John Noble Alsop Griswold (1822-1909) was born into wealth, with his family business involved in land speculation in New York as well as the N. L. & G. Griswold Company, which imported sugar and rum from the Caribbean on clipper ships. In his 20s, John traveled to China for a trade and within a year of that trip, was appointed United States consul at Shanghai, serving in that role until 1854. Upon his return to America, he helped develop several prominent railroads, serving as president of the Illinois Central Railroad and chairman of the board of directors of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. He eventually settled in Newport and helped shape the sleepy town into a summer resort town for high-society. His statement-piece in town was his own mansion on Bellevue Avenue, built in 1863 from designs by Richard Morris Hunt, and completed that next year. It was the first of Hunt’s many notable works in Newport, and is considered a prototype work of the Stick style of architecture in America. Hunt would go on to design Ochre Court, The Breakers, and other Gilded Age mansions in Newport and all over the northeast. Griswold died in the house in 1909; it remained vacant until 1915, when it was acquired by the Art Association of Newport, which now uses it as a museum gallery. I really want to see the inside of this beauty!
Bellevue Avenue in Newport is best-known for its massive summer cottages, many of which are built of stone and look more like art museums than a house. “Rest Haven” is one of the most stunning summer cottages in Newport and can stand toe-to-toe with the later mansions which neighbor it. The Stick style cottage was built in 1870 as a spec. house for merchant and financier John N.A. Griswold, who had his own cottage farther up the street (last post). Similar to his own house, he hired world-renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the house, which was to be sold soon after completion for a profit to Anna Gilbert of New York, a wealthy widow who wanted to keep up with high-society in Newport. Anna Gilbert’s son, Charles Pierrepont Gilbert, was a New York architect who trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He and his wife, Clara, summered at Resthaven until 1916. The home was likely renamed “Le Chalet” by a subsequent owner. The cottage was altered over the years, but restored a number of years ago by Newport Collaborative Architects and Behan Bros, and looks stunning!
One of a handful of massive summer cottages in Newport that have always remained a single-family house is this beauty, known as Fairholme. Originally built in 1875, the summer cottage was built in the popular Stick style for Philadelphia arts patron and engineer Fairman Rogers by architect Frank Furness, also of Philadelphia. The estate was purchased, expanded and modernized at the turn of the 20th century by Philadelphia banker John R. Drexel (1863-1935) and his wife, Alice Troth (1865-1947). It is likely that Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer was hired by the Drexel’s to modernize the home, as he was hired in 1903 to design their Manhattan townhome. The enlarged home in the Tudor Revival style saw a couple successive owners, all uber wealthy bankers and industrialists. The waterfront mansion which neighbors The Breakers and Anglesea (both featured on here previously), sold in 2016 for $16.1 Million!
Not to be confused with The Villa, an extant mansard-roofed cottage in Newport, this beautiful example of the Second Empire style sadly is no longer around for us to gawk at. “Train Villa” was built as a summer cottage for George Francis Train (1829-1904), a nutty, attention-seeking businessman, who in 1870-1, traveled around the world in 80 days. The feat caused a sensation, but only after a writer named Jules Verne fictionalized it, naming the main character Phileas Fogg. Train was already one of the most famous men in America, but he was not happy that Verne co-opted his story. “Remember Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days?” he told English reporters. “He stole my thunder. I’m Phileas Fogg.” Train undertook a total of three trips around the world, each time attempting to beat the record of 80 days, with his final trip clocked in at just sixty days. Ironically, Amazon Prime just released the story as a new series (literally airing days ago). Before his inaugural trip around the globe, Train had this summer cottage built in Newport, where he could relax after his globetrotting. After his death, the property was renamed “Beachholm” and owned by Woodbury Blair of Washington D.C..The home was one of the most eye-catching in town and was located in front of the Seaweed Cottage (featured previously), until a fire in the early 1970s led to its demolition.
Margaret Barker Sigourney was the wife of Boston lawyer Henry Sigourney (1783–1849). In 1864, just as the Civil War was coming to a close, Sigourney purchased a piece of land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport soon after the time that Newport had been rediscovered as a tourist destination for the elite class. Sigourney wanted to make a splash as a single woman summering in Newport, so she hired local architect George Champlin Mason to design her cottage in the fashionable Second Empire style. The refined facade is more academic, while the rear and side facades exhibit porches with delicate bargeboards and trim. Sigourney spent summers at her cottage with her only son until 1873 when he and his family perished and were lost at sea aboard the Ville du Havre, when it collided in the Atlantic with another ship, killing a total of 226 aboard the ships, many of which drowned and their bodies never recovered. Alone, Margaret Sigourney continued to spend her summers in Newport until her own death in 1885.
