Newport, Rhode Island – Mansions, Cliff Walk & Ivy Lodge

I love visiting new places, and was so excited when my Mom and I finally met up in Newport, RI for a couple of days recently.  It was a much anticipated trip as we had to cancel the same trip at the last minute 2 years ago.  Unfortunately this year Newport was experiencing the same unusually hot weather like the rest of the east coast, so it wasn’t the cool escape I was hoping it would be.  The whole “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” was certainly true!  But the mansions, the object of our travels, certainly didn’t disappoint!  We joined the Preservation Society so we saw all 9 mansions they own, which made for a very busy 2 1/2 days!  I recommend Newport for a great weekend getaway – even though they won’t let you take pictures inside the mansions.

Here’s my summary of the mansions:

First up was The Elms.  The behind the scenes and rooftop tour was well worth it to learn more about what life was like working at one of these “magic” mansions.  43 staff kept the house running like clockwork, without the guests being aware of most of them.  Despite the name the most common tree was one of many varieties of beech.  The mansions properties are all mini arboretums with their many varieties of exotic trees.

Next is Marble House.  It cost $11 million to build in 1892!  True to the Gilded Age, it’s covered inside in gold-leaf and was to be the biggest and the best mansion in Newport.  It was a top secret project  until a reporter managed to gain entrance to the construction site through a worker and photographed it.  Sadly it was only used for a couple of summers before Alva Vanderbilt divorced her husband and then used the house for storage and laundry for the next several decades.  She used her new husbands summer “cottage” down the street to entertain.  Alva was a leader in lobbying for women’s right to vote.  I thought it was interesting that the Gilded Age was brought to a close in part by the start of the income tax and the inheritance tax.  No longer did these families have more money than they could spend.

Rosecliff was not as flashy as the previous two mansions but beautiful all the same.  It’s been in several movies and hosts events, so it’s one of the few mansions with air conditioning.  (Take note, if Newport is unseasonably hot, so are the mansions!) Back in the day these houses were only open for 8-12 weeks in the summer and typically the ocean breezes kept everyone cool.  The busy social schedule in the summer was an important time to see and be seen, and doesn’t sound like the relaxing beach vacation that we’d imagine so much money would bring.

I thought the entrance to Rosecliff was so pretty.  Most of the homes had beautiful ironwork.

The most famous of them all, the 138,000 square foot Breakers.  Another Vanderbilt property built in 1895 in only 2 years.  All I can say is that it is stunning.  Particularly the dinning room.  I don’t know how anyone ate in there, I think you could stare at the walls and ceiling for years and not see everything.

The back of The Breakers.

The gorgeous mosaic work on the porch ceilings.

The very understated, in comparison, Chepstow.  This is a museum house with many articles and paintingd from the families heritage that includes many founding fathers, including one of my favorites John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg who has his statue in the Capitol.  The hydrangeas around the long driveway at this house were gorgeous!

Chateau-sur-Mer is another of the older mansions built in the mid 1800s.  It was another fascinating house, much more beautiful on the inside than the outside, with an interesting family history.  The son of the man who built the house was a governor and US Senator.

Kingscote was full of character on the inside and outside.  Built in 1841 it’s seen several renovations.  Tiffany windows, a cork ceiling and some amazing furniture are a few of the highlights of this house that’s considered a masterpiece of American architecture.

The Isaac Bell House is a renovation in progress, but this house is still quite interesting even though empty.  It has some amazing woodwork, a colorful history, and illustrates Newport’s contribution to the evolution to American architecture.

And finally the Hunter House from 1748.  This is a colonial house, which is a completely different era, but the collection of furniture housed there is incredibly valuable and interesting.  Newport has a whole colonial side that could be covered on another trip – including the oldest lending library whose architecture influenced George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The perfect way to enjoy an evening, a sunset sail! (not quite enough wind, however)

The cliff walk at noon.

The cliff walk at sunset.

A couple of homes near the end of the cliff walk.

Sunset over the sea.

A foggy, humid morning on the cliff walk.

We walked several sections of the cliff walk, but not the whole thing, so I have a good reason to go back – when it’s cooler!

The stunning foyer of the Ivy Lodge B&B, located on a quiet street in the middle of the mansions.  I recommend the Trunk Room, cute and cozy!  The breakfast was really yummy too!

The Ivy Lodge.

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