The Lady of Marble House – Alva Vanderbilt

October 24th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Newport Mansions are filled with the history of the wealthy families who lived in them.  Alva Vanderbilt, later Alva Belmont’s story is the one that thrives behind the heavy walls of Marble House.200px-Alava_E_Belmont[1]

Alva was born on January 17th, 1853 as Alva Ertskin Smith, in Mobile, Alabama.  She was the daughter of a cotton broker.  After the Civil War, her family moved to France, where she was educated.  Alva returned to the States in the 1870′s with her mother and sisters and settled in New York City.  She met William K. Vanderbilt at the White Sulphur Springs and agreed to marry him.  Alva played a major role in raising the Vanderbilts status in the New York elite, starting with commissioning Richard Morris Hunt to design their Fifth Avenue Mansion.

In 1888, Alva and William decided to join the Newport summer colony. Alva again went to Richard Morris Hunt to help create Marble House, which was inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles.  It took 4 years and $11 million dollars to complete and on August 19th, 1892, they opened Marble House to their first guests.  Unfortunately, Alva was not happy in her marriage and her and William divorced in 1895.  She was given ownership of Marble House.  After Alva remarried to Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, Marble House was closed and she moved down the street to Belcourt Castle.

After Belmont’s death in 1908, Alva became a dedicated suffragist.  She put herself and her fortune towards the woman’s rights movement.  She founded the Political Equality Association in New York City, reopened Marble House in 1909 to raise money for the women’s suffrage movement, and traveled to England to attend rallies.  She focused on the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, later the National Woman’s Party, in 1914 and served on the board, using Marble House for events and headquarters for a while.  After woman won the right to vote she took over the leadership of the National Woman’s Party, helping to establish a new headquarters in Washington, D.C. with her wealth.

Alva sold Marble House to Frederick H. Prince of Boston shortly before her death in 1933.

The Preservation Society of Newport County

October 17th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Historic Newport Mansions are some of the biggest attractions when visiting Newport and if it wasn’t for the Preservation Society of Newport County, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy these historic houses and learn about what life was like when they were private homes.

The Preservation Society of Newport County was founded in 1945 by a small group led by Mrs. George Henry Warren, as a means of saving the Hunter House.  They were concerned that the interiors of the house would be removed after being sold, so the pres society sealpurchased the house, formed the Preservation Society and restored the Hunter House.  Since then, the Preservation Society of Newport County has acquired 11 properties and landscapes, of which 7 are National Historic Landmarks.

This non-profit organization is Rhode Island’s largest cultural organization.  Their mission is to protect, preserve and present their collected of houses and landscapes.  They represent America’s architectural and social development from the Colonial era through the Gilded Age.  The Preservation Society of Newport County offers guests a view into each properties architecture, landscapes, interiors and social history.

The Preservation Society itself has it’s headquarters on Bellevue Avenue in a three-story Romanesque Revival mansion from 1888.  This building was purchased by the society in 1992 and went through a restoration and renovation to transform it into their administrative headquarters.

Halloween Happenings in Newport

October 10th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

It’s almost Halloween and Newport offers a variety of different spooky and “haunted” activities during October.  Here is a list of a few fun Halloween activities to fill your time in Newport with this October.

FEAR at Fort Adams, formerly known as the Fortress of Terror, is open on select nights from October 10th to the 26th from 6pm until 10pm.  There are a variety of scary activities including the tunnel of terror & haunted officers quarters and ghost hunts.  The tunnel of terror is a “high startle” attraction including theatrical fog, strobe lights and loud noises.  After you can explore the Officers Quarters on an unguided advenimages[8]ture, which is more low-key and shows guests a view of how the Fort Officers once lived.  If that isn’t enough, on some nights they will be taking groups out on 2-hour long Paranormal Investigations, led by the Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group.

Newport Ghost Tours have two different tour options: the Old Town Ghost Walk and Carved in Stone. The Old Town Ghost Walk is an hour an a half walking tour that takes you through historic Newport to discover “ghosts, ghouls, and legends.”  The Carved in Stone Tour is also an hour and a half and tours the Common Burying Ground, Newport’s oldest and largest colonial burying ground.  On this tour, you will find the final resting place for many of Newport’s famous souls and see interesting grace carvings, some dating back to 1672.

