Nestled at the southern end of the Aquidneck Island, Newport Rhode Island is the harbor town that is a heaven for artists, historian, and nature’s fans. With miles of shoreline, quaint shops, and fabulous mansions belonging to the Gilded Age of the 19th century, ‘The City by the Sea’ even today gives the testimony of how super rich people had made the town as the first playgrounds for merriment. Although the town is famous for its tennis and yachting contests, it is more admired for its royal mansions that were once the summer homes of the early industrial tycoons of America, such as the Astors and Vanderbilt.
The collection of mansions is the #1 reason for the tourists to come here. These palatial homes are well preserved by the Preservation Society of Newport County, which have now become the historical heritage of the town. Moreover, it is easy to move from one mansion to another alongside the Bellevue Avenue, and several such mansions up to the famous Cliff Walk. Here are the top mansions to explore, while exploring Newport for the first time.
With 300,000 visitors each year, the Breakers is the most famous attraction on the Rhode Island. Designed and built by Richard Morris Hunt in just two years (1893-1895) with more than 7 million dollars, the mansion was the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the Central Railroad of New York. It is nestled on Ochre Point Avenue, which is near to most other mansions on Bellevue Avenue.
The mansion was named so for its waves that crash incessantly into the below cliffs. It is visible from the Cliff Walk, a scenic trail of 3.5 miles. The main features are French and Italian style architecture, the Gold Room, 70 rooms, Great Hall with high ceilings, and sightings of grandchildren on the third floor during summer.
Closed On: Thanksgiving and Christmas
This was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Berwind, a coal magnate of Philadelphia and New York. Built in 1901 for almost $1.4 million, the edifice reflects the style of the French chateau d’Asnieres near Paris. For the best experience, it is best to spend 2 hours for the self-guided audio tour to explore the sunken gardens, ornate furnishings in the interior, picture-perfect lawns, charming terraces, and Venetian paintings.
Do also reserve in advance for the Rooftop Tour to explore interesting areas such as rooftop view of the harbor, servant quarters and kitchens, and underground tunnel system used for sending coal to the basement at some more pennies. It is also enjoyable to walk down the lawn for lunch at the Carriage House Café, where during the season, delicious meals are served from 10 am to 4 pm. From this mansion, do go three blocks south to explore the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Designed by William Morris Hunt, this striking edifice made from 500,000 cubic feet of marble cost around $11 million, of which the marble along is of $7 million. Completed in 1892, the mansion was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt (older brother of Cornelius II who stayed at the Breakers), who presented the palace to his wife on her 39th birthday.
Take up a self-guided audio tour to explore the mansion at your own pace and learn maximum about it. You will surely love the architecture, painted ceilings, and marble sculptures. It is better to give two hours for getting the most out of your money.
Of all, the main and bizarre attraction here is the Chinese Tea House that was quite closer to the Atlantic cliffs but was later shifted to the current safer spot in the late 20th century and visible from the Cliff Walk. The house is famous as a party avenue as well as eatery. You can even dine inside the royal home.
With an investment of 2.5 million dollars, this mansion was completed in 1902 by Stanford White for Theresa Fair Oelrichs who was Nevada silver heiress. You might have even seen the mansion in movies such as The Great Gatsby, True Lies, and Amistad. Inspired by the French Grand Trianon at Versailles, the mansion continues to be a venue available on rent for a party, wedding, or a corporate event.
A few notable features are the limestone staircase, a big ballroom where Arnold Schwarzenegger inTrueLies tangoed with Tia Carrere, and the lawn overlooking the famous Cliff Walk and the Atlantic.
This was the summer home of Caroline Astor who was mother of John Astor IV who lost his life when Titanic sunk. You will be taken back in 1891 to know how the members of Astor’s social circle were treated here. Check out the several tours on offer here: Living History, Murder Mystery, Christmas, New Year’s, and Evening with the Astors. After the tour, you can even head out for the Cliff Walk; it is that near!