And of course Marissa and I could not pass up the opportunity for some historical research on the way, in Newport, Rhode Island, to be exact. I know little about the Gilded Age, turn-of-the-century East Coast. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t so far off from the nineteenth-century England I love.
We’ve talked about the way the aristocracy left London in the summer for their country houses, which were often far more magnificent than their London residences. The same might be said for Newport, where the summer “cottages” are multi-room mansions with manicured grounds.
Take the one above, for example. This is The Elms, patterned after a French chateau outside Paris. This picture looks at the rear of the place, facing the grounds. And down the lawn is a delightful folly that could well have graced one of the designs of the famous landscape artist Capability Brown in England. Don’t Marissa and I just look as if we belonged here?
Farther down the island is The Breakers, a 70-room mansion overlooking the ocean. This view from the veranda tells you how it got its name.
And I have never seen such tall wrought-iron gates even in England.
Ornate does not begin to describe the rooms. Anything that can be made of marble is, as is anything that can be gilded (including the marble!). Marissa was rather fond of a fireplace that was mottled in red and gray, looking a bit like flames. She thought that was much better than the columns on the stairs at another house, which she said looked like someone had eaten a buffalo mozzarella pizza and then thrown up.
A few things I noted that surprised me:
- The servants’ stairs, though narrow, were also made of marble, with fine wood banisters and wrought-iron paneling.
- They actually did appreciate the view, as evinced by the many windows and verandas overlooking the sea as well as this charming lawn chair with the porthole windows on either side.
- They made use of earlier fine materials. I saw a fireplace that had been taken from an 18th century French chateau and cushions on which Marie Antoinette had once sat.
It was fun trying to imagine ourselves here, among the emerald lawns, the tall frescoed ceilings, the marble stairs ascending to private bedrooms papered in silk. We decided we liked this particular house, which was built on a much more modest scale, until we realized it was the children’s playhouse!
Look for more on our travels next week, and don’t forget to comment on any post through July 12 to be entered in a drawing for an Irresistible Earl prize packet. Happy Independence Day!