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A few days ago I shared the first day of my recent Newport, Rhode Island trip that I took with my mom and cousin. Today I’m sharing the three mansions that we toured on our first full day of vacation.
We decided to walk down Bellevue Avenue to the mansion that was the farthest distance from our hotel and then work our way back to the hotel touring mansions along the way. The only time restriction we had was a 4:30 pm Servant’s Tour at The Elms.
After breakfast at Annie’s, we were ready to start a day of touring mansions. We loved Annie’s and ate there every day of our trip. If you travel to Newport, we recommend Annie’s!
The first mansion that we toured was 1892 Marble House built for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. The house was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles.
The mansion is a U-shaped building appearing to be two-story but actually four stories. We were able to tour the ground floor, bedrooms on the second floor, and the service areas in the basement. The servants quarters were located on the fourth floor.
A Chinese Tea House was built on the seaside cliffs by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont where she hosted rallies for women’s right to vote. Alva was given The Elms for her 39th birthday by William Vanderbilt.
Alva divorced William in 1895 and moved down the street. According to our tour, she kept Marble House and used her bedroom there to store her clothes.
This is the view from the Chinese Tea House. The Cliff Walk is located along the shoreline that you see in this picture.
This is the view when you enter Marble House. Marble House is a fifty-room mansion and required a staff of 36 servants.
The dining room, like all of the rooms on the main floor of the mansion, was over the top in decor and opulence.
The Dining Room features pink marble and lots of gilded gold.
The larger mansions are self-guided guided. We preferred the self-guided tours because you could go at your own pace, listening to as much or as little as you wanted. Here you see Mama and Susan enjoying the dining room.
This is the ceiling in the dining room.
I can’t remember from the tour the function of this room but I’m guessing it is a library. We toured eight homes on our trip and the details all run together.
Here is a better look at the ceiling.
The stained glass in this room was so pretty.
This is the Grand Salon which served as a ballroom and reception room. It’s style is Louis XIV with green silk cut velvet upholstery and draperies. The walls are carved wood and gold gilt panels representing scenes from classical mythology.
The Stair Hall is a two-story room that features walls and a grand staircase of yellow marble, with a wrought iron and gilt bronze staircase railing.
This is the painting on the ceiling.
I can’t remember whose bedroom this was.
This is Alva Vanderbilt’s bedroom. It is over the top and gorgeous!
Can you imagine how many workmen it took to carve all of this detail, install the wallpaper, and to gild the wood?
I took many more photos but I’ll end the Marble House part of my post with the kitchen located in the basement of the home. I’m always as interested in the service areas of the home as I am the living areas.
We posed for a quick photo beside one of the large trees on the property before walking to our next mansion, Rosecliff.
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After touring Marble House, we walked down Bellevue Avenue to Rosecliff, a 1902 mansion built by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs.
The grand staircase was designed with women in mind. The steps height is short which allowed women to make their grand entrance without the worry of tripping over their long skirt. Rosecliff can be rented as a wedding venue. Can you imagine how beautiful bridal photographs are in this location?
This room is the salon.
Here we have the grand ballroom, the largest ballroom of the Newport mansions. If this room looks familiar to you, you may recognize it from True Lies or 27 Dresses.
Just outside of this room on a patio that overlooked the ocean were tables and chairs used for weddings. What bride wouldn’t love a reception held in this room?
Like all of the Newport mansions, the ceiling was very ornate.
This is the library located off of the ballroom. I can imagine that the men congregated here during social events.
The room was dark with the curtains closed but had they been open, it would have been lighter and more welcoming.
This is the dining room. Originally some of the paint in this room was green.
We toured the upstairs of Rosecliff but I didn’t take any pictures. Many of the bedrooms were being used for a John James Audubon exhibit. I really enjoyed seeing some of his original art.
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As you can imagine, by the time we walked to the final mansion of the day, The Elms, we were pretty tired.
As you can see, the Rhododendrons around The Elms were beautiful!
The Elms was built in 1901 by coal baron Edward Berwind. It was considered to be a very modern house for 1901, wired with electricity with no backup system and also had one of the first electric ice makers in a home.
The grounds are beautiful with several areas to explore.
This garden hadn’t yet been planted with summer annuals but was still pretty without summer color from flowers.
Of the large mansions that we toured, The Elms felt the most liveable to me. It was gigantic and over-the-top but still felt more like a home than did Marble House or Rosecliff.
A center hall ran the length of the mansion. I could picture guests at parties roaming down this hall as they migrated from the ballroom to the dining room to the conservatory.
The library was dark with a very masculine feel.
The salon, located off the ballroom, was where the ladies gathered during parties.
The conservatory is where I would spend my days if I lived in this home. It felt like you were outdoors but you were indoors with a beautiful view of the grounds.
The Ballroom opens to the salon, dining room, and main hallway in the front of the house making it perfect for the large parties once held at this grand old mansion.
The Elms was almost lost to development. After the final owner, Miss Julia Berwind died, the contents were auctioned off and The Elms almost was demolished. Thankfully it was saved and many of the furnishings, including the paintings in this room, have been bought back by the Preservation Society of Newport County.
This is the dining room ceiling.
This is the breakfast room.
Adjacent to the breakfast room was a butler’s pantry.
On another level of the mansion you can see where the china was stored. Being a lover of china, I especially liked this space.
We also toured the bedrooms in this home but I’m going to skip over those and share the Servant’s Tour that we did. This tour showed us the basement where all of the work happened that ran the house, especially in the summer when it was party season.
This room was beside the main kitchen and I can’t remember its function.
Here is the kitchen. I always love seeing the giant stoves. Can you imagine how hot it must have been in this room with that huge coal fired stove going?
This is where the higher leveled servants gathered to eat. This space definitely reminded me of Downton Abbey.
Edward Berwind designed his servant’s quarters to be very nice to entice servants to want to work for him. Their rooms were large with one person to a room.
Going on the servant’s tour offers a great perk, you get to go on the roof of The Elms to enjoy the view of the harbour. Isn’t it pretty?
If you made it to the end of this very long post, thank you for hanging in there with my tour.
It was so much fun to tour these mansions and I love to preserve my memories of my trip with my blog.
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