Ochre Court, one of the grandest mansions in America was built in 1892 for New York banker and real estate developer Ogden Goelet (1846-1897) and his wife, Mary Wilson (1855-1929). In 1879, Ogden and his brother, Robert, inherited a real estate empire in Manhattan of 259 houses then worth a combined $40 million which was second only to the Astors. In 1892, Goelet and his wife Mary were included in Ward McAllister‘s “Four Hundred“, purported to be an index of New York’s best families, published in The New York Times, a position only solidified after his summer “cottage” was completed that year in Newport, Rhode Island. Named Ochre Court, the 50-room chateau overlooks the Cliff Walk and Atlantic Ocean and is the second-largest mansion in Newport (after The Breakers). Ochre Court was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who also designed The Breakers, and summered in town himself. Shockingly, the Goelet’s only occupied the home during an eight-week summer season, and they spent the rest of the year in their homes in New York City, France, or London. The operation of Ochre Court usually required twenty-seven house servants, eight coachmen and grooms for horses and their carriages, and twelve gardeners for the grounds. In 1947 the Goelets’ son, railroad, hotel, and real estate developer Robert Goelet IV (1880-1966), gave ‘Ochre Court’ to the Religious Sisters of Mercy to establish Salve Regina College after it became too expensive to maintain. ‘Ochre Court’, which housed the entire college during its first years, is still in use and remains the heart of the greatly expanded Salve Regina University.
Built in 1887 for John O’Brien, a direct descendant of Brian Boru, the High King Of Ireland, “Inchiquin” in Newport stands out for its bold stone exterior and proper siting. The mansion was named after Inchiquin, a barony (or state) in Ireland, likely where O’Brien’s ancestors were from. The cottage was designed by John Dixon Johnston, a well-known Newport architect, who designed the stone mansion in a sort of hodge-podge of styles, which actually work well together somehow! In 1901, Inchiquin was acquired by The Baroness Seilliere, the adopted daughter of John O’Brien. She was a daughter of Mrs. O’Brien by a former husband. After her first husband died she married the Baron de Seilliere, brother of the Princess de Sagan. Like some other massive, expensive mansions in Newport, this home was converted to condos.
Rhode Island is home to some amazing old homes, but “Breakwater”, the Charles W. Lippitt Mansion was NOT one of them! Former Governor, Charles Warren Lippitt (1846-1924), the son of Governor Henry Lippitt, wanted to be a member of Gilded Age society in Newport, after spending his time in Providence all year, so he had this absolute fortress built. Poor taste did not run in the family, as his father’s Providence mansion was very tasteful (featured on here previously). Breakwater was built on the southern tip of Newport, ironically across the street from Edith Wharton’s tastefully designed cottage, Land’s End (also featured on here recently). Wharton used the term “White Elephants” to describe the influx of massive, masonry mansions that replaced the traditional wooden cottages, similar to what she observed with the Vanderbilt estate, The Breakers. It is understood now why Edith Wharton abruptly moved when this monster of a house was built right next door! Architect Robert H. Robinson designed the fortress – erh I mean house…- and it remained on the site only until Lippitts death in 1924, when the castle was demolished by his son to make the property more marketable for sale. The property was purchased in 1926 by John Russell Pope, an architect, designed his own Tudor style home, “The Waves” (featured on here previously) atop the ruins of the previous estate. MUCH better!
If anyone knows me, I absolutely LOVE Tudor and French Norman style houses, but they are much less common compared to the Colonial Revival style, which dominated residential architecture in New England for nearly a century. Located on Ledge Road, at the southeasternmost peninsula of Aquidneck Island in Newport, you’ll find this absolutely giant estate as you conclude walking Newport’s iconic Cliff Walk. “The Waves”, was built in 1927 by architect John Russell Pope (1874-1937) as his own residence. He built it over the ruins of the former Gov. Lippitt Mansion which was previously built on the site and demolished by Lippitt’s heirs. In designing The Waves, Pope wanted to focus on the natural, rocky site and build a structure that would blend in. The Tudor style mansion features stucco and stone siding, half-timbering, and a complex roof covered in slate, all in a U-shaped form. Years after completing his home in Newport, Pope would become even more well-known for designing major public buildings in Washington D.C., including the National Archives Building (1935), the West Building of the National Gallery of Art (1941), and the Jefferson Memorial (1943). After Pope’s death, the massive home became the first mansion in Newport to be converted to condos, a great preservation tool that maintains these massive mansions, and allows for them to be utilized today.
One of the more architecturally modest and refined Gilded Age summer cottages of Newport sits on one of the most picturesque pieces of land at the southeastern point of Aquidneck Island and is aptly named Land’s End. The cottage was built in 1864, Land’s End was designed by John Hubbard Sturgis for Boston banker, Samuel Gray Ward, his father’s business associate. The home features a refined Italianate style base with a roof comprised of a variation of the Second Empire mansard style called a “turtleback roof”. Land’s End is probably most famous as the residence of Edith Wharton (1862-1937) after she acquired the property in 1889. She worked with Boston designer Ogden Codman, Jr., to experiment with a style of subdued classical interiors and a remodel of the exterior, which was later featured in their book, “The Decoration of Houses”. Wharton was inspired to show what good taste is after the influx of Vanderbilts and other newly moneyed summer residents of Newport. The book focused on how to build and decorate houses with nobility, grace, and timelessness. It would, they hoped, lead its readers out of what Wharton called (pace the Vanderbilts) a “Thermopylae of bad taste” and into an aesthetic Promised Land. Wharton only lived at Land’s End for a decade, when the “stuffiness” of high-society there led her to move to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where she worked with architect Ogden Codman to design her new home, The Mount. It the monstrous Lippitt Mansion, Breakwater was built at the time, just next door! did not help that Sadly, many of the interiors have been altered since Wharton’s time there, but with more recent interventions, but the book did help shift some of Newports later homes to a more refined, classical taste.