They were built overlooking the ocean by the tycoons of the gilded age. Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Astor spent summers here at their magnificent estates that were called cottages. Now you can visit them and marvel at their extravagance and opulence.
The Newport Mansions are the number one tourist attraction in Newport, Rhode Island. In 2019 The Preservation Society of Newport County delivered its forty-millionth tour of the Newport Mansions since its founding in 1945. The Newport Mansions are one of the most visited tourist destinations in New England, delivering more than one million tours annually, which place them in the top four most-visited museums in New England.
That the mansions survive today at all is something of a miracle. Their survival is due to the dedication of the concerned citizens who helped to save them. Since the 1930s a number of Newport’s historic estates have been demolished for residential and commercial subdivision and the remainder of the Newport estates faced an uncertain future. In 1945, in an effort to save the remaining estates, a group of civic activists and summer colonists established The Preservation Society of Newport County.
With the construction, in 1962, of two new shopping centers on lower Bellevue Avenue, the future of the cottage district was imperiled. Villa Rosa, then derelict at the corner of Bellevue and Narragansett Avenues, was about to be demolished and next door, a syndicate made plans to subdivide The Elms. The Elms would have been razed and the future of other key Bellevue Avenue cottages would have been bleak. At this crucial stage in the battle, Mrs. Katherine Warren and the Preservation Society she had founded made a cash offer and purchased The Elms.
The Newport Mansions currently consist of nine houses. The Breakers was the first property to open for tours in 1948 with the purpose of raising money to save Hunter House. Not long afterward Hunter House opened for tours along with The Breakers Stables. In 1962 The Elms joined the lineup. In rapid succession Marble House, Chateau-sur-Mer, Kingscote, and Rosecliff opened for tours. Green Animals Topiary Garden followed suit, followed by Chepstow and the Isaac Bell House in 1996.
With these acquisitions, Newport became the only place in America where the public can experience a continuous and comprehensive historical survey of American domestic architecture from Colonial times to the 20th-century.
Evan Smith, President & CEO of Discover Newport spoke about the importance of the Newport Mansions: “Perhaps no other stakeholder in our destination has done more to attract visitors from around the globe to our destination than the Newport Mansions. I don’t think there is any other place in the world that better showcases the confluence of America’s illustrious Gilded Age history with European-inspired architecture and on such a grand scale. As Rhode Island’s largest cultural organization, The Preservation Society of Newport County’s efforts to protect, preserve and most of all, share these properties with visitors is a treasure beyond compare and we send our sincere congratulations on your 40-millionth tour.”
To learn more, visit Newport Mansions website here.
The Newport Mansions are also available to make any kind of special event a memorable one. They offer a variety of venues, and can also help you with recommendations for catering, photography, music and more. Browse their events site to find ideas and get the basic information you need about renting the Newport Mansions for your event.