The first religious service in Newport was reportedly held under a large pine tree by Congregational settlers from Killingworth (CT) on their first Sabbath in June, 1766. Later they met in private homes and in the 1772 Proprietor's House, which also served as schoolhouse.
In 1793, the town constructed a meetinghouse on Unity Road, west of the Sugar River. By 1810, state chartered turnpikes passed to the east of the Sugar River and prompted new commercial development in that area. Soon both the Congregational and Baptist congregations voted to occupy new meetinghouses built near the new town center.
Two prominent merchants, James Breck and William Cheney, financed Newport's early commercial and public buildings, including its stores, taverns, churches, schools, and courthouse. Many of Cheney's projects were constructed of wood, while Breck preferred more durable brick. Described by local historians as fierce competitors, the two men also collaborated on projects of mutual self-interest, including the establishment of the Newport Academy, the creation of Sullivan County, and the construction of the County Courthouse.
Two of Breck's most impressive buildings remain Newport landmarks: the Eagle Block, restored in the late 1990s, and the South Congregational Church.