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Newport's Great Common

Proposed John Clarke Park location





The concept of a "John Clarke Park," recently dubbed "John Clarke Square," was conceived in 1984. Initially a concept discussed with John Clarke Trust Trustee Mr. Wilbur Nelson, the concept of a John Clarke Park resonated with John Clarke Society founders Ralph Carpenter and James Wermuth. Many hours were spent evaluating financial potential , perspective sites, and the character of a Park.

Site evaluated included Fort Adams, the existing Clarke Park on Marcus Wheatland Blvd., and city center where Coffey's two garages are sited on Spring St. Fort Adams was ruled out for its distance from city center. Conservations with Ken Taylor and Ron Fleming regarding adaption of the existing park proved unproductive as the site is not attractive enough.

The final site, Coffey's garages behind the Old Colony House became the central focus. It links several historic properties together, it is tourist friendly, it would support the initiative of Washington Square Roots (a non-profit group endeavoring to enliven Newport's historic Washington Square), and it would improve this wonderful site where the Indian and settler's spring surfaced.

To lend further interest to the site, the Society believes that it could provide a site reciprocative of England's John F. Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, where England's Magna Carta was signed; England designated that acre of land as American soil. In response, the Society would like to investigate the possibility of naming John Clarke Park as British soil.

While Ralph Carpenter was able to encourage hopes that funding would become available to make the park happen, that hope died in 2009 with his death. As a result, creation of the park was placed on the back burner. Early in 2011, architect John Grosvenor assumed the initiative and promises to have funding. As such, the Society supports his efforts and looks forward to contributing as possible.

The following linked frames provide an overview of this historic site. They are based on a 1984 study of Washington Square conducted by the Conservation Technology Group, funded by Jonathan and Libby Isham.