The Breakers: A Vanderbilt Mansion

March 14th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Breakers is by far the most famous mansion in Newport.  If you only see one mansion while visiting, most will choose the Breakers.  Today, this giant “palace” measures 250 feet by 150 feet and contains 70 rooms, over four floors. Millions of visitors have visited the Breakers since it became open to the public in the 1970′s.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II bought the property and original Breakers in 1885 from Pierre Lorillard to be used as a summer home for his family.  The original building burned down in 1892, which resulted in a mRichard_Morris_Huntuch larger version being built, modeled after the Renaissance palaces in Genoa and Turin.  Work began in 1893 and took just over two years to complete.  Hundreds of workers helped lay the stones and whole rooms were built in Europe and then shipped to Newport.

Richard Morris Hunt was the architect for the Breakers, who worked on many other Newport mansions, including Ochre Point and Marble House.  Hunt died before the Breakers was complete, but wished to be remembered for the stick-style cottages he built early in his career.  However his fame rests with the Breakers and other stone palaces.

This was Vanderbilt’s second home and as it was being built, the anticipation grew.  There were many rumors surrounding The Breakersthe art and amenities of the mansion, and on August 14th, 1895, those rumors were put to rest at the combined house-warming/coming-out party of Gertrude Vanderbilt.  Over 300 guests were in attendance and were greeted by the great hall, which rises nearly 50 feet and is lined with Caen stone.  The East wall, made almost entirely of glass allows for a view to the lawn, ocean and the reef that gave the Breakers its name.  Guests marveled at the two story dining room and “grotto-like” billiards room. The two-level kitchen, the size of a normal size house had sealed doors that no odors could escape from.

Cornelius VanderCornelius_Vanderbilt_II_by_John_Singer_Sargent_(1856-1925)bilt II was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who started the family fortune.  He was worth more than $70 million, but worked as a bank clerk, making $50 a month and lived on that salary.  He worked long hours and became the chairman of the family’s railroad empire.   He married Alice Claypoole Gwynne and was a devoted husband.  The Vanderbilts were not known for their entertaining because of the amount of time that Vanderbilt dedicated to his family business and philanthropy.  He donated his time and more than a million dollars a year to various charities and much of it was anonymous.  Unfortunately, a year after the Breakers opened, Vanderbilt suffered a stroke.  He died three years later at the age of 56.

Countess Laszlo Szechenyi (Gladys Vanderbilt) leased the Breakers to the Preservation Society of Newport County for $1.00 a year in order to raise funds for the restoration of the Hunter House.  It was finally acquired in 1972, and millions have been visiting ever since.

 

Newport Folk Festival: Festival of the Year

March 7th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Newport Folk Festival recently won the 25th Annual Pollstar award for Music Festival of the Year.  Pollstar is the only trade publication that covers the concert industry worldwide.  For 30 years, they have been a fountain of information for concert promoters, booking agents, managers, facility execs and other live entertainments executives.  Each year, Pollstar invites a group of international music professionals to come up with nominations for the Pollstar Concert Industry Awards.  These awards honor artists, managers, buyers, venues and support services.  Winners are determined by votes from the readership of Pollstar.  This year’s awards were held on February 21st, 2014 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

newport folk fest logo

The Newport Folk Festival won Music Festival of the Year, beating out the Boston Calling Music Festival, Electric Forest Festival, Hardly Stictly Bluegrass, and the Treasure Island Music Festival.  This is the second year in a row that The Newport Folk Festival has won this award.

The Newport Folk Festival has been around since 1959, when it was founded by George Wein.  The festival became known for introducing some major stars in the Folk world, such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.  This festival stretches the boundaries of folk music, incorporating blues, raggae, rock and indie artists to its lineup.  Some of the most notable performances of the festival throughout the years have been Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Pixies, Pete Seeger, and The Avett Brothers.  Thanks to the work of George Wein and the Newport Festivals Foundation, the Newport Folk Festival will continue for years to come.

This year’s festival will be held July 25th through the 27th at Fort Adams.  Tickets generally sell out early.  The lineup for this year is still in the works, however some performers have already been announced.  So far – Band of Horses, Jenny Lewis, The Devil Makes Three, Death Vessel, Nickle Creek, Shovels & Rope, Houndmouth, The Oh Hellos, Benjamin Booker, Mavis Staples and Hurray for the Riff Raff – have been added to this years lineup.  Check out www.newportfolk.org for more information about the festival and additions to the lineup.

2014 Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade

February 28th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

To some, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the best days of the year in Newport.  This IMG_0781year, the 58th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Saturday, March 15th.  The Parade starts at 11am and will last about 2 hours.  Participants line up by City Hall, where the parade begins and travel down Broadway, through Washington Square to America’s Cup Avenue, and  down Lower Thames Street until it ends on Carroll Avenue at St. Augustin’s Church.

