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Category Archives: Newport Art and Culture

Kingscote

April 29, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Most people tend to visit the main 5 mansions when visiting Newport – The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff and Chateau-Sur-Mer, but there are many others to see as well.  An example of one of these “under the radar” mansions is Kingscote, which opens for the season on May 11th.

George Nobel Jones of Savannah, Georgia, wrote to Richard Upjohn, the founder of the American Institute of Architects, in September of 1839, asking him to build a cottage with “eight chambers” and a few sleeping quarters for servants, as well as “water closets” and a bath indoors.  Neither man knew that the cottage that was designed would help represent a transition in Newport – a transition from a city struggling from the post-revolutionary economic collapse to a “thriving cosmopolitan resort.”

Many southern plantation owners spent summers in Newport as an escape from the heat of the south.  They would stay in small hotels, private boarding houses or rented cottages. George Jones’ family was among this group of people, and he was one of the first to build a cottage used solely for his personal use in the summer.  This was just another way Kingscote aided in making Newport a premier summer resort destination.

The house was completed in 1841, and is an example of Gothic Revival architecture.  Gothic Revival began in the mid eighteenth century in England and features a smaller, human scale with a large variety of form and decoration.  It relies on organic inspiration and is more picturesque than impressive.  It uses asymmetry and a variety of textures in its gables, dormers and lattices.  Kingscote has held true to this style of architecture and is one of the last surviving wooden structures of its size, period and style in the US.

Kingscote was sold in 1863, after the Civil War severed Jones’ ties with Newport, to William Henry Hunter King.  King was not new to the Newport scene and his family had strong ties with China.  He amassed a large collection of Chinese porcelains, paintings and furnishings that are still used to decorate the house.  King, unfortunately suffered a mental breakdown and was admitted to a mental hospital in 1866.  The house then began to get passed down to other members of the King family.  In 1880 this cottage was officially registered as “Kingscote” and a year later, David King, added a three story addition to the home.  This addition added the most lavish room in the house, the dining room.  The last two owners and residence of Kingscote were, Maud Armstrong, the daughter of Ella Louisa Rives King, and her daughter Gwendolen.  Ella was adamant about the preservation of Kingscote and Maud and Gwendolen held true to that, refusing to sell the estate to the government in order to build a school.  When Gwendolen passed in 1972, she left Kingscote and all its furnishings to the Preservation society so that it could be enjoyed by others as it was enjoyed by her family for over a century.

Kingscote exterior

The Elms

April 12, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Elms - 1930

The Elms – 1930

One of the most frequent question I am asked from guests is “What is the best Mansion in Newport?”  Usually my answer is that all of the houses are different and appeal to everyone in their own way.  While this is true, I think that the house with the most character and spirit is The Elms.  The Breakers is the most impressive and the largest but it seems to have been primarily designed to throw huge parties.  The Marble House was essentially built to one up the Breakers and it shows with it’s pure volume of Gold and Marble throughout the mansion.  Lastly, although elegant, Rosecliff is used for weddings and other functions and it’s decor is often in a transistion phase setting up for these events.

The Elms, which is suprisingly on the non water side of Bellevue Avenue was designed by Horace Trumbauer for Edward Julius Berwind.  Mr. Berwind was born in Philadelphia in 1848, the son of German immigrants.  At the young age of 17, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy which was then located in Newport.  After a 10 year career in the Navy, Berwin joined is brothers in the lucrative coal business.  Soon after joining the famliy business, Mr. Berwin was appointed head of the New York office and grew the business to the largest coal supplier of the marine industry.

The design of the Elms, lead by Horace Trumbauer, was based on an 18th century adaptation of the Chateau d’Asnieres near Paris.  French interior decorators filled the house with enough period furniture, paintings, and tapestries to qualify The Elms as an instant museum.  From the outside, The Elms seems to have only 2 stories but this was done on purpose to hide the staff’s quarters, kitchen and laundry.  Not suprisingly, a coal fired heating system, which was way ahead of it’s time, was installed to protect the many valuable antiques and paintings inside.  Coal was transported through an underground rail system to maintain the allure that the house ran itself by itself.

