Tuesday 26 September 2023

The American Obsession with "Frenchness" 3. Three Newport Mansions.

The Bellevue Avenue Historic District is located along and around Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island, United States. Its property is almost exclusively residential, including many of the mansions built by affluent summer vacationers in the city around the turn of the 20th century, including the Vanderbilt family and Astor family. Many of the homes represent pioneering work in the architectural styles of the time by major American architects.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1976. Several of the mansions within the district had themselves attained NHL status as well, or have done so since then. It has become one of Newport's major tourist attractions.

The Preservation Society of Newport County
The Preservation Society of Newport County is a private, non-profit organization based in Newport, Rhode Island. It is Rhode Island's largest and most-visited cultural organization. The organization's mission is to preserve the architectural heritage of Newport County, Rhode Island, including those of the Bellevue Avenue Historic District. Its fourteen historic properties and landscapes—seven of which are National Historic Landmarks, and eleven of which are open to the public—form a complete essay of American historical development from the Colonial era through the Gilded Age.
The Preservation Society is led by CEO Trudy Coxe.

The Elms, built 1898–1901

The Elms is a large mansion, or "summer cottage", located at 367 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, in the United States. The Elms was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer for the coal baron Edward Julius Berwind, and was completed in 1901. Its design was copied from the Château d'Asnières in Asnières-sur-Seine, France. The gardens and landscaping were created by C. H. Miller and E. W. Bowditch, working closely with Trumbauer. The Elms has been designated a National Historic Landmark and today is open to the public.

The estate was constructed from 1899 to 1901 and cost approximately 1.5 million dollars to build. Like most Newport estates of the Gilded Age, The Elms is constructed with a steel frame with brick partitions and a limestone facade.
On the first floor the estate has a grand ballroom, a salon, a dining room, a breakfast room, a library, a conservatory, and a grand hallway with a marble floor. The second floor contains bedrooms for the family and guests as well as a private sitting room. The third floor contains bedrooms for the indoor servants.
In keeping with the French architecture of the house, the grounds of The Elms, among the best in Newport, were designed in French eighteenth-century taste and include a sunken garden. On the edge of the property a large carriage house and stables were built, over which lived the stable keepers and gardeners. When the Berwind family began using automobiles, the carriage house and stables were converted into a large garage. The head coachman, in order to keep his job, became the family driver, but he could never learn to back up, so a large turntable had to be installed in the garage.

In 1961 when Julia Berwind died, The Elms was one of the very last Newport cottages to be run in the fashion of the Gilded Age: forty servants were on staff, and Miss Berwind's social season remained at six weeks. Childless, Julia Berwind willed the estate to a nephew, who did not want it and fruitlessly tried to pass The Elms to someone else in the family. Finally the family auctioned off the contents of the estate and sold the property to a developer who wanted to tear it down. In 1962, just weeks before its date with the wrecking ball, The Elms was purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County for $116,000. The price included the property along with adjacent guest houses. Since then, the house has been open to the public for tours. On June 19, 1996, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
A tour of The Elms can include, at a cost, a behind-the-scenes tour which brings visitors to the basement to view the coal-fired furnaces and the tunnel from which the coal is brought into the basement from a nearby street. The tour shows the lengths to which Mr. Berwind went to keep the servants out of view from guests on all floors of the mansion. Visitors on the "downstairs" tour view the laundry room, steamer trunk storage area, the giant circuit breaker box, ice-makers, galley, and wine cellar below the main floor, and then ascend the three-story service staircase to the servants' quarters (spartan but comfortable) at roof level, which are furnished as they were at the turn of the twentieth century. The tour then proceeds out on the level tiled roof and a small aluminum platform, where visitors enjoy the view of the rear lawn, weeping beech tree—the American Elms having succumbed to Dutch elm disease—and gardens, and the breathtaking vista of Newport harbor in the distance.