Participants this year will include: Pipe Bands, Marching Bands,  Fife & Drum Corps, clowns, local, state and regional organizations such as police and fire units, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, non-profits, schools and social organizations.

Every year a Grand Marshal is selected and the yearly button is a reflection of the interests or vocation of tSt. patrick's dayhat years Grand Marshal.  This year, Robert “Bobby” O’Neill takes that title.  He has been a member of the Newport St. Patrick’s Day committee for 15 years and has been involved with various local organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the Newport County Mental Health Outreach program.  He also spent many years working for the US Postal Service.  This year the button includes the Rhode Island Red, the Postal Service logo and Newport’s apostrophized zip code.

Many events are held throughout the year to raise money for the parade and many Newport Restaurants have brunches and specials going on before and after the parade.  There are various places to enjoy a great brunch as well as your favorite Irish beers.  The Irish spirit will be alive all day long, guaranteeing that it will be a great day for all.

 

The Brick Alley Pub: A Newport Favorite

February 21st, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

One of the most popular restaurants in Newport is the Brick Alley Pub, which serves a variety of dishes from “pub style” comfort foods to multicultural cuisine.  From flavorful steaks, to fresh local seafood, to seasonal specials, the Brick Alley menu offers great food in a fun, upbeat atmosphere.  They have been featured in local and national publications such as: The Providence Journal, Ford Times, Travel Holiday and Newport Life Magazine. They have also been featured on the Food Network.  The Brick Alley Pub also has a private dining room for hosting events such as wedding rehearsals, birthday parties or any special event.brick-alley-pub-1

The Brick Alley Pub hosts a variety of special dinners and events throughout the year, supporting local businesses and bringing together community members and visitors alike.

Not only does the Brick Alley Pub serve up great food, they also are big supporters of the local community. Since their opening in 1980, they have supported their neighbors by hosting blood drives, supporting little league teams and their support has grown throughout the years.  In the 1980′s, Ralph Plumb Jr. created a “Keep Newport Clean” initiative and had Brick Alley Pub employees walk up and down Thames Street, sweeping and cleaning the sidewalks.  That initiative has grown and the BAP team helps wherever they can throughout Newport. Since the early 1990′s, the Brick Alley Pub has run The Mary Gomes Memorial Foundation, to help raise money for one of their employees who suffered from Chromes Disease.  This foundation, run by volunteers hosts a golf tournament and raises money to help those who need it.

 

 

Newport’s Tennis Hall of Fame Set for Upgrades

February 14th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution, establish in 1954, that works to preserve the history of tennis while inspiring tennis development and honoring those who have earned a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Located on six acres here in Newport, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum was officially recognized by the International Tennis Federation as tennis’s official Hall of Fame.  The museum displays the history of the sport and honors 235 athletes.  There are 13 grass courts and an indoor facility, which are open to the public and club members.  Every July, the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Can Alen Cup are held here.THOF300x225[1]

The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s programs grow every year.  They are open 363 days of the year, and offer educational and entertaining programs for both children and adults.  The museum also has a research library dedicated to tennis that offers over 350,000 books, images and audio visuals.  Both beginners and national champions are invited to play on the indoor or outdoor courts.  The Hall of Fame also offers cultural entertainment such as theatrical productions, movie screenings and musical performances.

In August, 2013, the Tennis Hall of Fame set out on a campaign to enhance the visitor experience as well as the local community.  There are four main focus areas to the campaign; to upgrade the museum with new technology; to add additional facilities and tennis courts; improve amenities, including upgrades to the stadium; and to renew the look of the street on Memorial Boulevard so it complements the historic building where the Hall of Fame is located.

This organization hasn’t led a major capital campaign in 12 years.  Fundraising for this campaign has been going on for about a year and a large portion of their $15.7 million dollar goals has been secured.  Once the rest of the funds are secured, they will begin upgrading to make the Tennis Hall of Fame experience even better.

 

60th Annual Newport Jazz Festival Lineup

February 7th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Tickets for the 60th Annual Newport Jazz Festival, one of Newport’s biggest music festivals, are already on sale and the lineup is here.  Fort Adams will be bringing amazing jazz performances to Newport once again from August 1st to the 3rd.  The music starts at 11:30am on Friday, August 1st and ends at 7:00pm on Sunday, August 3rd.

njf-big[1]George Wein produced the first Jazz Festival in 1954 in order to celebrate jazz music and to make a case for its relevance.  From then on, this festival has continued to showcase jazz icons and bring attention to up and coming performers.  The Newport Jazz Festival has provided many memorable moment for jazz history, such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1956 and the introduction of Esperanza Spalding.  Performers at this festival both respect the tradition of jazz and reflect the changes in the current musical trends.

Here’s a list of the artists who will be bringing their talents to the Fort Adams stages.

