In 1861, the decision was made to move the United States Naval Academy from its home in Maryland to Newport. If you want to read more about this move here is the link to an excellent article: When Annapolis Moved to Newport. They brought with them the Naval Academy Band, which was officially formed in 1852.
The academy’s first Newport home was Fort Adams, but they eventually settled in to the luxury of the Atlantic House Hotel. The Atlantic House was one of Newport’s early “Grand Hotels.”
The leader of the band when they arrived in Newport was John Philip Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer was born in Germany in 1815. Within a few months of their arrival in Newport he was replaced as the leader of the band but continued as a musician in the band. He was active as a composer and arranger of music while he was in Newport. Here are two arrangements of his:
A number of the musicians who served in the Naval Academy Band during their tenure in Newport also served in the band of the 1st Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, which was made up of members of the American Band, based in Providence, RI.
The members of both bands include Henry Dana, Thomas Fenner, Walter Kingsley, William Marshall, and Beriah Reynolds.
At the conclusion of the war, when the band moved back to Annapolis, some musicians stayed in Rhode Island, including William Marshall who taught music in the city until his death in 1891.
We end this post with a look at William Nayden who was a member of the Naval Academy Band during their days in Newport and continued as a member of the band until 1909. He died at the age of 78.
If you drive down Bellevue Avenue in Newport you can see where the Atlantic House stood. Today it is the Elks Lodge, with a sign talking about the Naval Academy. The Atlantic House hotel was torn down in the late 1800s. Today the Elks Lodge is in a house built on the property after that.
The Navy has always had a strong presence in Newport, and you can hear music written for the Navy Bands of Newport on our YouTube channel!