Tom Freeman: Illuminating the Past

NWC Museum
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."

Historic Landmark

The Little Poorhouse 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.

Collection and Exhibit Themes

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 museum-opening.jpgconsists 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.


While the Museum is primarily for the education and the edification of the Naval War College community, it is in a larger sense the corporate memory of the Navy in the region, and it serves as a clearinghouse for naval history information in New England. The Museum Director, a subjects-area specialist, and staff answer inquiries, provide guidance and orientation talks to visitors on regional naval history and current exhibits, and assist scholarly researchers in the use of the Museum holdings. You may also access the U.S. Navy 20th Century Ships History Database, available on a kiosk at the museum.


The NWC Museum is open to the public year round Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the summer from June through September the museum is also open on Saturdays from noon to 4:30 p.m. It is closed on holidays.

U.S. citizens over the age of 16 who wish to visit the museum must submit information for a background check at least seven working days prior to arrival. Non-U.S. Citizens require 14 days advanced notice. Any visitor who is escorted by personnel with U.S. military identification, does not need advanced reservations. All visitors must also produce two forms of identification for entry onto the Naval Station. Visitors arriving by vehicle are required to have photo identification, proof of vehicle insurance and vehicle registration to access the base.

Public access to the museum with a personal vehicle or bus is through Gate 1 of U.S. Naval Station, Newport. For reservations please call (401) 841-4052.

Weekday visitors must stop at the Pass and Identification Office before proceeding to Gate 1.

Please contact the NWC Museum (401-841-4052) as early as possible prior to your arrival.

For more information and to receive the form that must be sent to Pass and Identification Office, please contact the NWC Museum (401-841-4052).

Facilities for the handicapped are available, as is a gift shop operated by the Naval War College Foundation (which partially funds museum operations). Further information on exhibits and special events is available by writing to: Director, Naval War College Museum, Naval War College, 686 Cushing Road, Newport, RI 02841-1207, or telephone (401) 841-4052/2101 (DSN 841-4052/2101). Fax (401) 841-7074 or e-mail:

//Google Analytics