Newport, Rhode Island, is well known as a summer destination, but winter snow blankets the city of Newport in this astronaut photograph. One of the first European settlements in the Americas, the region was initially populated by colonists seeking religious freedom denied them in Europe. Founded in 1639, Newport became a bastion of the Baptist faith but also exemplified one of the basic precepts of the United States Constitution—separation of church and state. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Newport consolidated its position as one of the premier ports of the United States. The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a decline in commercial shipping at Newport and its rebirth as a recreational destination. Many of the leading industrialist families of the time, such as the Vanderbilts, built grand summer mansions that are now open to visitors.
The United States Navy has also had a strong presence in the Newport area since 1869, exemplified by the establishment of the Naval War College, shown at top center. The college, established in 1884, is still the premier educational institution for naval officers. The gray-brown metropolitan area of Newport contrasts sharply with the surrounding snow-covered open fields and rural areas to the east and southwest. The Clairborne Pell (also known as Newport) Bridge connects Jamestown, Rhode Island (on Conanicut Island) to Newport, shown at top. The main span of this suspension bridge is 485 meters (1,600 feet) long, and it crosses the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. The Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, shown at lower right, supports over 200 bird species, including the largest winter harlequin duck population on the East Coast.