Redwood Library and Anthenaeum

More From Newport More From Rhode Island

An upsetting theft of a rare collection still aggravates.

An unpaid, vigilant spirit has joined the security force.

Other concerned spirits have found a convenient way to help.



Purpose: Established in 1747 for the sole purpose of “propagating virtue, knowledge, and useful thinking.”

The original, one room, stone brick Redwood Library and Anthenaeum building, designed by Peter Harrison, was inspired by classic architecture, a first in the colonial world. The details are wonderful, from the Greek facade and porch with 4 pillars, to the dentils and fancy brickwork around the lovely long windows, curved at the top. Using a drawing of a Roman Doric temple with portico and wings, taken from a 1735 edition of Andrea Palladio’s architecture, Harrison created a building that reflected the educational goals that the founders of this lending library professed, “Founded, having nothing in view but the good of mankind.” To offer through books and education, “light and order to the emerging culture of the colonial world,” was their goal.

In modern times, The Redwood Library Anthenaeum still strives to meet their goal, but have greatly expanded the topics of their collections, through purchases and donations:

• Fiction
• New Mysteries
• New Biographies
• New American History
• New World History
• New Fine Arts
• New Architecture
• New Literature & Criticism
• New Bibliography & Library Science
• New Reference
• New DVDs
• Youth Books
• Special Collections

The Redwood Library Anthenaeum’s Children’s Collection is housed in the Carol and Les Ballard Annex, at 10 Redwood Street, across from the main building. It has a fun educational program for children, having plenty of space for looking at books, reading, and participating in related activities; all which fosters a life-time love of books and literature.

The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum has been a private lending library, open to the public, scholars and others who are interested in wonderful collections of books since 1747, making it the oldest library in America. The Company of the Redwood Library was established in 1747 by Abraham Redwood and 46 other men who felt as strongly as Abraham, the need to have a serious library in Newport, RI. After Henry Collins donated the land, architect Peter Harrison built a glorious, one room building, the perfect home for the 751 volumes; a collection donated by Abraham Redwood. This collection of books, that “represented the interests and inquiries of cultured, educated gentlemen of the mid-18th century,” was bought in London, and shipped to Newport.

The library has always been privately funded by a system set up by The Company of Redwood Library. Abraham and 46 other men became the “Proprietors”, who owned shares and paid an annual assessment. Funds from subscribers, who pay fees, also added more income. Not surprisingly, The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum became a popular asset, much appreciated by the community of Newport. The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum throughout the years continued to be a literary and cultural haven to some of America’s best loved authors and artists including Edith Wharton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Julia Ward Howe, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Bird King and Henry James. They probably gave the library some volumes of their works as well.

The Redwood Library Anthenaeum’s low point in its history happened fairly early after it was founded. During the Revolutionary War, British Officers claimed The Redwood Library as an officer’s club, which was upsetting in itself. After the war, the proprietors discovered that over half of the volumes in the library had been taken as souvenirs, sold in town or in England for personal gain, or just destroyed out of spite. Uh oh.

In 1806, the proprietors began the effort to reclaim the missing volumes. It wasn’t until 1947, 200 years after the library opened, that a concentrated effort was made to replace, as closely as possible, the editions of the original collection donated by Abraham Redwood. As of 2012, The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum has regained 90% of the volumes that were in the original collection, and is now missing only 10 percent of Mr. Redwood’s donation.

During the years, more space was needed to make room for the expanding collections of books, manuscripts, and art. Architects George Snell and George Champlin Mason carefully designed and built the new extensions; side wings, that “honored” Peter Harrison’s 1748 original design. The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum’s original room was named The Harrison Room. In an 1878 annual National Library Association report, the work of Snell and Mason was complimented. “There is a building in Newport, RI, at the head of stylish Bellevue Avenue, which is so different from the surrounding structures, and with such an air of studious quiet brooding over it, that the eye is at once arrested, and the attention charmed by its fair proportions. Its model is that of a Grecian Temple, with additional side wings, in harmony with the main building, which possess an air of antiquity.

Today’s Redwood Library and Anthenaeum not only has 160,000 volumes, documents, and artwork on display, but also has on display many paintings done of important people, and holds many informative activities/events for subscribers and the public. Redwood Library and Anthenaeum receives an average of 500 research requests each year, and the community of Newport sure does love their community library.



When the living do an injustice to properties, items, organizations or special places in this world, that meant a lot to the original builders/founders/owners of the damaged former possessions /causes, the entities can choose to stay or visit a lot to keep an eye on the living, and to offer help and advise if necessary to guard from further mishaps.

The disrespectful treatment of the British Officers of the volumes of books during the Revolutionary War caused a lot of anger and upset among the proprietors and people of Newport. It took years to retrieve/buy back 90% of copies of the original stolen volumes. The unrecoverable 10% to date will probably never be replaced.

When people lose something of great value to them, they sometimes never quite get over it, and when they die, choose to continue to express their disappointment in a variety of ways in this world; negatively, positively, protectively.

Entities have been known to gravitate to art and paintings, using them as a resting spot to watch the living in this world.

There are many paintings of people from other eras, on the walls of the Harrison Room, some of whom may be the original proprietors.

Many people have contributed to the vast collection of valuable books, and are invested in the volumes’ safety, to insure a continuing library that offers opportunities for academics, writers, researchers, and a public following; desiring to better themselves through reading.



Male Entity

Possibly of Abraham Redwood? – He may still be upset that 10% of what he donated is still missing, and wants to help the library by personally being on duty to prevent the living from mistreating/stealing the volumes.

Or perhaps another head staff member from some era is on duty – Wanting to help preserve the collections.

This male entity tries to help by volunteering to be an unseen book guardian, for the precious collections that were donated/stolen and replaced, plus other important volumes in this library.

Staff and visitors who used the volumes in the Harrison Room, feel a strong male presence keeping a close eye on them.

Other unknown entities – Residing in the paintings

Staff, patrons and visitors feel that they are being watched from the paintings that are hanging on the walls. The eyes of the people depicted in the paintings seems to follow them, wherever they go.


Perhaps so! Though not enough has been reported, and no hard data has been revealed, people have sensed and experienced the strong unseen presence of a protective male entity, and have felt the odd experience of being watched by a multitude of eyes.

The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum has been rather quiet about their spirit activity, though John T. Brennan managed to talk to some folks there, and reported in his book, the experiences of staff, and visitors.

Either Paranormal investigations haven’t been allowed in The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum, or if they have, it was a private investigation, not to be made public.



50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, Rhode Island 02840

The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum can be found on Bellevue Avenue, between Church Street and Mills Street, near the corner of Redwood Street, and Bellevue Avenue. It’s unique, beautiful architecture stands out, and you can’t miss it. It is located on the left of its next door neighbor, The Art Museum.



  • Ghosts of Newport: Spirits, Scoundrels, Legends And Lore
    by John T. Brennan
    Haunted America, 2009

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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