Mysterious Old Stone Mill
I quote from the web site....
Old Stone Mill
Built by ancient astronauts?
In a town bursting with historic buildings, this structure may be Newport's most controversial. Known variously as the Old Stone Mill, the Norse Tower, the Viking Tower, or the Mystery Tower, this cylindrical stone artifact stands at one end of Touro Park. Its twenty-four-foot-high walls are made of lime-mortared fieldstone and its interior is open to the sky. Arches separate the legs and small, square openings are scattered in the wall above. The puzzle is that no one knows for sure when, or by whom, the tower was built. Or, for that matter, why.
Colonial stone masons
Of the two most popular theories, the simpler one, and the one favored by academics, is that the tower was of Colonial construction. It may have been built by Governor Benedict Arnold (great-grandfather of the patriot/traitor) around 1675, after a wooden windmill belonging to Peter Easton blew down in a hurricane. Its design may have been patterned after a mill near Arnold's boyhood home in Chesterton, England. Support for this theory comes from Arnold's 1677 will, in which he twice refers to his "stone built windmill."
Viking stone masons
Then there are those who claim the tower was built by Vikings who visited North America 1,000 years ago. They point out that while Arnold may have used it as a windmill, there is no proof anywhere that he actually built it. Perhaps he merely used an otherwise abandoned ancient ruin. This view is supported by some suggestive evidence. Broad interpretations of vague references in historical Norse sagas have led some to believe that Vikings visited Mount Hope Bay between the years 1000 and 1004 AD. .......
Portuguese stone masons
Another less popular theory, but one which may be more rooted in reality, is that the tower was built as a fortified church and watchtower by Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte-Real, who disappeared in the North Atlantic around 1502. Physician/historian Manuel Luciano da Silva, in his book Portuguese Pilgrims and Dighton Rock, argues that the tower and its stonework resemble structures which were then prevalent in Portugal. He also notes that carvings found on a boulder in Berkley, Massachusetts, have been linked with Corte-Real's ill-fated expedition and that a cannon and sword unearthed at Fort Ninigret, in Charlestown, also appear to be of Portuguese make.
Other stone masons
Everyone wants to claim credit for the Old Stone Mill, or ascribe its construction to one pre-Columbian group or another. Did druids build it? Was it the Knights Templar, fresh from the Crusades and looking for new heathens to convert or kill? Could it be that the Chinese, who, according to author Gavin Mendie, circumnavigated the globe in 1421, constructed the tower as a device to determine longitude? Or were local Indians, many of whose descendants are today skilled stone workers, responsible for this enigma?
The debate shifts back and forth to this day, with one theory or another seeming to gain ground with every new bit of evidence that comes to light.
The Romance of the Myth
Still, the Viking theory seems to be the one that fuels the imagination. In the late 1840s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the tower in his poem, The Skeleton in Armor. Today, a number of local businesses, including the nearby Hotel Viking, Viking Cleaners, and Viking Tours, continue to trade on the romance of the myth; at one time, the Hotel Viking even had a mural that depicted Norsemen building the tower.
Further information, as well as an extensive list of resources regarding the Old Stone Mill and theories on its construction, can be found in the Old Stone Mill Finding Aid on the Redwood Library and Athenaeum website.
Old Stone Mill
Touro Park, Bellevue Avenue, Newport