The Hunter House, located in the Point District of Newport, is a great example of Georgian Colonial architecture from the mid-18th century. This house was built during a time when religious tolerance attracted Quakers, Congregationalists, Jews and Baptists to the area. The north half of the house was built between 1748 and 1754 by a prosperous merchant, Jonathan Nichols, Jr. After his death, another deputy governor, Colonel Joseph Wanton, Jr. bought the property. He added a south wing and second chimney to the house, which transformed it into a formal Georgian mansion, complete with a large central hall.
When Colonel Wanton fled Newport for his Loyalist sympathies during the American Revolution, his house was used as a headquarters for the French during their occupation of Newport is 1780. After the war, William Hunter, a U.S. Senator acquired the house. He sold the house in the mid 1860’s and it was passed through a variety of owners until the mid 1940’s, when a small group of concerned citizens purchased the house with the intention of preservation. This group, led by Mrs. George Henry Warren formed the Preservation Society of Newport County and restored the Hunter House to the era of Colonel Wanton.
Today, visitors to the Hunter House can enjoy exhibits that showcase 18th century achievements in arts and crafts. These exhibits include furniture by the Townsend-Goddard family, who were popular cabinetmakers during the colonial era. The house exhibits examples of the finest achievements in the arts and crafts of 18th century Newport. The house showcases Newport pewter and paintings by Gilbert Stuart, Cosmo Alexander and Samuel King. This house is also known for its woodwork, including a carved pineapple over the doorway, a sign of welcome.
The Hunter House became a National Historic Landmark on November 24th, 1968, and is open seasonally, June through October, for tours through the Preservation Society of Newport County.
Only in Newport can you walk through centuries of American life in an afternoon. Each house you visit is an authentic icon of one of the great eras of American history. Hunter House was here when the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought; Chateau-sur-Mer saw the age of global commerce by American clipper ships like Flying Cloud; and The Breakers opened as the Vanderbilt’s latest achievement in the era in which railroads revoultionized the nation much the way jetliners and the internet would do a century later.
Five remarkable audio tours bring you a new and unique perspective on the lives of the people who lived and worked in the grand mansions of Newport. Based on personal diaries, letters, records, and oral histories, these audio tours offer the personal stories of the men and women who lived in each house and the household staff who cared for them.
Explore the Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, and Rosecliff at your own pace with state of the aret digital audio players. At The Breakers, you can choose from the main audio tour or a Family tour, which piques the imagination of youngsters and their parents alike by brining the house, its furnishings, and even its sculpture to life as never before.
Hunter House – Pass through the front door of Hunter House and you step back inot Newport’s 18th century Golden Age, the era before the American Revolution. It was the home of a merchant, ship owner and colonial deputy, which later became the Revlutionary War headquarters of the French Navy. You’ll see up close a great collection of exquisite colonial furniture, created by legendary Newport craftsmen like the Townsends and Goddards.
Chateau-sur-Mer – A product of the American-China Trade and one fo America’s great Victorian houses, Chateau-sur-Mer was home to three generations of the Wetmore family. You’ll see hand carved Italian woodwork, Chinese porcelains, Egyptian and Japanese Revival stenciled wallpapers, and rare trees from as far away as Mongolia.
The Breakers – The Breakers is a surviving jewel of the New York Central Railroad fortune, making a statement about the global sensibilities of the Vanderbilt family. The 70-room summer estate of Cornelius Vanderbilt II includes a two and a half story high Great Hall and a Morning Room adorned with platinum leaf wall panels. Its interiors feature rare marble, alabaster, and gilded woods throughout.
The Elms – The summer retreat of coal magnate Edward Berwind and his wife Herminie, The Elms was a thoroughly modern house in 1901. So technologically advanced for its time it appeared to work as if by magic, it also house monumental art works, including wall sized Venetian paintings, Chinese lacquer panels and tapestries.
Rosecliff – The newest Newport Mansions audio tour brings Rosecliff’s history and romance to life with never before told stories and first person remembrances of its colorful families. From Tessie Oelrichs, who built this fantasy in terra cotta, to the Monroes of New Orelans, the last family to call Rosecliff home, you’ll discover the very human story of Newport’s great party house.
Marble House – Created by Alva Vanderbilt and Richard Morris Hunt and inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, Marble House contains 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Intended as an ultimate statement of Gilded Age privilege, only a few years later it hosted Alva’s “Votes for Women” rallies on the back lawn. Hear the words of Alva Vanderbilt, her daughter Consuelo and many more, brought to life in the award winning audio tour.
Notes: This text was taken from the Newport Mansions Explore the American Story Brochure