Monday, March 18, 2019

A Visit to Newport, Rhode Island Day one The Elms

I spent a few days visiting Newport, Rhode Island.   Touring the mansions on Bellevue Avenue has been on my bucket list for sometimes.   Friends of mine are living in Newport until June so this was the opportune time to visit.  I booked a flight on Southwest - and off I went.   The weather was fine for three of the four days.  It rained a bit on Friday but did not damper my holiday.

Only three of the mansions - the Elms, The Breakers and Marble House are open at this time of year.  More of the houses will open next month as more tourists return to Newport.

These mansions were summer cottages for the very wealthy who spent six weeks every summer in Newport before returning to their mansions in New York City, Long Island, Chicago or Philadelphia.  Winters were spent in warmer climes.

On Thursday, my friend picked me up at the airport in Providence and we drove to Newport.  First stop was Elms, once the home of the Berwind family.  I also tried to talk my way into Rough Point (one the name of William and Nancy Leeds and later Doris Duke) as the gate was open.  (the house opens next month). as well as seeing the exterior of Belcourt, the home of Alva and Oliver Belmont.  We spent some time at one of Newport's beaches and the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Center, where a Snowy Owl (from Quebec) is the star attraction.  In the next few weeks, the owl will fly back to Canada.

Taking photos is encouraged at the Newport Mansions -- but no flash.

As this is the off-season, few tourists in Newport.  No crowds, but also the fountains at these homes remain covered - and gardens won't be planted for a few more weeks.

Elizabeth Drexel Lehr.  She was a 31 year-old widow when she married Harry Lehr.  As she prepared for her wedding night, she received a message from her new husband: ""I married you because the only person on earth I love is my mother. I want above everything else to keep her in comfort. Your father's fortune will enable me to do so. But there is a limit to sacrifice. I cannot condemn myself to the misery of playing the role of adoring lover for the rest of my life."   After his death, she learned he was gay.  They remained married for 28 years.  Her third husband was Lord Decies, an Irish peer.  This portrait is  by Giovanni Boldini.

Elizabeth Drexel Berwind.

Can you spot the mistake?

Gertrude Berwind (1881)  married Baron Ruprecht Ludwig Boecklin von Boeckslau (1875-1955).  She was the niece of Edward Berwind, owner of the Elms.  The marriage ended in divorce.  The couple had one son, Ruprecht (1803-1978)

Yes, a summer cottage

Rough Point 

The gate was open so I tried to talk my way past the guard, telling him that I wrote an article on Nancy Leeds and all I wanted is to take a good photo of Rough Point, which was originally owned by Frederick Vanderbilt, who sold it to William and Nancy Leeds.  It was last owned by Doris Duke.  I was not successful in getting passed the guard, but the next gate had a good view with a long lens.

Belcourt  is now under renovation and restoration.

Belcourt was once the home of Oliver Perry Hazard Belmont who married Alva Vanderbilt after her divorce from William Kissam Vanderbilt.  Belmont was not fond of the nouveau rich who built their homes facing the water so to show his disdain, he made sure the entrance to Belcourt did not face Bellvue Avenue.  He died in 1908.  Alva remained in the home until 1933, when the house passed to her brother-in-law, August Belmont.  The house passed through several owners and into disrepair.  It is now owned by  Carolyn Rafaelian, who is spending millions to renovate the mansion.

Miramar.  This home on Bellevue Avenue was meant to be the summer home of Philadelphia millionaire George Widener.  He and his son Harry died in the sinking of the Titanic.  The house is now owned by retired Goldman Sachs executive David Ford.  The house is not open to the public.

Snowy owl at Sachuest Point

Sachuset Point

My first Snowy Owl.  So adorable.