 The Berwind family started spending their summers in Newport in the 1890s. By 1898, it was clear that their original property (a small traditional beach cottage) was too small for the grand parties the Berwinds were having, and so they had the place torn down. Berwind hired Horace Trumbauer to build a much larger house, better fitting his status. Like many of the grandest summer residents of Newport, Edward Berwind was "new money" (his parents were middle-class German immigrants); by 1900 his friends included Theodore Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhem II of Germany as well as many high-ranking government leaders from Europe and America. At this time Berwind was hailed as "one of the 59 men who rule America", making him one of Newport's most important summer residents.
Berwind was interested in technology, and The Elms was one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no form of backup system. The house also included one of the first electrical ice makers. It was one of the most sophisticated houses of the time. When The Elms opened in 1901 the Berwinds held a huge party.
During the next 20 years, Berwind's wife, Sarah, would spend the summers there, the season being from the 4th of July to the end of August; Berwind would come out only on weekends, for his coal-mining interests kept him in New York during the week. Though the Berwinds had no children, their nephews and nieces would come out to visit on a regular basis.
On January 5, 1922 Mrs. Berwind died, and Edward asked his youngest sister Julia A. Berwind to move in and become the hostess of The Elms. In 1936 when he died, he willed the house to Julia, who, not being interested in technology, continued to run the house in the same way for the next twenty five years: washers and dryers were never installed at the Elms. Julia was well known in Newport. She would invite children from the nearby Fifth Ward (a working-class immigrant neighborhood) to the estate for milk and cookies. She had a love for cars and would drive around Newport every day in one of her luxury cars. This was somewhat shocking to the rest of Newport society where it was considered "unladylike" for women to drive themselves. It was rumored that her social secretary would perform the "white glove test" to make sure there was no dust on the steering wheel before Julia got into the driver's seat.

Rosecliff built 1898-1902

Rosecliff, built 1898-1902, is one of the Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, now open to the public as a historic house museum.
The house has also been known as the Herman Oelrichs House or the J. Edgar Monroe House.
It was built by Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada, whose father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode. She was the wife of Hermann Oelrichs, American agent for Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship line. She and her husband, together with her sister, Virginia Fair, bought the land in 1891 from the estate of George Bancroft, and commissioned the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design a summer home suitable for entertaining on a grand scale. With little opportunity to channel her considerable energy elsewhere, she "threw herself into the social scene with tremendous gusto, becoming, with Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish and Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont (of nearby Belcourt) one of the three great hostesses of Newport."
The principal architect, Stanford White, modeled the mansion after the Grand Trianon of Versailles, but smaller and reduced to a basic "H" shape, while keeping Mansart's scheme of a glazed arcade of arched windows and paired Ionic pilasters, which increase to columns across the central loggia. White's Rosecliff adds to the Grand Trianon a second storey with a balustraded roofline that conceals the set-back third storey, containing twenty small servants' rooms and the pressing room for the laundry.

