Jan 11th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Travel

…A One of a Kind, as Seniors Discover

Think of Newport and most people think of mansions.  Newport, RI ranks up there as among my most memorable visits of a very wealthy area in our country.  The Newport Mansions mimic the Biltmore Estates in North Carolina except that in Newport, seniors will find one mansion after the other in a row on Bellevue Avenue and each totally mind boggling. Here are the main attractions found on Bellevue Avenue and surrounding streets.

In Newport seniors can explore the late 1800s and early 1900s of American history and European-influenced architecture at one of Newport’s famed “summer cottages.”   Each mansion (there are nine generally noted) has a self-guided tour with audio, with details about the construction of the “cottage” as well as the original owners. By the turn of the 20th century, many of the nation’s wealthiest families were summering in Newport, including the Vanderbilts, Astors and Widener family who constructed the largest “cottages.”

Seniors Revisit The Gilded Age

So seniors, take the journey back in time to experience how many of America’s wealthiest families lived during the Gilded Age. Here you will find a world of exceptional elegance and inspiration in architecture, art, interior design and landscapes. Each of the mansions has a website dedicated to their preservation and rightfully so. Colonial, Victorian, the Gilded Age – Newport has it all.

Within 20 years of the end of the Civil War, the United States had emerged from economic ruin and begun its entrance onto the world stage. The 1880s and 1890s saw an explosion of industrialization, discovery, innovation and economic change. Wealth brought social change and the opportunity for the exploration of new themes in American fine and decorative arts and architecture, nowhere better expressed than in Newport, Rhode Island where money was never an object. Mansions were built to exhibit wealth.  The interiors and the furnishings are equally as impressive as the exteriors.

With so many grandiose mansions one wonders where to start with a visit.  I will start with The Breakers that is the grandest of Newport’s summer cottages and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence at turn of the century. The 70-room mansion has approximately 65,000 sq ft of living space. Nice “cottage” huh?  I will not go through a whole list of individual mansions but rather give you the list and let you pick and chose your preferred site.

My wife and I loved Marble House that was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt.  It was a summer house, or “cottage”, as Newporters called them in remembrance of the modest houses of the early 19th century. But Marble House, reportedly  cost $11 million ($260,000,000 in 2009 dollars) of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble.  It was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport’s subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. This Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the  family’s fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. His older brother was Cornelius II, who built The Breakers, discussed above.

The drive all along Bellevue Avenue will remain in memory for a long long time.  Happy touring!  jeb

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