If that isn’t enough, on October 25th, take the Rum Runner II to Rose Island and spend the evening learning about Haunted Folklore.  This adventure includes a tour of the lighthouse and a visit to the haunted barracks that were once used as a quarantine hospital during the cholera epidemics in the 1820′s.  You’ll also learn about the spooky experiences of ghost hunters, staff and visitors.

If you want to be spooked this October, Newport has plenty of options for you!

 

 

Orchards for Picking Your Own This Fall

October 3rd, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

In my opinion, the best thing about fall is all the fun outdoor activities available, such as hay rides, scenic drives to look at the changing leaves and of course apple and pumpkin picking.  Newport County has sophotome great places for those who like to pick their own apples when the trees are full of fruit, or select the perfect pumpkin in a full patch. Whether you’re picking apples for pie or pumpkins for the perfect Jack-o-lantern, these orchards will have what you’re looking for.

Rocky Brook Orchards – (977 Wapping Road, Middletown) Rocky Brook Orchards is a family run orchard open on the weekends for picking.  They have over 60 varieties of apples, many of which are unique, and are constantly growing new ones.  They also have pears and quince available for picking. Special reservations for weekday picking can be made.

Sweet Berry Farm – (19 Third Road, Middletown) Sweet Berry Farm sits on 100 acres of land and includes plenty of seasonal pick-your-own fruits as wells as a farmers market and café.  Apples are available for picking through October as well as peaches and pumpkins.

Some other orchards in the area that offer apple and pumpkin picking are: Old Stone Orchard (33 Colebrook Road, Little Compton), Quonset View Farm (pumpkins) (895 Middle Road, Portsmouth) and Hodgkiss Farm (pumpkins) (305 North Road, Jamestown)

 

October Festivals in Newport

September 26th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

October is one of my favorite months in Newport, because while the temperatures are lowering, there’s still so much to do.  Every weekend in October is filled with fairs and festivals of all sorts, celebrating food, fun and the outdoors.  Here’s a list of what’ll be going on around town.

Norman Bird Sanctuary 40th Annual Harvest Fair:  This year’s Harvest Fair will be held on October 4th and 5th right on the grounds of the Norman Bird Sanctuary.  There will be a variety of activities and entertainment such as the Mabel Express Barrel Train, Monkey Bridge, mud pit and midway, pony rides, music, crafters from around New England and plenty of food.  There will also be a variety of competitions to see who has the best single fruit and vegetable, most unusual vegetable, jack-o-lantern, best fresh flower arrangement and more.

International Oktoberfest: This year’s Oktoberfest will take place on October 11th and 12th down at the Newport Yachting Center. It’s known as the waterfronts “official sendoff to summer” and includes the sights, sounds and tastes of Bavaria.  A variety of seasonal beers and German cuisine will be available along with music all day long.  There will be three Biergartens this year and plenty of space to enjoy a nice beer… or six

Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival: The seafood festival will be held October 18th and 19th.  This festival honors the “harvest of the sea” and includes a variety of delicious seafood options from many of Newport’s great restaurants.  Seafood such as clam chowder, stuffies, lobster dinners, oysters and more can be enjoyed on the waterfront and will be accompanied by live music both days from 11am until 5pm.

Third Annual Newport Food Truck Festival: From 11am to 4pm on Saturday, October 25th, more than 20 of New England’s best food trucks will be serving up great eats at the Newport Yachting Center.  There will be live music and drinks to accompany the wide array of choices from BBQ to seafood to ice cream sandwiches.

The Museum of Newport Irish History

September 19th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

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In June of 2011, The Museum of Newport Irish History Interpretive Center opened to the public.  Located in the best known Irish-American neighborhood in Newport, this museum teaches visitors about the Irish immigration to Newport County from the 1600′s to the present.  It showcases the many contributions made by Irish community members through a variety of exhibits.  The exhibits include maps, photographs, videos, and artifacts that display multiple aspects of the local Irish community.  They also have a display of Irish history and artifacts at the Fort Adams Visitors Center.  Every March, they also host a free bus tour, called “Irish Newport,” that takes visitors to various Irish related sites, including Fort Adams, the Forty Steps and the Barney Street Cemetery.

The Museum was founded by Vincent J. Arnold, whose passion for Irish History inspired the creation of this Museum as well as the Michael F. Crowley Lecture Series, which hosts five to six lectures per year on various Irish History and cultural topics.   He remained president of the Museum until his death in April, 2014.

