The History of Pier 49

The Story of Pier 49

A testament to Newport’s colorful seafaring past, the site of The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina enjoys a rich and fascinating history.  Originally Newport’s main ferry landing, it was the grand entrance to “The City by the Sea.”

Founded in 1639 by settlers seeking religious freedom, Newport was of one of the major seaports on the East coast and became a sporting ground for “The 400,” the oldest and wealthiest families in America.  Back then, New York was known merely as “South of Newport.”

The Pineapple

Bustling with activity in the 1700’s, the Newport waterfront was the scene of 150 separate wharves and hundreds of shops.  Ships brought in preserved pineapples from Caribbean islands as expensive sweetmeats – pineapple chunks candied, glazed and packed in sugar.  The actual whole fruit was even more costly and difficult to obtain.  Only the speediest ships and most fortuitous weather conditions could deliver ripe, wholesome pineapples to the confectionery shops of the waterfront.

While fruits in general – fresh, dried, candied and jellied – were the major attractions of the community’s appetite and dining practices, the pineapple was the true celebrity.  Its rarity, expense, reputation and striking visual attractiveness made it the ultimate exotic fruit.  It was the pineapple that came to literally crown the most important feasts: often held aloft on special pedestals as the pinnacle of the table’s central food mound.

A Symbol of Hospitality

The pineapple has also been a symbol of hospitality and welcome since the days of the early American colonies.  The legend began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed to the Caribbean Islands and returned to the colonies with exotic fruits and spices.  When clipper ships returned to port, their families would spear a precious pineapple on their iron gatepost as a common symbol to welcome friends and neighbors into their homes to celebrate the safe return of the captain and crew – and listen to the tales of their voyage.  You’ll see this see this timeless symbol of hospitality and welcome throughout The Newport.

A Long and Proud History

Originally built by the United States Navy, The Newport’s Pier 49 location was known as “Government Landing” for over 60 years.  This was the Navy’s Newport harbor side dock.  Launches would ferry sailors from their ships anchored in the bay, to the torpedo station at Goat Island or to Fort Adams.

The pier also became the home of the Newport-Jamestown Ferry, as there wasn’t a bridge connecting Newport and Jamestown at that time.  The torpedo station on Goat Island was phased out, the Newport Bridge was completed in 1969 and the naval fleet departed Newport in the early 1970’s rendering Government Landing obsolete.

The pier and adjacent land were sold to a private enterprise.  Today this is the site of The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina.  The pier has been rebuilt in recent years and a boardwalk has replaced the concrete portion of the pier.

Pier 49 is home to four classic 12 Meter yachts that once raced in the America’s Cup competitions.  Famous boats and boats of famous people have graced the pier.  The H.M.S. Rose, used in the movie “Master and Commander” was docked here.  Billy Joel’s “Red Head,” Phil Donahue’s “Muggsy,” Steve Fossett’s “Playstation,” and Roy Disney’s “Pyewacket” to name a few, have berthed at this pier.

Today: Pier 49 Seafood and Spirits

Today, our award-winning restaurant, Pier 49 Seafood and Spirits at The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina is your personal gateway to Newport’s live entertainment, intriguing visual arts, unique cultural events, and historic architecture – a perfect destination.  So sit back, relax, and feast yourself on an enticing array of classic New England fare…artfully prepared, creatively presented, attentively served – imaginative dining in stylish yet informal ambiance…as you wait for your ship to come in.