Florida Guide > Travelling
The mansions of Newport RI Pt 1
We had visited Newport Rhode Island several years ago but only for the day and on this occasion were disappointed that we could take the mansion tour as due to its popularity it was fully booked and we resolved to visit again sometime in the future and experience these wonderful buildings. On that occasion we strolled along the cliff walk and viewed the houses from the rear this only strengthened our resolve to come back in the future.
When the opportunity arose to return to Newport and this time to spend a little longer we made sure that we would be able to visit the mansions by booking well in advance of our visit. The Preservation Society of Newport County offers great variety of single tickets and ticket combinations which can easily be purchased online, We chose a combination ticket which included admission to The Elms, The Breakers and The Marble House, in addition it also included the servants life tour and a light lunch. The only portion of the tour which needed to be prearranged was the servants life tour, the houses could be visited at your leisure and we had a voucher for each house.
We we started our first day of Mansion tours with the Servants Life Tour at The Elms where our scheduled tour was 10. 30. After breakfast at our accommodation we set off to find The Elms. The Bellevue Avenue area of Newport is awash with beautiful mansions, or summer cottages as they were known during the Gilded Age the late 1800s until about 1930, when wealthy New Yorkers would leave their homes for the Newport summer season. About 10 of these properties are owned by the Newport Preservation Society, whilst the remainder are privately owned and used as private residences or museums open to the public. It is possible to do a self guided walking tour of all the properties and there are boards at intervals giving information about each home. On the way to The Elms we stopped off to read information about the mansions we passed on the way.
We arrived in good time for our tour which began promptly out tour guide was only young but very knowledgeable and extremely passionate about his subject. We were taken in by the servants entrance and climbed 86 stairs to the servants quarters on the third floor. This was the home for the 42 servants who worked at The Elms for three months of the year, only the butler and the housekeeper returned to New York at the end of the season, the remainder of the servants, mainly immigrants had to find other jobs or were given their fare home, although the family were likely to re-employ them again the following year.
Downstairs in the kitchen we saw the hot and cold rooms, the miniature railroad that brought in the coal, the butlers pantry and the laundry. There were five laundresses to do all the laundry for the house and the two additional guesthouses. The sheets were changed twice a day and all this without automatic washing machine! The ladies of the house changed their clothes up to six or seven times a day, an outfit for breakfast, an outfit for tennis, croquet or the beach, an outfit for lunch, an outfit for the afternoon carriage drive along Bellevue avenue, an afternoon tea dress and a gown for dinner! When the ladies dresses were pressed all the buttons had to be removed and replaced!
The luggage room housed trunks which contained drawers and hanging cupboards . . . . . . . . trying keeping one of those and 23 kg!
It was a fabulous tour bring in Downton and Upstairs Downstairs to life and would recommend it to anyone!
When we had finished the tour we took a stroll in the grounds which were slightly disappointing, although the gardens are vast, today they are not much more than trees and lawns, not much in the way flowerbeds or any sort of colour, although the view of the coastline from the gardens is magnificent. In the Gilded Age there would be five gardeners looking after the place under the care of the superintendent who stayed on to look after the gardens after the house was closed at the end of the summer season.
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Page added on: 10 January 2015
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The following photos have been submitted by our villa owners for this article.