This museum is open Thursdays through Sundays (12pm-5pm) starting in late May until late October.  It is located at 648 Lower Thames Streetimages[1]

9th Annual Newport Mansion Food and Wine Festival

September 12th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The 9th Annual Newport Mansions Food and Wine Festival will be held from September 19th to the 21st at The Elms, Rosecliff and Marble House.  A variety of events are held all weekend long, with the Grand Tastingswine-food-full-glass-logo[1] on Saturday and Sunday as the main event.

The festivities start on Friday, September 19th with Wine and Rosecliff, a night of great music, food and vintages.  Wines presented at this event are generally not found at the grand tastings.  Some wineries showcasing their wines are: Villa Maria, Nicolas Gueillatte, Chateau d’Escalan, Sequoia Grove, Larkin Wines and others.

The Grand Tastings take place on the Marble House grounds on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Guests can enjoy hundreds of wines from around the world as well as food samples from many caterers and restaurants.  A variety of celebrity chefs will be around for free demonstrations and book signings.  This year, Sara Moulton and Martha Stewart will be among the celebrity chefs sharing their skills.  There will be a silent auction for luxury goods and wines and each guest receives a souvenir glass.

Other events happening over the course of the weekend include: the Collectible Wine Dinner (Saturday, 7pm at the Elms), Newport After Dark (Saturday, 9pm, Forty One North), Winemaker brunch (Sunday, 1030am, Marble House) and a variety of wine seminars held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (Friday) and the Chinese Tea House at Marble House (Saturday and Sunday).

 

 

44th Annual Newport International Boat Show

September 5th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The 44th Annual Newport International Boat Show will take place on the Newport waterfront September 11th-14th.  This is one of the largest in-water boat shows in the country and will take up 13 acres of Newport’s waterfront.  There will be all sorts of makes and models of powerboats and sailboats from 16ft to 85ft.  When you aren’t out on the water boarding and viewing a large selection of boats, there will be a variety of marine services and products being showcased on land.  Both international and domestic dealers will be present, available to answer questions and to give loads of information.

There will be a variety of events and seminars happening throughout the weekend.  Some of the highlights are: the “At the Helm” training program, the 4th annual cruisers party, a chance to meet author, Judy Silva, and more.  Hundreds of vendors will be there showcasing their products.  Whether you’re looking to buy a boat for the first time, purchase a new boat or are just looking for a fun way to spend the afternoon, the 44th Newport International Boat Show is the perfect place to be.

Race through the Fall

August 29th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

There are a variety of races happening throughout Rhode Island this fall, which allow walkers, runners and bikers to enjoy Rhode Islands landscapes.

Women Run – The Sanity Chase: This race will be held on Sunday, September 14th at Fort Adams State Park.  This event benefits the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, Lucy’s Hearth and the Fort Adams Trust.  The day kicks off at 8:30 with a 4.4 mile road race, followed by waves of sanity chasers from 9:30 to 1:30.  These sanity chasing women will complete a 4 mile obstacle course which will include running, paddle boarding, rock climbing, hula hooping, tricycles and slides.  For more information and tickets, check out the Sanity Chase website.

Harvest Wine Run: Newport Vineyards sponsors the Harvest Wine Run when the grapes are ready for harvest.  This years wine run will be held on Saturday, September 20th at 3pm.  This event includes a trail run through the vineyard (approximately 4 miles), post race wine tasting and BBQ and live music.

4 Bridges Ride: On Sunday, September 21st, cyclists can participate in a 26 mile charity ride that takes them along the Jamestown, Newport, Mount Hope and Sakonnet Bridges.  The race is sponsored by the Rhode Island Turnpike and bridge authority to raise money for a variety of their non profit partners.  It is a unique experience for experienced bikers.

Newport Rhode Races: This race will be held on Sunday, October 12th and will include a marathon, half marathon and a 5k.  The marathon and half marathon courses will take runners on a scenic run through Middletown and Newport.  They start at Easton’s Beach and hit some beautiful areas such as the beaches, Fort Adams, Brenton Point and the Bellevue Mansions.  The 5k course will start and finish at Brenton Point and take runners along Harrison Avenue and along Ocean Drive.

Pell Bridge Run: This year’s Citizen’s Bank Pell Bridge run will be held on October 26th and is one of the most unique road race experiences in the northeast.  This 4 mile course is the one opportunity for pedestrians to cross over the Newport Pell Bridge.  It is produced by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and supports local non profit organizations.

 

The Hunter House

August 22nd, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

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.

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