It was relocated from the fort’s small cemetery, which does not have fencing or security, to inside the building, overlooking the parade grounds.

“It was in such a remote location, I was very concerned with it disappearing, being bronze,” said David Dewhurst, member of the Fort Adams Trust, who initiated the project. “It was really just a matter of when, not if.”

The move cost approximately $6,000, which was funded by Charles and Rose Dana, of Newport Shipyard. Charles Dana said a strong family relationship between the Dana and Adams families was the inspiration behind the donation. Preserve Rhode Island acted as a broker of the funds.

Dana pointed to documentation that chronicled his ancestor, Francis Dana, as a trusted adviser and travel companion to John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, who was the country’s sixth president.


The John Adams bust dedication in 1934 occured near the current Sail Newport office and drew a large crowd. (Photo courtesy of Ray Berberick) The John Adams bust dedication in 1934 occured near the current Sail Newport office and drew a large crowd. (Photo courtesy of Ray Berberick) “My great-grandfather was Charles Francis Dana. The name Francis stayed in our family and the Adams family,” Dana said. “That was common practice at that time, to name your family after a trusted family relationship.”

The bust, sculpted by Gerald Brooks Denison, was originally unveiled before a large crowd in August 1934 by the great-great-grandson of President Adams, Charles Francis Adams. In its original spot, it faced the water near Sail Newport’s present location.

The work was funded through a federal public works project, sought out by Capt. Elliott Thorpe, adjutant at Fort Adams. The bust was cast by the Gorham Co. out of Providence, which is known for its flatware that graces notable dining tables such as those at the White House and Air Force One. Gorham artisans also sculpted the George Washington monument in the Capitol’s Rotunda, the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that overlooks the Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Independent Man atop the Rhode Island Statehouse.


Bronze bust of John Adams, the second president of the United States, has been moved inside Fort Adams. (Photo by Kirby Varacalli) Bronze bust of John Adams, the second president of the United States, has been moved inside Fort Adams. (Photo by Kirby Varacalli) This is not the first time the bust has been moved.

When the Navy began construction of Brenton Village around 30 years ago, the head was relocated to the entrance near the fort’s small cemetery.

“There are two reasons it was moved again,” said Robert Beaver, who helped coordinate the project. “The first reason was to keep it safe from vandalism. Second, it’s the bust of John Adams, the person the fort is named after. It belongs in the fort.”

The christening of Fort Adams was July 4, 1799, after the Secretary of War had given the engineer authority to name the fort after then-President John Adams.

“It will appeal to people who are there to learn about the history of the fort,” said Beaver.

Before the move, they repaired a crack to the original inscribed flagstone plaque, which was constructed by Newport’s John Howard Benson. It reads, “John Adams, 1735-1826, second President of the United States, in whose honor this fort was named. July 4, 1799”

To prepare the bust for its new home, a pedestal was constructed partially out of granite materials originally used to build the fort.

According to a 1934 newspaper article, the original dedication ceremony, which included presentations by then-Gov. Theodore Francis Green and Newport Mayor Mortimer Sullivan, preceded a “parade of the troops at the Post.” The governor “was escorted to the parade ground by Colonel Teat and other officers, where he reviewed a parade of the second Battalion, 13th Infantry, and a battalion of bluejackets and marines from the fleet.”

The impressive ceremony was kicked off with a salute of 19 guns and wrapped up with a reception at the site.

“The memorial, originally conceived by Captain Elliott Thorpe, adjutant at Fort Adams, is the achievement of several months of planning,” the article continued.

The first Fort Adams was designed by Major Louis de Tousard of the Army Corps of Engineers. After the War of 1812, as part of a nationwide fortification review, it was decided the older fort needed to be replaced with a much larger structure. The larger fort was first garrisoned in August 1841 and functioned as an active Army post until 1950. During this time, the fort was active in five major wars: the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, but never fired a shot in anger.

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