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Florida Guide > Travelling

The mansions of Newport RI Pt 2

Following The Servants Life Tour and our stroll around the grounds of The Elms, we returned to the grand entrance of the house and presented our tickets to tour the mansion. The tour took the form of an audio guide which meant we could spend as little or as long as we wished in each part of the house, each section of the audio guide had additional information should we wish to explore further.
The Elms which has been designated a national historic landmark was built in 1901 and was a copy of a French Chateau, it was commissioned by Edward Berwind who had made his fortune in coal.

On entering the house you immediately ascend a stairway into the grand hallway to begin your tour of the ground floor where The Conservatory, The Ballroom, and the Dining Room are all displayed in their former glory. The Conservatory was one of my favour rooms, you could just imagine taking afternoon tea there or lovers having secret trysts among the potted palms. . . . . . . . . . I have a vivid imagination! On the first floor you can view selected family and guest bedrooms as well as the private sitting room.

The house was amazing and the audio guide gave us masses of information as we learned about the house from the view of the family. The lady of the house had to observe certain etiquette when giving dinner parties all balls. The ' 400' were the cream of Newport society and were approved by Mrs Astor who was considered to be the matriarch of Newport' s elite, her home The Beeches is a museum and was, at the time of our visit, undergoing renovation.

The Elms belonged to the Berwind family and after Mr Berwind' s wife died his sister, Julia, became Lady of the house and ran it in the same manner as the Gilded Age until her death in 1962, she would never make a telephone call would always send a note with a member of her staff instead. Fascinating!
After viewing the house with its huge rooms, opulent furnishings and valuable artefacts and gaining such a wonderful insight into how the other half lived, we went to the carriage house for lunch. The carriage house was where the stables would also have been and rooms above the carriage house and stables would have been home to the grooms, coach drivers and gardeners. When the Berwind family entered the age of the motor car, the carriage house and stables became a large garage and the story goes that in order to keep his job the head coachman learned to drive. He was however, not very good at reversing so in order to accommodate this problem a large turntable was built in the garage, how true this is I couldn' t say, surely there were other places he had to reverse!

Lunch at the carriage house was included in the price of our tickets, nothing special just a sandwich or salad with crisps a drink and a cookie more than enough to keep is going.

When we left The Elms we decided to head for The Breakers, home of the Vanderbilt family and built by Cornelius Vanderbilt who had made his fortune in shipping and railroads.

Our stroll to The Breakers took us further down Bellevue Avenue, this road was very important during the summer season as anyone who was anyone would take a carriage ride along Bellevue Avenue in the afternoon and the ladies would dress especially for the event.
The Breakers itself is very opulent others have used the words ostentatious and vulgar but we both preferred it to The Ems, I think that possibly says something about us!

Once again it was a self-guided audio tour crammed full of information about the lifestyle of the families who summered there and the staff who ran the place. There were a number of secret passages which allowed the staff to service the bedrooms without being seen by guests or the family. The staff were in fact the only people who went everywhere in the house as the family never went into any areas designated for the staff.

After viewing the house we took a stroll in the garden which has vast lawns sweeping down to the cliff edge, but again, apart from the lawns and the trees there was not much made of the grounds

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Page added on: 10 January 2015
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