The Newport Tower (also known as: Round Tower, Touro Tower, Newport Stone Tower and Old Stone Mill) is a round stone tower located in Touro Park in Newport, Rhode Island (USA). It is listed as one of the oldest buildings in the USA.
It is commonly considered to have been a windmill built in the mid-17th century. However, the tower has received attention due to speculation that it is actually several centuries older and represents evidence of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact.
The Newport Tower is located in Touro Park, at the top of Mill Street, surrounded by a historical residential neighborhood on the hill above the waterfront tourist district. Eighteenth-century paintings show that the hill itself once furnished a view of the harbor and would have been visible to passing mariners in Narragansett Bay, but recent tree growth now obscures the view.
The tower has a height of 28 feet (8.5 m) and an exterior width of 24 feet (7.3 m). At one time the sides were coated with a smooth coating of white plaster, the remains of which can still be seen clinging to the outer walls. It is supported by eight cylindrical columns that form stone arches, two of which are slightly broader than the other six. Above the arches and inside the tower is evidence of a floor that once supported an interior chamber. The walls are approximately 3 feet (0.91 m) thick, and the diameter of the inner chamber is approximately 18 feet (5.5 m). The chamber has four windows on what used to be the main floor, and three very small ones at the upper level. Almost (but not quite directly) opposite the west window is a fireplace backed with grey stone and flanked by nooks.
A representation of the tower is featured prominently on the Seal and unit patch of the former US Navy vessel, USS Newport.
Nothing in early Norse architecture is similar, in size or appearance, to the Newport Tower. However, a 17th-century windmill near Chesterton, England, shares many characteristics with the Newport Tower
In a document of 1741 the tower is described as “the old stone mill.” In 1760 the Tower was used as a haymow, while in 1767 it was described as having been used as a powder store “some time past”. De Barres’ plan of Newport, published in 1776, marks it as “Stone Wind Mill.” During the American Revolution, the tower was used by the Americans as a lookout, and by the British to store munitions.
It is also mentioned in a 1688 document. In 1992, radiocarbon dating tests of the tower’s mortar were undertaken by a team of researchers from Denmark and Finland. The results suggest a probable date of construction between 1635 and 1698.
Various authors have suggested that comparable Mediaeval buildings can be found in Europe; in particular the Orphir Round Church on Orkney built in Scotland around 1115 and the round churches on the Danish island of Bornholm such as Østerlars Church dating from around 1160.