slides: James Clayton Sattel’s RI Views: The Mansions
Saturday, September 08, 2012
This week, Jim pays visits to Newport's grande dames of the Gilded Age--her mansions. Traveling the spine of leafy Bellevue Avenue, he gives us glimpses of the homes that have famously housed Newport's elite.
To see more of or purchase Sattel's distinctive views, go here.
The Elms I
Welcome to The Elms, the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. Mr. Berwind made his fortune in the Pennsylvania coal industry. In 1898, the Berwinds engaged Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design a house modeled after the mid-18th century French chateau d'Asnieres.
The Breakers I
It's well-known that Newport society families often competed with each other in the scale and grandeur departments, and The Breakers is certainly one of the all-time winners.
Commissioned in 1893 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of the famous Commodore, this Richard Morris Hunt-designed villa replaced the earlier wood-framed house which was destroyed by fire the previous year. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin.
The lion's share of Newport's most spectacular mansions are owned and maintained by the Newport Preservation Society, but some homes are still in private ownership. Beechwood, here, was recently purchased by business magnate Larry Ellison, owner of Oracle (and the America's Cup Oracle Sydicate). Talk about playing in your new backyard!
Chinese Tea House
There are few more iconic Newport structures than the crimson Chinese Tea House. This was built by William Vanderbilt who owned the Marble House.
Alva Vanderbilt enjoyed the Chinese Tea House on the back lawn, where she hosted parties then, and parties are still held here today.
The Tea House was originally much closer to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, but was moved back to this safer spot in 1977.
Marble House I
The contender to The Breakers for bragging rights among Newport's elite for grandest cottage, Marble House dominates its environs. Built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, this cottage was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport's subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.
Marble House III
Closer still, the refined details present themselves, such as these carved pillars on Marble House's exterior. The house was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost of the house was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.
Happy birthday, Alva!
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