he commission was given to McKim, Mead, and White in 1898, and the New York branch of Jules Allard and Sons were engaged as interior decorators. Construction started in 1899, but the sharp winter slowed construction; Mrs. Oelrichs' sister had married William K. Vanderbilt II that winter season, and the house was required for parties in the following Newport season; the eager Mrs. Oelrichs moved in July 1900, sending the workmen out in order to give a first party in August, a dinner for one hundred and twelve to outdo Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish's Harvest Festival Ball at Crossways. Ferns and floral arrangements concealed the unfinished areas. The house was not completed until 1902.
Rosecliff's brick construction is clad in white architectural terracotta tiles. Stanford White's sophisticated spatial planning offered unexpected views en filade through aligned doorways centered on handsome monumental fireplaces with projecting overmantels.
The central corps de logis is entirely taken up with the ballroom as it appeared on White's plans which, with the Louis XIV furniture removed, could serve as Newport's largest ballroom at 40 by 80 feet. Its scheme of single and paired Corinthian pilasters alternating with arch-headed windows and recessed doorways echoes the articulation of the exterior. This is reached through the French doors on either side, to a plain terrace dropping by broad stairs to the lawn facing the ocean, or to a planted terrace garden with a central fountain.
In the northernmost of the wings that project from both sides of the central block, is a dining room and a billiard room separated by a marble anteroom backed, on the service side, by a butler's pantry with two dumbwaiters. These communicate with the all-but-subterranean kitchens below which were lit, invisibly, from the sunken service yard on the north side of the house. The main entrance, on the opposite south wing, is through a vestibule where the exterior Ionic order is carried inside, now suitably enriched, under an emphatic cornice that divides the height 2:3.
The vestibule is separated, by a tripartite screen with an arched central opening flanked above the cornice by bull's-eye openings in which baroque vases stand, from a grand Stair Hall. The Stair Hall projects from the south block to accommodate a grand staircase that sweeps forward through a heart-shaped opening into the floor space. This divides at a landing to return in matched recurving flights to the upper floor.[
Beyond the Stair Hall is the Salon with the same proportions as the Dining Room (3:4, or 30 by 40 feet) and like it, originally hung with tapestry. Its ceiling is coffered. Its overscaled Gothic fireplace of Caen stone is the one eclectic anomaly in Rosecliff's interiors.
Upstairs, three grand bedrooms of equal importance and guest bedrooms of graduated sizes may be linked by opened doors or isolated by locked ones, in a flexible arrangement of rooms or suites, all with baths, and all separated from the wide corridor by intervening dressing closets for hermetic privacy from the staff, who moved up and down stairs by means of two small service stairs contrived in spaces smaller than the master bedrooms' walk-in closets.
The most famous of Mrs. Oelrich's parties was the "Bal blanc" of 19 August 1904 to celebrate the Astor Cup Races, in which everything was white and silver.

Oelrichs family

Rosecliff stayed in the Oelrichs family until 1941, then went through several changes of ownership before being bought by Mr & Mrs J. Edgar Monroe of New Orleans in 1947. Mr. Monroe, a southern gentleman who had made his fortune in the ship building industry, came to Newport with his wife Louise every summer to escape the summer heat of the Deep South. The two became well known for the large parties they threw at Rosecliff; many of which had mardi gras theme, the Monroes loved dressing up in fancy costumes for these parties. Unlike Mrs. Oelrichs' parties, which were stiff and formal, the Monroes' parties were laid back and easy going. Because Hermann Oelrichs Jr had sold off all the furnishings in 1941, nearly all the furnishings visitors see at Rosecliff today are from the Monroe period of occupation. In 1971, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe donated the entire estate with its contents and a $2 million operating endowment to the Preservation Society of Newport County, who opened it to the public for tours. Mr Monroe often would come back to the estate for charity events up until his death in 1991.
The ballroom was used to film scenes for the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby, The Betsy, High Society, True Lies, and Amistad

Marble House built between 1888 and 1892

Marble House is a Gilded Age mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, now open to the public as a museum run by the Newport Preservation Society. It was designed by the renowned society architect Richard Morris Hunt. For an American house, it was unparalleled in design and opulence when it was built. Its temple-front portico, which also serves as a porte-cochère, has been compared to that of the White House.

The mansion was built as a summer "cottage" retreat between 1888 and 1892 for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. It was a social landmark that helped spark the transformation of Newport from a relatively relaxed summer colony of wooden houses to the now legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. The fifty-room mansion required a staff of 36 servants, including butlers, maids, coachmen, and footmen. The mansion cost $11 million ($260,000,000 in 2009 dollars) of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet (14,000 m³) of marble. William Vanderbilt's older brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II subsequently built the largest of the Newport cottages, The Breakers, between 1893 and 1895.
When Alva Vanderbilt divorced William in 1895, she already owned Marble House outright, having received it as her 39th birthday present. She remarried to Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont in 1896, and then relocated down the street to Belcourt Castle. After his death, she reopened Marble House and added the Chinese Tea House on the seaside cliff, where she hosted rallies for women's suffrage.
Alva Belmont shuttered the mansion permanently in 1919, when she relocated to France to be closer to her daughter, Consuelo Balsan. There she divided her time between a Paris townhouse, a villa on the Riviera, and the Château d'Augerville, which she restored. She sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932, less than a year before her death. In 1963 the Preservation Society of Newport County bought the house from the Prince Trust, with funding provided by Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt couple's youngest son. The Trust donated the furniture for the house directly to the Preservation Society.
The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1971. The Department of the Interior designated it as a National Historic Landmark on February 17, 2006. The Bellevue Avenue Historic District, which includes Marble House and many other historic Newport mansions, was added to the Register on December 8, 1972 and subsequently designated as a National Historic Landmark District on May 11, 1976.

