Off a high-end street near Newports’ downtown harbor is a street sprawling with summer cottages. Not what you and I would consider summer cottages, but amazing, lavish mansions. Many of the guilded-age elite built their houses here – Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Vanderbilt, William Wetmore, Isaac Bell and others.
Nine of the mansions, or what they called at the time “summer cottages” or “villas,” have been donated and restored by The Preservation Society of Newport to their original elegance and are on display to the general public. You can tour five of these amazing homes for $31.50, but of course, the biggest and most exclusive house on the street – The Breakers – is not included in any multi-house ticket. It will cost you an additional $19.50 per person. This house is an amazing 65,000 square feet with 70 rooms, and considering the amazing cost to maintain these homes, the cost actually seems reasonable.
We opted for just one home, Rosecliff Mansion, which we felt would give us a sense for this opulent age and what it was like to be part of this community. The tour cost only $14.50 each, and included a very well-done individual audio tour that allowed you to take a more standardized tour or browse around a bit by using specific numbers in each room.
We enjoyed getting to know Theresa Fair Oelrichs and her family who, in 1902, commissioned the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White to design a summer home “suitable for entertaining on a grand scale.” Oelrichs was a rare western transplant in New England. A silver heiress from Nevada, her father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode (which was one of the largest silver lodes ever discovered).
Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed on the inside of the home, but here are some pictures of the outside of the house and other mansions on the street.
We highly recommend you check out the link below for interior pictures featuring the grand staircase, the amazing bedrooms and the truly grand ballroom. Click here.