In Newport, Rhode Island, Doris Duke was a lifelong preservationist and devoted much of her fortune to restoring colonial buildings in the city where she spent her summers. She founded the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1968 with the purpose of preserving Newport’s 18th- and 19th-century architectural heritage. Her extraordinary vision resulted in an almost single-handed rescue of Newport’s early architectural heritage. Newport thrives today in large part due to its many unique historic streetscapes.
Doris Duke, the only child of James Buchanan Duke, was born on November 22, 1912. Her father was a founder of the American Tobacco Company and the Duke Power Company, as well as a benefactor of Duke University. When Mr. Duke died in 1925, he left his 12-year old daughter an estate estimated at $80 million.
As a collector, Duke spent much of her time traveling the world, amassing countless treasures and notable collections of Islamic and Southeast Asian art. She also traveled throughout Europe building her collection of fine art and furniture, much of which she used to furnish Rough Point, her home in Newport. She left Rough Point, intact as she lived in it, to the Newport Restoration Foundation to be opened as a museum. Two of her other homes are also open to the public. Visit Shangri-La in Hawaii which is home to an impressive collection of Islamic art. Explore Duke Farms, Doris’s 2,700 acre New Jersey estate featuring remarkable outdoor resources such as walking trails, gardens and environmental programs.
Doris Duke gave away more than $400 million to various causes during her lifetime, often as anonymous contributions. Upon her death in 1993, she left her vast fortune to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation which supports the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse.
I decided to write a piece on the top ten historical attractions in Newport RI to assist our guests if time is short. Most if not all of these landmarks are within walking distance of the Marshall Slocum Inn and/or have free ample parking. Although there are significantly more than 10 historical landmarks we decided to offer a top ten list to guide our guests when visiting Newport. For those guests who are staying longer at the bed and breakfast there are many more places and sites to see than these ten.
- The Breakers – The Breakers is undoubtably the most famous tourist attraction in Newport RI for domestic and international visitors. Completed in 1895, The Breakers is a concrete example of the Vanderbilt families exorbant wealth derived from, amongst other things, the New York Central Railroad. This National Historic Landmark consists of 70 rooms adorned with rare marble, alabaster, and gilded woods. Perhaps the most enjoyable feature of the Breakers are the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the historic Cliff Walk.
- Touro Synagogue – The Touro Synagogue is the quintessential example of Roger Williams’s promotion of religious tolerance and could be a main topic of why Rhode Island is it’s own state. Completed in 1763, the Synagogue became the first accepted active place of worship in the United States for Jewish persons. During the British occupation of Newport RI the synagogue survived burning due to it’s usefulness to the British troops as a hospital and meeting place. Recently, a beautiful new visitors center was completed giving tourists a great resource to learn about Judah Touro and his followers.
- The Marble House – Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the Marble House is the other grand property of the Vanderbilt family. The house is ordained with gold and marble throughout which architect, Richard Morris Hunt, intended to be a statement of wealth during the infamous Gilded Age. Alva Vanderbilt, the properties owner, held her “Votes for Women” rallies at the mansion as part of her lifelong commitment to women’s rights.
- Rough Point – Rough Point is the home of Doris Duke, heiress and art collector who turned her good fortune into a life’s work in philanthropy. Most of Duke’s fortune came from the tobacco plantations owned by her family and she is said to have donated up to $400 million throughout her lifetime. Her philanthropic legacy continues today throughout the City of Newport by means of the Newport Restoration Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation.
- National Museum of American Illustration – The National Museum of American Illustration is perhaps the most under visited and cautiously marketed attraction in Newport. Located at Vernon Court, a Gilded Age mansion on Bellevue Avenue, the building hosts the first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art, featuring Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parish, JC Leyendecker, NC Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, and 150 other artists.
- The Elms – A personal favorite of the staff at the Inn, The Elms was completed in 1901 as a summer retreat for coal magnate Edward Berwin and his wife Herminie. Features of the house include modern amenities that were unheard of at the time as well as floor to ceiling artwork and tapestries. Perhaps the best part of the Elms preservation is the behind the scenes tour where visitors can see the staff living quarters, boiler room, laundry room, kitchen, and the secret roof deck with expansive views of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Fort Adams – Situated in a strategic location overlooking Narragansett Bay, Fort Adams is a unique example of coastal defense systems utilized pre Revolutionary War up to World War II. Visitors can take a guided tour of the interior of the fort, the many underground tunnels, and the amazing overlook posts with 360 degree views of Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay. Fort Adams is also home to the Jazz and Folk Festivals which occur each summer in Newport.
- The Newport Mill – The Newport Mill is located in beautiful Touro Park and is thought to be the oldest remaining structure in Newport. There is no confusion about it’s usage from the 18th century onward but the debate rages on as to the buildings origin and purpose. Some theories point to an astronomical tool and others to an observatory for the Chinese. In a document of 1741 the tower is described as “the old stone mill” an d in 1760 the Tower was used as a haymow. During the American Revolution, the tower was used by the Americans as a lookout, and by the British to store ammo.
- The Cliff Walk – Other than the Breakers the Cliff Walk is perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Newport. Although there is not a lot of historical facts associated with the walk it offers too many beautiful scenic views and has been around since the Gilded Age to be left off this list. The 3.5 mile walk was used by the Vanderbilts and all their wealthy neighbors on walks to Easton’s Beach. In 1975 the walk was designated as a National Historic Trail, the first in New England.
- Washington Square – Two of Colonial America’s most significant structures are located at either end of Washington Square, the Colony House and the Brick Market. Built in 1741, the Colony House is one of the best maintained surviving Georgian buildings in the United States. The stately building was used for the colonial legislature during the fight for independence. Another example of classic Georgian architecture is the Brick Market built in 1762. The traditional open first level served as a marketplace for trading, much like Fanueil Hall in Boston.
Located just minutes from our Newport Bed and Breakfast lies the crown jewel of the Newport Restoration Foundation, Rough Point. Rough point was the home of Doris Duke and avid collector, animal lover, and philanthropist who also happened to be very rich.
Guests at the Newport Rhode Island Inn can access Rough Point by car, trolley or, for those fitness buffs, a 4 mile walk from our Newport Inn. The oceanfront estate off of exclusive Bellevue Avenue in Newport, RI is filled with European art, tapestries, and Chinese porcelains collected by Doris Duke on her travels throughout the world. Guests on their Newport Rhode Island Bed and Breakfast vacation will also enjoy beautiful ocean views from expansive grounds at Rough Point.
For those intersted in architecture, the grounds were designed by renowned landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted. Tour this Newport estate as a Newport Inn guest, and experience life as a 20th-century heiress. All tours are led by a knowledgeable guide. Small, intimate groups of 12–14 guests allow for a relaxed and personal experience. Lasting approximately one hour, the tour visits the entire first floor of the house, then continues upstairs with a visit to Doris Duke’s bedroom and to special exhibition galleries featuring fashion in the 20th century. Follow Doris Duke for the couture houses of Paris to America’s top department stores. Explore the wardrobe of this heiress and world traveler and learn how she chose the stylish and bold attire that established her as one of the best dressed in Newport Rhode Island and around the world.