Naval War College Museum
Backstory and Context
Tradition has it that on a late October's day in 1884, Commodore Stephen B. Luce, USN, was rowed from the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron anchored off Newport to Coasters Harbor Island two miles north of the center of Newport, a site designated earlier that month by the Secretary of the Navy for a new kind of college. Once on the island, Luce proceeded to a large stone building, the former Newport Asylum for the Poor, climbed its rickety stairs, and as he opened the front door solemnly announced to his few companions and the empty grounds, "Poor little poorhouse, I christen thee United States Naval War College."
Today the "little poorhouse" is a well preserved and stately structure, a National Historic Landmark and home to the Naval War College Museum. Named Founders Hall in honor of the founding fathers of the College, it is uniquely suited for its current purpose. In addition to being the original site of the College, it is where Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN, second president (1886-1889) and subsequently a renowned naval historian, first delivered his lectures on sea power—lectures which were first published in 1890 as the epochal The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.
The Museum's themes are the history of naval warfare, particularly as studied at the College, and the naval heritage of Narragansett Bay—a tale that begins with the nation's colonial roots. Its collection consists of items relating to these subjects that are perceived to be of value to scholarship, and it forms the core for exhibits throughout the College and for educational outreach projects. Besides permanent exhibits on the College, the genesis of the Navy in the region, and the evolution of permanent naval installations from the late nineteenth century to the present, the Museum features short-term special exhibits relating to College curriculum and to current naval-related topics. In general, Museum exhibits identify milestones in the evolutionary development of war at sea; explain the significance of the sea as a factor in the formulation and the attainment of national policy objectives; describe the character, educational philosophy, and mission of the College; and chronicle the eventful relationship of the U.S. Navy with Narragansett Bay and its people.
Facilities for the handicapped are available, as is a gift shop operated by the Naval War College Foundation.