Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Newport Tower: Unsettled History (B. Lynn Bryant)

Newport Tower: Unsettled History
B. Lynn Bryant
Amazon Digital Services
Nonfiction, History
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In Newport, Rhode Island, stands one of the most enigmatic structures in North America: a two-story stone tower. Many attribute its construction to one Benedict Arnold, grandfather of the infamous Revolutionary War turncoat, who allegedly built it in the late 1600's as a windmill... but there are several holes in this theory. The eight pillars supporting the structure wouldn't have withstood the stresses of being a windmill, and the costs of building it in stone - especially during a lean time, as colonial Newport was experiencing - seem impractical, especially for a man with a thrifty Puritan mindset. The tower has far more in common with medieval structures, including the geographic and astrological alignments of the pillars and irregular windows... meaning that it might predate the English colony by at least two centuries, a relic of a previous generation of explorers who sailed for the New World long before Columbus.
An eBook-exclusive title.

REVIEW: Despite my armchair interest in oddities, I don't recall hearing of the Newport Tower, so when I saw this as a freebie download for my Kindle I decided to educate myself. It is, indeed, an intriguing and enigmatic structure. The politics of the differing viewpoints prove just how human archaeologists and researchers are: it often becomes more about finding evidence to support a dearly-held theory than clinically analyzing the facts. Bryant does not claim to be unprejudiced, but offers this as a rebuttal of the claims of the so-called "Arnoldists," who insist the tower had to be built by the English colonist to be a windmill. The idea of explorers reaching the Americas before Columbus isn't as radical as it seemed many years ago, with some compelling evidence in favor of it found in recent years. (Indeed, I read a book from the early 1900's that took it as a given that there was contact between the New World and the Old, another indication of how pet theories grow and fade over the years; the truth never changes, but the attitudes of the people examining the available evidence have.) Barring further investigation, which (unfortunately) seems unlikely given various limiting factors, there seems to be no "smoking gun" one way or the other, but Bryant makes a convincing argument. I clipped it for repetition, and because, at several points, my eyes started to glaze as Bryant waxed lengthy on minutia that probably meant a lot to those with a horse in the Newport Tower origin race, but didn't particularly interest me as a casual observer.

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Abandoned Places (Lesley and Roy Adkins) - My Review
The Encyclopedia of Mysterious Places (Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson) - My Review
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson) - My Review

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