Undoubtably, the most impressive aspect of The Elms is the grounds.  Many theories abound as to why the Berwinds invested so much money into landscaping design but most likely it was done to compensate for the lack of ocean views.  Upwards of $300,000 was spent to outfit the grounds and pay for the twelve gardeners needed to keep everything in tip top shape.  The 10 acre park contains almost 40 species of trees and shrubs as well as many statues and fountains.

The Berwinds were said to divide their time between the mansion and their steam yacht anchored in Newport Harbor.  Mrs. Berwind died in 1922 and Mr. Berwind continued to work in New York and visit Newport on the weekends until he was 85.  After passing at the age of 88 in 1936, Berwind’s sister assumed control of the house until 1961.  The Elms was saved from destruction by the Preservation Society of Newport County and the house was opened as a museum on August 20th, 1962.

So, if you want to tour a Mansion ripe with spirit and character visit the Elms and be sure not to miss out on their wonderful behind the scenes tours where you can view the basement and the servants living quarters.

Newport Mansions

April 1, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Breakers

The Breakers

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

 

 

Off the Cuff Top Five Attractions in Newport

March 19, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

It is amazing to me that after over 15 years of living in Newport that I still stumble upon a new hidden treasure that Newport has to offer.  Sometimes these treasures are just around the corner from the Inn and other times a discovery that my wife and I make on one of our many walks around the city.  Following is a list of some of the less obvious attractions/things to do/places to eat on Aquidneck Island that may not be included in the typical Newport guidebook.  Most locals know about these items but this post is more for our guests and visitors to Newport.

  1. Southern End of the Cliff Walk/Rejects Beach – The most beautiful part and less traveled part of the Cliff Walk is the Southern end.  On Summer days when town and the beaches are packed full of people you can hike this portion of the Cliff Walk and see only a few people.  The same goes for Rejects Beach which is located near the end of the Cliff Walk and only a few hundred yards from the famed Bailey’s Beach Club.  To get to both of these areas just take the trolley which is a short walk from the Inn.     www.cliffwalk.comair1[1]
  2. Sachuest Point – The Cliff Walk understandibly tends to get the most attention as a great outdoor activity during all four seasons in Newport.  However, if you enjoy being outdoors Sachuest Point is a great seaside walk overlooking second beach in Middletown.  A great place for birders, Sachuest Point also has free and ample parking.  Visit the Sachuest Point website for more information.beach and sky
  3. Newport International Polo Series – Occuring every Saturday starting in June, the Newport International Polo Series features the U.S.A. versus a multitude of International teams including such far away places as Ghana.  Grab some wine and cheese and watch the entertaining game of polo field side.  www.nptpolo.comEntertainmentPolo
  4. Pineapples On The Bay – Located at the Hyatt Hotel, Pineapples has one of the best views in Newport.  Unimpeded views of the Newport Bridge and the harbor can be had from any of the many outdoor tables.  Plus, Tuesday is half price appetizers and there is free validated parking.   Visit the Pineapples website for more information.lighthouse
  5. Castle Hill – Castle Hill Inn and Resort is located on Ocean Drive and situated right at the entrance to Newport harbor.  A huge wedding venue with room rates climbing into the $700-$800 range during peak times, Castle Hill is a great place to grab an afternoon cocktail or a dinner priced lunch.  Dinner, although top notch, should be avoided unless you plan to dine early.  Why pay the top prices if you cannot see the water?

International Oktoberfest

September 30, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

If you’re staying here at the Inn during Columbus Day weekend, don’t forget to check out this year’s International Oktoberfest down at the Newport Yachting Center.  Celebrate the weekend with live entertainment, family fun, international foods, and of course, BEER! The fun starts at 12pm and lasts until 8pm both Saturday and Sunday, and tickets range from $17-$40.  Quench your thirst with a variety of beers including: Warsteiner, Spaten, Amstel, Sam Adams, Harpoon, Newport Storm, Guiness, Harp and Sierra Nevada.  And when you need to fill your stomach, enjoy food from Schnitzels & Giggles, the Smoke House, and Julian’s Omnibus.  When your stomach and glass is full, spend some time listening to one of the many bands and watch the dancers that are set to take the stage.  It’s sure to be a great weekend!

