Mama Nomad’s parents visited us right after Christmas to celebrate a late Christmas as well as Ethan’s Birthday and the New Year. They flew in this time instead of driving. Since they were on a plane, we knew that space was a concern for any presents. What they did not know is that we actually got them something that would not fit in a suitcase, a Newport Mansion Tour.
However, that did not stop us from wrapping the tour certificates in a huge box, adding weight to it and giving Mama Nomad’s Dad the sweats when he began thinking “how am I going to get that in the suitcase?” It was hilarious! And he was relieved that the box only contained a certificate.
Mama Nomad’s Mom and Dad like to tour through things like colonial towns, battlefields, and estates like the Biltmore. So Mama Nomad knew her parents would enjoy a Newport Mansion Tour. This is a tour of mansions that are owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County in Rhode Island. We saw the outside of them when we went on the Cliff Walk. This time we were able to view them from the inside and they were still decorated for Christmas.
Two items of note: 1) We were only able to take pictures in one or two rooms. The ones included are the rooms we were allowed to photograph. There were no restrictions on the outside. 2) They will provide you with a headset that will give you information along the tour. And, if you have additional time, they give you numbers to enter into your player to find out additional info. Do not continue without your headset. It is a must!
We began our tour with The Breakers. This was the “summer cottage” for Cornelius Vanderbilt II. He was the same man who owned The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. To give you a frame of reference, The Biltmore Mansion was over 178,000 square feet. Their “summer cottage”, The Breakers, was over 125,000 square feet. If you ask me, that is one heck of a summer cottage. And, they only stayed in it for about 6 weeks of the year!
The Breakers was a lot of pomp and circumstance within. President John Kennedy and his wife Jackie ate dinner here. However, we heard stories of the guests sliding down the grand staircase on serving trays. Can you imagine people in tuxedos or suits sliding down grand ballroom type stairs on a serving tray?!?! That is my kind of party!
After we left The Breakers, we ventured about a mile or so down the road to Marble House. This was owned by another Vanderbilt. Cornelius’s brother, William, built this “summer cottage” for his wife Alva. Which he gave to her on her 39th birthday. Marble House was completely cube like in its shape. And it is aptly named. Marble House was constructed with over 500,000 cubic feet of marble.
Marble House was designed with inspiration from the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles. It was very interesting to see the different types of marble that was chosen for various rooms in order to give a certain type of look, feel or both. Alva eventually divorced William and married one of his close friends; who lived down the road in a bigger mansion. But, Marble House had better laundry facilities so she still did her laundry at Marble House. The stories we heard we quite entertaining.
After Marble House we moved on to our last mansion. It was called The Elms. This was not a Vanderbilt “summer cottage.” It belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind. It, too, was a summer cottage, as were many of the homes in Newport in this area. Mr. Berwind made his fortune in coal. It was his coal that fueled the Vanderbilt Railroads and the US Military.
Out of all of the mansions, we enjoyed the exterior and yard area the most at The Elms. However, there were interesting rooms inside as each had their own motif or design. One that really caught our eye was the Conservatory. It is more like a modern day sun room.
Another thing we found interesting was that the house and its infrastructure were designed in such a way so that the residents and guests never saw how things were done. What I mean is that there was a covered entrance to supply the home, tunnels went under the home to carry away ash and supply fresh coal. There were back doors to closets so the staff could bring in clean clothes without walking through the home and the Berwinds never had to see them doing it. They wanted it all to seem like “magic.”
We all had a great time! Beautiful architecture, grand designs and decorations, beautiful grounds and fantastically unique stories. Mama Nomad’s parents were pleased with their present. If you are in the Newport, Rhode Island area and enjoy this type of history, then go and check out the mansions and engage in a cliff walk. One final thing, there are more mansions that the Preservation Society own and operate. Not all are open during the winter season, so check their schedule first. Safe Travels.