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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Newport, Rhode Island

Continuing our tour along the coastline of Connecticut and Rhode Island, we now come to the town of Newport, located on an Island in the Rhode Island Sound.

Say "Newport" to a native Oregonian like myself and I immediately think of the Oregon coastal town, Mo's world famous clam chowder, and the obligatory stop at Mo's for any presidential candidate.

It turns out that there are other Newports. Lots of them!

And actually the most famous of them is probably Newport Rhode Island. After clearing the snow off our car in Narragansett and having a hearty breakfast at the nearby Olde Lighthouse Diner, we headed east to Newport. We first drove out to Fort Adams. Since 1954 this has been the site of the Newport Jazz Festival. Every jazz fan has a favorite song or two that was recorded there.

We drove by the Eisenhower House on Fort Adams which served as the Summer White House in 1958-60. Ike found it conveniently close to the Newport Country Club.

But the highlight of Newport is the "Millionaire's Mile" of mansions on Bellevue Avenue. Unlike many clusters of mansions, these are quite visible from both Bellevue and along the backside via a hiking trail know as Cliff Walk. Since it was raining and the temperature was around 40 degrees, we left the walk for our next trip.

But we did tour two mansions. Both of them were Vanderbilt properties. When you are in Rhode Island the second person you are likely to be reminded of after Roger Williams is Harold Vanderbilt. And why not? Yachtsman extraordinaire, developer of the scoring system for contract bridge and active member of the family railroad empire, he was a rather prominent citizen of the tiny state. Here we see him on the cover of Time magazine for September 15, 1930.

The Marble House was our first stop. While only a "summer cottage" built by William Kissam Vanderbilt, the home is notable because of its ostentatious construction and decor.
Newport-2 Newport-3

Marble House also was home to W.K. Vanderbilt's two famous children Consuelo and Harold (mentioned previously.) Consuelo was coerced to marry into the Spencer-Churchill family in England and brought along enough money as a dowry to refurbish Blenheim Palace. Consuelo was famous for her graceful swan-like neck. The Marble House thoughtfully preserves the neck stretching apparatus used on her.

About a mile away from Marble House is The Breakers, the top dog in Newport Mansions.

Like the other mansions in Newport open to the public, no interior photos are allowed. This is "to preserve the historic property and prevent damage." I assume this is because of the belief that taking a photograph will steal the soul. I did take a couple of interior shots anyway. Unfortunately, the Japanese couple in front of us took a flash photo early in the tour. This put a young docent hot on their tail and made it difficult for me to get my shots. Darned amateurs! Well, here are a couple of shots of the interior, anyway. The marble bathtub required filling with hot water several times to warm it up.

The kitchen:

And a comfortable music room:

It is always worth reminding ourselves that we all lead lives today much more comfortable than the Vanderbilts thanks to the progress of technology. Just as an example, Harold Vanderbilt died at age 51 following complications from an appendectomy.

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