Firday, August 1st – Jon Batiste & Stay Human, John Zorn’s Madasa Marathon, Miguel Zenon Big Band, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Snarky Puppy, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Rudresh Mahanthappa – A Charlie Parker Project, Amir ElSaffar Quintet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors, URI Jazz Festival Big Band

Saturday, August 2nd – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Dave Holland Prism, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper Experiment, SFJAZZ Collective, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, Pedrito Martinez Group, Dick Hyman, Howard Alden & Jay Leonhart, Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet, Newport Now 60 Band, Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda

Sunday, August 3rd – Bobby McFerrin spirityouall, David Sanborn & Joey DeFrancesco, Dr. John & The Nite Trippers, Gary Burton New Quartet, Vijay Iyer Sextet, Danilo Perez Panama 500, Django Festival All-Stars, Ron Carter Trio, Lee Konitz Quartet, Ravi Coltrane, The Cookers, Migus Big Band, The Brubeck Brothers, George Wein & Newport All-Stars

Preservation Society of Newport– Bringing Newport History to the Public

January 30th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Some of the biggest attractions in Newport are the Newport Mansion, which wouldn’t be available to the public without the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport.  The Preservation Society was founded by a group of visionaries in 1945.  Their goal was to save Newport’s historical architecture from neglect and ruin.  It is a non-profit organization, which now has 11 properties, 7 of which are National Historic Landmarks.  They have worked to “protect, preserve and present” these houses as museums to share the history of Newport with further generations.  The Preservation Society of Newport is the largest cultural organization in Rhode Island, and is continuously working to engage the public in America’s heritage.

The Breakers

The Breakers

These historical building date back as far as the 1700’s and tell the story of America from the Colonial Era through the Gilded Age. More than 900,000 people visit these 11 properties every year, learning about what New England life was like within the last 250 years.  From the Hunter House to the Breakers, guests can explore history and see what life was like.  Both audio tours and guided tours are available.

The Preservation Society is always working to improve the historic experience and get their guests involved.  This past summer, the audio tour of the Elms was updated, which includes recent research and tells the story of the Venetian paintings in the dining room.  It also adds more information about servant life in the Gilded Age, incase you can’t experience the separate servants life tour.

In October 2013, the Preservation Society was approved by the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, to create a visitors center at the Breakers, Newport’s largest mansion.  This new center will get rid of the current ticket booth, portable restroom trailer, vending machine shed and seasonal ticket tent and create a one-story building that adopts the style of the original landscape.  It will offer visitors information about the Breakers as well as the other Preservation Society properties.  It will also offer refreshments and comfortable bathrooms.  No irreversible alteration to the landscape will happen and the historic “fabric” and “viewsheds” will be preserved.  They are just waiting on the appeal to the Newport Zoning Board.preservation-society-of-newport-county-logo

Top Ten Historical Attractions in Newport RI

January 18th, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Cliff Walk from the air

Cliff Walk from the air

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

New Year’s Day Polar Plunge

December 23rd, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like a nice dip in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean.  The annual Polar Plunge will be held on January 1st, 2014 at 12pm at Easton’s Beach.  The Newport Polar Bears welcome anyone who wants to brave the Atlantic in the winter. At this event, money is raised for A Wish Come True, a Rhode Island Charity that grants wishes to children suffering from life threatening illnesses.

A Wish Come True was started in 1982 by Rosemary Bowers, who wanted to make the lives of children suffering from severe illnesses a little brighter.  The mission of this charity is to, “grant every medically qualified child (ages 3 to 18) one memorable wish.”  In their first year, they granted 12 wishes and have increased that number to about 3 or 4 wishes per month.  A Wish Come True have completed over 1400 wishes since its start.

The Polar Plunge is a great way to kick off the New Year.  It is sure to be a great time for everyone, no matter if you brave the icy Atlantic or not.

 

 

The Holiday Season in Newport

November 15th, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The holiday season is upon us here in Newport, and there are plenty of activities going on that will put you in the holiday spirit!  The following are some great holiday happenings in Newport:

The Polar Express: Every weekend starting now until Christmas, take the spectacular journey to the North Pole with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Caroling, hot chocolate and cookies are all part of the experience.

Christmas at the Newport Mansions: From November 23rd to January 5th, three of Newport’s mansions, the Breakers, the Elms and Marble House will be decked out in holiday décor.  The houses will be filled with thousands of fresh flowers, poinsettias, evergreens and wreathes.  Each mansion will be open for tours daily.  You can also enjoy Holiday Evenings at the mansions on various dates, where you can enjoy light refreshments and music as you wander through the mansions.

Holly Days: On Saturday, December 7th, the Normal Bird Sanctuary will be hosting a holiday fair from 10am to 1pm.  Enjoy hiking, holiday crafts, games and more.

Bowne’s Wharf 43rd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting – On December 7th, head down to Bowen’s Wharf for their annual Christmas Tree Lighting.  Festivities start at 4:30 with Frosty the Snowman and Christmas Carols.  The tree lighting starts at 6:00 and Santa will be paying everyone a visit.

 

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