History Bytes: Theophilus North’s Nine Cities of Newport, Part 9

March 27, 2019

The following History Byte is the ninth and final installment of a nine-part series. Click here to read them all.

Thornton Wilder wrote about the Nine Cities of Newport in his semi-auto biographical novel, Theophilus North. The Ninth City Wilder mused “was, and is, and long will be.” He was referring to the heart of the city, the people who lived in the city year-round, raised their children, worked hard and paid scant attention to the other eight cities. Beginning in the late 1820s large waves of Irish immigrants began arriving in Newport. Many found work building Fort Adams while others found success in establishing their own businesses. The Rooneys were one of the many Irish families who chose to live in the neighborhood near St. Joseph’s church on Mount Vernon Street. The church building is non-extant, but the cemetery survives. The home at 7 Mount Vernon Street was built in 1895 for Henry F. Rooney and his wife Mary Collins. He ran a successful meat market, Rooney’s Market, at 251 Thames Street. After Henry’s death, his daughter Dorothy inherited the Mount Vernon Street home along with her husband Mortimer Sullivan, Newport’s mayor from 1923-1935. Mortimer Sullivan was a lawyer by profession, and later judge. After finishing his studies, he opened an office on the second floor of the Cononicus building at the corner of Thames Street and Market Square, the same location where Rooney’s Market is thought to have been located.

Image: Dedication of the Short Line Bus Terminal, located on Hozier Street, 1931. Mayor Mortimer Sullivan stands second from the left, with Anne and Willliam H. Vanderbilt to his right. NHS, P9436.