The interior features a number of notable rooms. Entrance into the mansion is through one of two French Baroque-style doors, each weighing a ton and a half. Both are embellished by the monogram "WV" set into an oval medallion. They were made at the John Williams Bronze Foundry in New York. The Stair Hall is a two-story room that features walls and a grand staircase of yellow Siena marble, with a wrought iron and gilt bronze staircase railing. The railing is based on models at Versailles. An 18th-century Venetian ceiling painting featuring gods and goddesses adorns the ceiling. The Grand Salon, designed by Allard and Sons, served as a ballroom and reception room. Designed in the Louis XIV style, it features green silk cut velvet upholstery and draperies. The originals were made by Prelle. The walls are carved wood and gold gilt panels representing scenes from classical mythology, inspired by the panels and trophies adorning the Galerie d'Apollon at the Louvre. The ceiling features an 18th-century French painting in the manner of Pietro da Cortona depicting Minerva, with a surround adapted from the ceiling of the Queen’s Bedroom at Versailles. The Gothic Room, in the Gothic Revival-style, was designed to display Alva Vanderbilt's collection of Medieval and Renaissance decorative objects. The stone fireplace in the room was copied by Allard and Sons from one in the Jacques Cœur House in Bourges. The furniture was by Gilbert Cuel. The Library is in the Rococo-style. It served as both a morning room and library. The doors and bookcases, in carved walnut, were a collaboration between Allard and Cuel. The Dining Room features pink Numidian marble and gilt bronze capitals and trophies. The fireplace is a replica of the one in the Salon d'Hercule at Versailles. The ceiling is decorated painted with a hunting and fishing motif, with an 18th-century French ceiling in the center. Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom, on the second floor, is in the Louis XIV style. The ceiling in this room is adorned with circular ceiling painting of Athena, painted circa 1721 by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini. It was originally in the library of the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice.
Marble House is one of the earliest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States, with design inspiration from the Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles. Jules Allard and Sons of Paris, first hired by the Vanderbilt's to design some of the interiors for their Petit Chateau on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, designed the French-inspired interiors of Marble House also. The grounds were designed by landscape architect Ernest W. Bowditch.
The mansion is a U-shaped building. Although it appears to be a two-story structure, it is actually spread over four levels. The kitchen and service areas are located on the basement level, reception rooms on the ground floor, bedrooms on the second floor, and servant quarters on the hidden, uppermost level. The load-bearing portion of the walls are brick, with the exterior faced in white Westchester marble. Here Hunt adapted French neoclassical architectural forms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to enliven the Beaux-Arts detailing.
The facade of the mansion features bays that are defined by two story Corinthian pilasters. These frame arched windows on the ground floor and rectangular ones on the second on most of the facade. A curved marble carriage ramp, fronted by a semi-circular fountain with grotesque masks, spans the entire western facade. The masks serve as water spouts. The center of this facade, facing Bellevue Avenue, features a monumental tetrastyle Corinthian portico. The north and south facades match the western in basic design. The eastern facade, facing the Atlantic Ocean, is divided into a wing on each side. These wings semi-enclose a marble terrace and are surrounded by a marble balustrade on the ground floor level. The inset central portion of this facade differs from the others, with four bays of ground floor doors topped by second floor arched windows.

The interiors of the mansion have appeared in several films or television series. Scenes appearing in the 1972–73 television series, America, the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby, the 1995 miniseries The Buccaneers, and the 2008 film 27 Dresses were shot here. More recently, Victoria's Secret filmed one of their 2012 holiday commercials here.

1 comment:

The Silver Bunny said...

Hello ! Have you got details about the first picture (gentlemen with their backs turned) ? Because I have got that scene on a cushion at home....