Historically, Rhode Island has had no trouble enticing the great and the good of the USA to come and live here. As such, the Ocean State is awash with mansion homes so legendary, they’ve inspired the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his classic novel The Great Gatsby. Here’s a selection of mansions not to miss while you’re visiting Rhode Island. And just to ensure you don’t feel left out, we’ve included one you can stay at, too.
Two in Providence…
The Italianate villa-style abode that is Governor Henry Lippitt House was built in 1865, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Lippitt became the 33rd Governor of Rhode Island in 1875, and lived in this Providence redbrick mansion during his tenure. Today, the house is a museum, which delves into the history of the Lippitts and their successes both in politics and the textiles industry. Governor Henry Lippitt House also hosts live music concerts and Victorian Christmas fun days.
Another Rhode Island mansion that should feature on your ‘While in Providence’ list is the Nelson W. Aldrich House. This Federal-style villa was built by the architect John Holden Green in 1821, and passed through a few ownerships, before its most famous resident settled in. Nelson W. Aldrich was a redoubtable name in American politics, serving in the senate from 1881 to 1911, and rarely taking no for an answer. Aldrich would have pored over many of his ground-breaking reforms in the rooms of his Providence abode, and today, it’s open to the public as a house museum.
While in Providence, also check out: The John Brown House Museum, Corliss-Carrington House, Gov. Stephen Hopkins House
… Two in Newport …
Marble House was designed by society architect Richard Morris Hunt, and is one of the first Beaux Arts structures in the USA. On its completion in 1892, the building would have wowed passers-by with its gleaming temple-front portico, that bears more than a passing resemblance to the White House. Incredibly, Marble House’s status was that of a ‘summer cottage’ for its owners Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. It isn’t exactly a poky cottage; Marble House has 55 rooms, and once kept a staff of over 35 servants. Out back, meanwhile, there’s a Chinese tea house, modeled on those from the Song Dynasty. Marble House is now a public museum, and a must-see when you’re in the Newport vicinity.
The Gilded Age may have been a derogatory term coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner to describe a society that was unjust and unstable, but these days its more synonymous with the resplendent architecture of the period. Chateau-sur-Mer in Newport, Rhode Island is a paradigm of the Gilded Age – a French style villa that played the role of sometime-home to the infinitely wealthy Vanderbilt (yes them again) family. Chateau-sur-Mer has since gained National Historic Landmark status, and opened its doors to the public. Inside, you’ll discover lavish décor, which tells of a golden age the USA will likely never see again. Parties at Chateau-sur-Mer were legendary, notably the “Fete Champetre” picnic hosted in its grounds in 1857, and Miss Edith Wetmore’s debutante ball of 1889.
While in Newport, also check out: Rosecliff, Isaac Bell House, The Breakers, The Elms
… and One to Stay At …
Rhode Island isn’t short on blissful vistas, but Ocean House in the chocolate box village of Watch Hill, has one of the finest. The shingle-style manor stands on a bluff overlooking the strait of Block Island Sound. Between Ocean House and the strait is a strip of immaculate sandy beach, and sparkling blue New England water. Ocean House first opened in 1868, and although it fell into disrepair some time later, a loving reconstruction was built on the site of the original in 2004. Ocean House offers the rare combination of a grand Victorian residence (over 5,000 artifacts and furnishing elements were harvested from the hotel’s first incarnation), and the comfort and luxury of a 21st century hotel.