Whitehall Museum House
Whitehall Museum House, only five miles from downtown Newport, is set on the remnants of an eighteenth century farm. Its first resident, Dean George Berkeley, enlarged the first dwelling to become a country manor house in 1729. He chose the Palladian style for its prominent double front doors, making it one of the first vernacular buildings in America to use such a detail.
During Berkeley’s stay on Aquidneck Island, many visitors knocked on this door to learn and receive counsel from this renowned philosopher and educator. He and his wife Anne Forster Berkeley came to Newport with the mission of starting a college which would bring the sons of colonists and of Native Americans together.
He wrote these famous lines from the poem VERSES ON THE PROSPECT OF PLANTING ARTS AND LEARNING IN AMERICA (1752):
“Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way;
|The college was to be located on the isle of Bermuda,
not that distant by sail. Unfortunately the funds for this enterprise were
not forthcoming from the British Parliament, and so the Berkeley family
returned to the British Isles, where he became the Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland.
Bishop Berkeley gave his property and much of his library to Yale College upon departure in the summer of 1731. Rent income from Whitehall was to be used for scholarships for those studying for the ministry at Yale; hence the name of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. In the nineteenth century, planners for the new University of California, named the town of its location after this eighteenth century philosopher. So his name continues to be associated with higher education until this day.
Whitehall Museum House, 311 Berkeley Ave.,
Middletown, RI 02842
This page was last modified: April 11, 2010