Newport Mansion Food and Wine Festival

September 17, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The 7th Annual Newport Mansion Food & Wine Festival will be held this weekend, September 21-23 at Rosecliff, the Elms and Marble House.  This three day festival will be home to over 100 of the world’s finest vintners and over two dozen of New England’s finest restaurants and caterers.  This year’s special guests are Emeril Lagasse and Jacques Pepin.  The festival includes two days of “Grand Tastings” on the Marble House lawn, cooking demonstrations by national and regional chefs, seminars led by wine experts, live and silent auctions, the Collectible Wine Dinner at the Elms, and the Wine & Rosecliff gala celebration.  Don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the world’s best wines!

Newport International Boat Show

September 2, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Newport International Boat Show is back starting on September 13th, continuing until Sunday, September 16th and will take place at the  Newport Yachting Center, Bannister’s and Bowens Wharf, and the Oldport Marine. This boat show is one of the biggest “in-water” boat shows in the US and will feature a wide variety of both international and domestic powerboats and sailboats.  Never before seen boats will be on display and there will be a variety of seminars and services as well as a large selection of marine equipment and products.  Tickets range from $15 to $30 and can be bought in advance, or day of.  Even if you don’t know anything about boats, it is sure to be a spectacular site that should not be missed if you’re around.

Newport Blues & BBQ Festival

August 15, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Newport Blues & BBQ Festival will be held this Saturday, August 18th down on the Newport Waterfront at the Newport Yachting Center, rain or shine.  Tickets are $45 in advanced or $55 at the gate and are good for the whole day (re-entry is allowed).   A free kick-off concert by Heidi Nirk & the Juke Jammas featuring Cory Bellucci will be held outside the main gates at 10:30am.  At noon, Joanne Shaw Taylor will take the stage, followed by Marcia Ball, Shemekia Copeland, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal will wrap things up starting at 8pm.  Preppy Pig BBQ, the Smoke House, Eddie’s BBQ and Julian’s Omnibus will be providing various BBQ dishes while you enjoy the sounds of the blues.  You will be able to enjoy great tasting BBQ rainging from pulled pork, to smoked salmon, to ribs – among other delicious options.  Don’t miss out on this exciting event!

Jazz Fest

August 2, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Following last weeks Folk Festival, is the Newport Jazz Festival, starting on Friday, August 3rd.  Dr. John and the Lower 911 will be kicking off the weekend at the Tennis Hall of Fame on Bellevue Avenue.  The following two days will feature concerts at Fort Adams State Park starting at 11am and ending around 7pm. Performance will take place on one of the three stages set up at the Fort.   Many great Jazz musicians will be performing, some of which include: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, The Bad Plus with Bill Frisell, Centennial Project and John Ellis & Double-Wide.  There is limited parking, so riding a bike or taking the water taxi may be a better alternative.

This Festival was started in 1954 and was the first annual Jazz festival in the states.  It is known as the “father” of all jazz festivals, and jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis have taken part.  There are still tickets available, so don’t miss the chance to hear some great jazz music this weekend!

Cultural Festivals

July 15, 2012 by Marshall Slocum Inn

As this weekend winds down, the tennis fans are heading out and kites are coming down in order to make way for the next festivals coming to town.

The Black Ships Festival starts Thursday, July 19th and continues until Sunday, July 22 and is a celebration of the friendship between Newport and Japan.  This festival commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, which made the USA and Japan trading partners.  Commodore Matthew C. Perry of Newport negotiated the treaty and ended two centuries of isolationism in Japan.  The Festival is celebrated in Newport and in Shimoda, Japan, Newport’s Sister City.  Events during this Festival will emphasize Japanese art and culture.

Also taking place next weekend, from Friday the 20th to Sunday the 22nd is the Hellenic Fest, celebrating Greek culture and tradition.  It will be held on the corner of Thames and Brewers Street.  Live performances will go on daily and there will be lots of Greek foods to try.

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