The Bells is located in Brenton Point which was named after Governor William Brenton, an early settler, who owned the land as a large farm in the 17th century. The area was originally called "Hammersmith" which he named after his hometown in England. (The original name survives in Hammersmith Farm, the estate once owned by the family of First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis.)
In 1776, during the American Revolution, a battery was set up on the southwest part of Brenton Point as a coastal defense. About 1876, lawyer and businessman Theodore M. Davis built a mansion known as "The Reefs" which later became known as The Bells. The property was then sold to the Budlongs.
During World War II, Brenton Point was also considered a strategic defense area, as it overlooks the entrance to the East Passage, which allows access to Newport and to Conanicut Island. The home was seized during the war in order to erect the coastal defense battery. When the war ended, the battery was dismantled and the property was returned to the Budlongs, who then donated the land to the State of Rhode Island for a public park.
The original manor house was partially destroyed by fire in 1960, and torn down in 1963. Today, the former laundry/servants' quarters building serves as the park's visitor center, with restrooms and the park ranger's office located inside. Until the mid-1990s, the Rhode Island State Park Police maintained an office in the building. The former carriage house and stables of the mansion still stand on the property.
|Image via Preservation in Pink|
This last shot was taken from the top of the observation tower behind the old barn. It's not that high but I have a terrible fear of heights that seems to have worsened over the years. I stood in the middle of the tower, shaking terribly and clicked quickly - just for you - and hurried back down to safer ground!
All images save for the one of the inside view of the barn are mine and were taken with my Canon T-3 using both the factory and a zoom lens, as well as my iPhone 4S. The image of the interior is the image of Preservation in Pink.