Mansion Crawl

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 “The Elms”

Summer residence of Mr. & Mrs. Julius Berwind of New York & Philadelphia.

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After leaving Boston, our east coast road trip progressed on to Newport, Rhode Island where we happily remained in tourist mode by going on a good old-fashioned Mansion Crawl.

What better place, after all, than Newport-the original seat of the American Robber Barons, and home to some of the grandest and most outrageously opulent mansions in the country?

Thanks to The Preservation Society of Newport County, several of these gilded relics stand as stately as when they were first conceived, around the turn of the century, though leading a much different existence today.

First stop on our crawl was “The Elms”,  built in 1901 by coal magnate Julius Berwind and his wife Sarah.

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Sadly, no photos allowed inside, but this gives you some sense of the scale of “The Elms”…

and my hat is really big.

The estate, modeled after an 18th century French chateau, was a mere 3 weeks away from being demolished when it was saved by the  Preservation Society.   The recorded tour guide suggests a shopping complex was intended to take The Elm’s place.

Seriously.

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Though huge, there are only 7 bedrooms (the Berwinds had no children)

“The Elms” required a staff of 43 to run the estate in the manner to which the  Titans of The Gilded Age  aspired during Newport’s high season.

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We now take leave of  “The Elms”

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and make our way over to the entrance of “The Breakers”

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Slim Paley photo

Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s  65,000 sq.ft. Summer Cottage in Newport.

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Constructed between 1893-1895 the property cost over $12 million -

Thats $335 million adjusted to today’s inflated dollar, according to Wikipedia.

$335 million dollars

Let’s all just say the words “Summer cottage” one more time.

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Fully kitted out with the all the mod. cons. of the day, including dual gas/electric chandeliers, and both fresh & salt water faucets in the bathtubs, no  attention to detail or expense was spared at “The Breakers”.

Even the dimensions of the steps on the grand staircase were slightly shortened to accomodate the heels and accentuate the graceful sweep of a lady’s gown.

Those Vanderbilt chics apparently knew how to make an entrance.

The house, completed in 1895 (incidently the same year my home was built ) was considerably larger than “The Elms”,  boasting 14 bedrooms athough the staff numbered only 40 here.

Either The Breakers staff were much more efficient, or the Vanderbilts simply ran a tighter ship than the Berwinds over at The Elms.

Though the style of the architecture and furnishings in the ‘house’ (it’s almost ludicrous to call it a ‘home’) would appeal to very few in present day, it’s fascinating to imagine what summering at The Breakers must have been like in the Gilded Age (coined by who else? Mark Twain).

Wouldn’t you love to really know what went on behind the velvet curtains and pantry doors?!

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Once again, no photos were permitted inside, which is rather a silly, antiquated rule now that we have phones able to take photos with no flash. Still, I managed to behave myself, save this one time my finger slipped…

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The true beauty is to be found in the gardens, the stunning trees, and the deep lawns rolling to the sea…

This photo was taken from the 2nd floor loggia, one of the very best spots in the entire house.

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In an “Over the lawn to Gatsby’s place” moment, I was covetous of the little “cottage” perched closer to the water’s edge, just to the right of The Breaker’s property.

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.and while we’re busy coveting…

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Paging “Downton Abbey” fans-

oh, woops, I guess my camera finger slipped a couple of more times…too much sunscreen.

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“No Edith, I said the blancmange is in oven #11 !”

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I wonder how the lady guests dealt with ‘hat hair’ during their 5- 7 wardrobe changes A DAY summering at The Breakers?!

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FYI-That guy in the orange t-shirt is not with me.

He’s like fricking Waldo…he kept showing up in my shots.

Blast my lack of photo-shop skills.

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A few books for us Downton Abbey-ites in The Breaker’s bookshop

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There are numerous stately homes and mansions to see throughout Newport but unfortunately, our time was short, and there was, of course, one more stop to be made.

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What’s a trip to the Eastern Seaboard without some fish & chips

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and a lobster roll??

Do NOT miss Flo’s if you’re out that way.

Make your way upstairs to avoid the crowds and line-up below.

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Cocktails will be served on the loggia at 7:00pm.

Do dress accordingly and don’t forget your gloves and fan.

xoxo

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