October 20, 2014
With spectacular coastal scenery, awe-inspiring architecture and a thriving waterfront, the Rhode Island village of Newport is a perfect little getaway, just an hour from Boston. With 11 stunning historical properties situated within the area, the Newport Mansions remain a star attraction for those seeking to discover over 250 years worth of remarkable American history.
Nestled in the heart of this age-old fishing village is some serious seaside extravagance. Welcome to the famed Bellevue Avenue, home to 88 acres of lavish gardens, parks and, of course, the magnificent Gilded Age mansions. Whether you take the famed 3.5-mile Cliff Walk for an outdoor sneak peek just feet from the crashing waves or you indulge in an indoor guided tour, these Newport Mansions are not to be missed.
The most grand and famous mansion of all is one associated with a grand and famous American household name – Vanderbilt. The Breakers was the family’s summer “cottage” and a symbol of their wealth and influence in turn-of-the-century America. The 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin inspired the massive 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo.
Quite the Hollywood sweetheart (it’s been featured in The Great Gatsby, True Lies, 27 Dresses and Amistad), Rosecliff was designed after the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. You can still hear the echoes from a century of highbrow entertaining, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini.
You can’t escape the extravagance of the other properties that line the streets. Chateau-sur-Mer, for instance, is a High Victorian playground of period architecture, furniture, wallpapers, ceramics and stencilling. This party palace is known to have ushered in the Gilded Age of Newport with its famously lavish get-togethers. Or find peace in the recently restored elaborate Classical Revival gardens on the grounds of The Elms property. There are marble and bronze sculptures, fine specimen trees, marble pavilions, fountains, a sunken garden, and carriage house. Don’t forget the Marble House, the Vanderbilts’ opulent stone palace that has a reported 500,000 cubic feet of marble within its stately walls.
With the holidays around the corner, these palatial estates are getting ready for the time of glittery gold and sparkly silver. The grand Victorian elegance of Bellevue Avenue becomes an opulently decorated fantasy world come late November.
While the other Newport mansions are taking their seasonal siestas until spring, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are decked out in Yuletide finery as part of the 43rd annual Christmas in Newport festivities. There will be live holiday music and tours, all set off by thousands of poinsettias, evergreens, wreaths and 28 decorated Christmas trees. Tables are set with period silver and china complete for an elegant party, and little white candles twinkle in every window.
The Newport Mansions autumn/winter schedule: The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House and Rosecliff are open daily from October 14 to November 21 2014; The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are open daily and decorated for the holidays from November 22 to January 4, 2015.
Header image © The Breakers by Roger Ward/Flickr
Have you visited the Newport Mansions before? Tell us which one you liked best in the comments section below.
Written by Cheryl Fenton