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The Gilded-Age Mansions of Newport, RI

The Breakers Mansion | Mansions of Newport Rhode Island
The Breakers Mansion

The Newport mansions bring to life a fascinating period in American history. One of the most interesting and fun Newport, RI things to do, is to visit these lavish attractions to learn about the luxury and excess of the Gilded-Age.

The Gilded-Age (1870-1910) was an era when American industrialists accumulated immense wealth. At the turn of the century, a new class of capitalists (sometimes called ‘robber barons’) came into power. To impress their old-money contacts and the European aristocracy, the newly-rich businessmen competed against each other for the most extravagant lifestyles.

Cherub Astride Sphinx Statue | The Elms, Newport RI
Cherub Astride Sphinx | The Elms

Today, visitors can witness this desire to outdo each other by touring the spectacular “cottages” of Newport, Rhode Island. Once a summer playground for the monied, the mansions eventually became too costly for even the most affluent families to maintain. Today, the public is able to visit these valuable Newport, RI attractions due to the conservation efforts of the City of Newport, and its preservations societies.

Music Room | Breakers Mansion | Newport Mansions
Music Room | Breakers Mansion
Visit Newport, Rhode Island's Gilded Age Mansions At-A-Glance

For more information on traveling to Newport read our articles on:

Marble House Hearth | Newport Rhode Island Mansions
Marble House Hearth

Newport Mansion Travel Tips:

  • Getting There: All of the mansions in this article are concentrated in the neighborhood between Bellevue Avenue and the Cliff Walk. You can park in one of the Cliff Walk access-point parking areas, or take a public trolley to a stop along Bellevue Ave.

  • Self-Guided Walk: We think the best way to appreciate the mansions is to wander the neighborhood. On foot, you can admire the cottages, elaborate gates, grounds, and carriage houses. Don’t forget to take the Cliff Walk for views of the mansion's “back yards.”

  • Mansion Tours: The Preservation Society of Newport County offers tours of the Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer, Kingscote, Isaac Bell House, Hunter House, and the Chepstow mansions. There is a fee for admission. Parking is generally free. Most of the tours consist of self-guided audio-tours. Some of the mansions offer scavenger hunts for children.

  • When To Go: The summer months are the busiest. Many people prefer to visit the mansions in the spring or fall. After the holidays, the mansions may close or have limited hours. Check the Preservation Society’s website for operating dates and times. Note: Some of the mansions are decorated for the holidays.

Living Room | The Breakers Mansion | Newport RI Things To Do
Living Room | The Breakers Mansion

The Mansions

The Breakers (44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, RI)

The Breakers is considered to be the grandest of all the Newport mansions. The house is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The palatial residence was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President of the New York Central Railroad. Completed in 1895, the Italian Renaissance-style structure was designed by Richard Morris Hunt as a summer retreat for the family of nine. The cottage has 70 rooms with a central great hall that boasts 45 foot ceilings.

View of the Breakers Mansion from the Cliff Walk, Newport RI
View of the Breakers from the Cliff Walk

The cottage is set on 13 acres that overlook the “breaking” waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The furnishings and fixtures in the interior house as well as the magnificent gardens and grounds of the exterior structure were designed to convey the Vanderbilt’s social and financial standing in the community. As you tour the mansion, search for the hidden train (hint: look for a cherub relief by the main hall). The train is an ode to the transportation industry, and the enormous riches it brought the Vanderbilt family.

Great Hall | Breakers Mansion | Newport RI Things To Do
Central Stairway | Great Hall | Breakers Mansion

Marble House (596 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI)

A few years before The Breakers was built, William K. Vanderbilt (brother of Cornelius II), commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to build Marble House. The house was modeled after a palace in Versailles. It was named for the extensive amounts of African, Italian, and American marble used in construction.

Marble House | Newport Mansions Tours
Marble House Front Entry

William gifted the mansion to his wife, Alva, on her 39th birthday. Alva was a southern belle intent on securing her position as Newport’s premier socialite. Alva used the house’s gilded ballrooms, ocean views, and opulent gathering rooms to entertain and impress. She was also a was a force in the women's suffrage movement. Many right to vote meetings were held in the famous Chinese teahouse she had built on the property.

Bedroom | Marble House | Newport Mansions Things To Do
Bedroom | Marble House

The Elms (367 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI)

The French chateau-style Elms mansion was built by Edward Julius Berwind (1901). The millionaire entrepreneur from Philadelphia made his fortune in coal. The house was modeled after a mid-century French chateau, and was the first in the area to have electricity. Mr. Berwind and his wife displayed their extensive collection of jade and ceramics artworks throughout the house. Outside, they filled the 10-acre garden with bronze sculptures, marble fountains, and exotic plants.

The Elms Mansion | Newport RI Travel Guide
The Elms

Rosecliff (562 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI)

Silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs built Rosecliff in 1902. The mansion was modeled after a garden retreat at the Palace of Versailles. The house’s white exterior comes from white terra cotta tiles, and a rose garden adorns the grounds. While the interior of the house is less “gilded” than the Breakers and Marble House, the structure’s intricate cornices and moldings are gorgeous to behold. The house is open seasonally for tours including the portrait-filled salon, glittering living room/ballroom, and library. The Newport Flower Show is held here each spring. The house has been the site of several movies including “The Great Gatsby,”, “True Lies,” and “27 Dresses.”

Rosecliff Mansion | Newport RI Attractions
Rosecliff Mansion

Isaac Bell House (70 Perry Street, Newport, RI)

The Isaac Bell House is built in a different style from its gilded neighbors. Cotton broker Isaac Bell commissioned the house in 1883. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White helped to create a new American style of building with the ‘shingle-style’ of the house. Using European, Colonial American, and Japanese influences, the house is characterized by wide porches, light-filled rooms, and construction materials that celebrate the house’s natural environment.

Ochre Court | Cliff Walk | Salve Regina University | Newport Mansions
Ochre Court | Cliff Walk | Salve Regina University

Ochre Court (Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, RI)

Another chateau-style mansion is Ochre Court. The mansion was built by Ogden Goelet, who was part of a wealthy banking family. In 1902, he commissioned architect William Morris Hunt to build his family the 2nd largest cottage in Newport (The Breakers was the largest). The building now belongs to Regina Salve University. During the summer, guided tours are available. At other time, the Cliff Walk offers spectacular views of the mansion.

Other Mansions to Find

Osgood Pell House | Headquarters The Preservation Society of Newport County
Osgood Pell House | Preservation Society Offices
Bellevue Avenue Mansions | Newport IR Things To Do
Bellevue Avenue Dutch Renaissance-style House
553 Bellevue Avenue Mansion, Newport RI
553 Bellevue Avenue Mansion
McAuley Hall |Cliff Walk |Salve Regina University | Newport Mansions
McAuley Hall |Cliff Walk |Salve Regina University
589 Bellevue Avenue, Newport Rhode Island
589 Bellevue Avenue

Enjoy your exploration, Laura and Randy

For more information on traveling to Newport read our articles on:


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