Put on your walking shoes and prepare to be awed when you visit Newport, Rhode Island. History comes alive with a visit to several of the opulent mansions that once were summer cottages to the wealthiest families in the country.
Mansions of Newport include:
Rosecliff located at 548 Bellevue Ave, Newport was built 1898 to 1902 and is one of the Gilded Age mansions also known as the Hermann Oelrichs House or the J. Edgar Monroe House.
The Elms is located at 367 Bellevue which was the summer home of Mr. & Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind with a fortune in the coal industry.
Chateau su Mer is located at 474 Bellevue Avenue, a perfect example of High Victorian architecture built for William Shepard Wetmore, a China trade merchant.
Marble House located at 596 Bellevue Avenue was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. & Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, an heir to steamship and New York Central Railroad fortunes.
Each mansion on your travel itinerary includes self-guided audio tours which allow visitors to move at their own pace.
The Breakers mansion at 44 Ochre Point Avenue offers a “Beneath the Breakers” tour newly opened to the public in 2017. This unique underground tour is definitely a must for any visit to Newport!
The original mansion on this property burned to the ground in 1892 and Cornelius Vanderbilt was determined that the new home would be absolutely fireproof. One of the ingenious ways to ensure that was to have all the boilers far away from the house. And so a huge underground facility was built out under the front lawn. The “Gilded Age” mansion was finished in 1895, and was the largest and most opulent house in the area.
You will join the tour guide at the caretaker’s cottage inside the main gate of The Breakers and prepare to see some of the finest technology of that era. First stop on the tour is the boiler room which heats the entire 70-room, five-floor mansion. The boilers are huge, and are not the originals, but they are authentic and the same models that would have been seen in the boiler room in 1896.
Knowledgeable tour guides are willing to answer any and all questions. Descriptions of exactly how the heat is transferred to the mansion, as well as the methods for delivering water and electricity are covered in detail during the tour.
The Breakers tour continues down a 360-foot brick-walled tunnel to the area beneath the mansion. As you walk the tunnel, the guide points out historic photographs of the construction of Breakers. The photos are dated and show the progress of each phase.
Did you know that The Breakers had elevators? The elevators in The Breakers mansion were working wonders of the times. Once under the main house, you will see the motors and other components of the original elevator.
The final part of the Breakers tour includes the laundry area, the elaborate electrical system, the carpenter’s room, a storage area where garden sculptures are repaired, and a view of the 4-foot thick brick walls of the mansion – another of Vanderbilt’s requirements for fireproofing.
The tour ends in the gift shop – but not for the suspected purpose. The servants’ living area and cooking area have been converted to house the gift shop, but remnants of that original use are visible: a dumbwaiter, scullery, pantry, and communal dining area. But the gift shop is filled with gorgeous things that will help you tarry a bit.
In-depth information about each of the mansions is available on the Newport Mansions website.