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Posts Tagged ‘Newport, RI’

1.-Rosecliff

Rosecliff

Whenever Newport, RI is mentioned, Bellevue Avenue with its row of elegant mansions that served as “summer homes” for the wealthy in the early 1900’s comes to mind. Growing up in Newport, I, along with most of the other “natives,” only visited these mansions when we had company from out of state. This summer I decided that it was time to revisit a few of these impressive estates.

 

5-The-Breakers

The Breakers

Mike and I started with a tour of The Breakers, perhaps the grandest of the Newport mansions. I remember visiting it when I was in my teens and guided tours by docents were conducted. Times have changed and the tours now include audio guides that give excellent room by room descriptions along with a history of the people who lived in these “summer cottages.”

The Breakers, which epitomized the Gilded Age, is a 4 story limestone mansion that was modeled after Renaissance Italian palaces. It was built in the mid 1890’s as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II and replaced the first Breakers which was destroyed by fire in 1892. This 70-room mansion, 33 for staff alone, is located on 13 acres and was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Many of its rooms were designed and built in Europe then shipped to Newport and reassembled on site.

 

2.-Breakers-Monogrammed-Gat

The Breakers Gates

While one of the most luxurious of the Newport Mansions, the Breakers is not located on Bellevue Ave, but rather two blocks away on Ochre Point Avenue. The first sighting of this “stone palace” is through its ornate monogrammed gates.

3-The-Breakers--Grand-Stair

The Breakers Grand Staircase

Once inside the mansion, it’s easy to feel the imposing scale of this building. While all the rooms are impressive, the Grand Staircase in the Great Hall is exceptionally striking. Glittering chandeliers and marble fireplaces adorn massive rooms but the view from the second floor open air loggia made our visit complete — beyond the well-kept, massive green lawn, lay the Atlantic Ocean.

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View of the Atlantic Ocean from The Breakers

 

On another day trip to Newport, we chose to visit Rosecliff. We were more familiar with this mansion since it is the site of the Newport Flower Show which we have attended as judges for the rose horticultural entries for the past several years.

This is not the original Rosecliff which was a wooden cottage owned by George Bancroft, a horticulturalist who maintained a rose garden here (hence, the name Rosecliff). After Bancroft died, his estate was sold to Mrs. Oelrichs and her sister who increased the size of original estate by purchasing an additional 11 acres off Bellevue Ave. They hired Stanford White to design a new Rosecliff, the same architect who designed the Newport Casino. Rosecliff was modeled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles, and is a far cry from the original Rosecliff of George Bancroft.

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Rosecliff’s Grand Staircase

After entering Rosecliff and obtaining the audio tour for the mansion, the first thing seen is the red-carpeted, rococo, heart-shaped grand staircase. It’s no wonder that this venue is so popular with brides.

 

12-Rosecliff-Oscar-Wilde

Oscar Wilde

 

On the day of our visit, the exhibit “Bohemian Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement and Oscar Wilde’s Newport” was on display on the second floor which we reached by walking up this majestic staircase. The exhibit featured a selection of furniture, ceramics, paintings and costumes, among other objects, that revealed the belief of “art for art’s sake,” a movement which Oscar Wilde supported. Below are photos from the exhibit.

 

 

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Bohemian Beauty Exhibit

 

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Bohemian Beauty Exhibit

After viewing the exhibit, we continued on our tour which took us to the focal point of Rosecliff — the 40’x 80’ ballroom, the largest of the Newport mansions. This was where parts of The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford was filmed in the 1970’s, as well as the movie True Lies starring Arnold Schwarznegger in 1994.

 

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Rosecliff Ballroom

One of my favorite rooms was the library with its wood paneled walls and low, intricately designed ceiling.

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Close up of Library Ceiling

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Rosecliff’s Rose Garden

Rosecliff, like The Breakers, overlooks the Atlantic. On our way to the back of the mansion to see the ocean, we walked through the rose garden which had recently been renovated. The hardscape, including statues and urns was fantastic; however, the garden roses were disappointing, as you can see from the photo above.

 

 

 

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Rosecliff Terrace Facing Atlantic Ocean

There are many other Newport Mansions left to explore. I think the Marble House and The Elms are next on our list. For more information about visiting the Newport Mansions visit http://www.newportmansions.org

 

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