Peter De Savary, very possibly the Richard Branson of the hospitality industry, chose the New York Yacht Club where he has been a member, as the setting to introduce his newest creation: Vanderbilt Hall in Newport RI.
The setting was perfection because of the yacht club’s own Gilded Age heritage, the opulence of the room, and its link to the Vanderbilts, among America’s wealthiest families, who were avid yachtsmen.
Vanderbilt Hall was built as a mansion home in 1909 by Alfred Vanderbilt, the great-grandson of Cornelius, who built a fortune in shipping and railroads and made his family one of the wealthiest in the nation and the world.
Mr. De Savary, who first came to Newport as the British “Victory” Team challenge to the America’s Cup in 1983, has owned several Newport’s mansions, including Vernon Court, Ivy Tower, Oakwood and the Frederick Law Olmstead summer residence, Wildacre.
Overlooking the historic Trinity Church (1725), Vanderbilt Hall has magnificent architecture in the Beaux Arts Style, and a fascinating story behind it.
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt commissioned Vanderbilt Hall for his mistress, Agnes O’Brien Ruiz, the wife of the Cuban attache. After she died, Vanderbilt donated the house to the people of Newport. Only a few years later, Alfred perished aboard the Luistania, a hero who saved others on that doomed ship. His son, William Henry III went on to become Governor of Rhode Island.
When Vanderbilt Hall came on the market in October, de Savary seized the opportunity to restore it to grandeur and reopen it as a mansion “guest house” in the grand tradition of Newport’s “cottages.” He did more: he filled it with a collection of American Illustration Art valued in the millions of dollars.
Just 33 “keys” – almost all of them suites – make for an exceptionally personal experience, as if you were a guest invited for the weekend. Ranging from the 400 sq. ft. Chihuahua Suite to the 1,000 sq. ft. Vanderbilt Suite, all have every manner of creature comfort – from sumptuous Italian linens with cashmere throws, marble bathrooms, to in-room entertainment and kitchenettes.
Guests and members of the private members club have access to the spa, the indoor and outdoor pools, gym, the use of a 60-foot motorized yacht, and “The Crow’s Nest,” a rooftop lounge with an unparalleled view of Newport and the harbor, where cocktails are served nightly, followed by a screening of a black-and-white film. Play snooker (billiards). Guests also have access to the amenities of De Savary’s Carnegie Abbey for golf.
Monty’s Bar and dining Room (named for Mr. De Savary’s Chichuahua, Monty, who you might see around)is a “gastro-pub featuring menus of local seasonal dishes, seafood and eccentric British favorites. The piano and open log-fire enhance the experience. Outdoor dining is featured in The Conservatory and The Garden.
The setting of the mansion makes it ideal for special functions and private parties, from weddings to board meetings. Alfred’s Billiards Room accommodates 14 for private dining or meetings; for larger events, the Victory Room accommodates up to 40 guests for dinner or 60 for conferences. A Wedding Planner is available to assist.
A private car is available for transportation from the airport or around town.
Nearby, there is tennis at the Tennis Hall of Fame, polo, golf and sailing, and restaurants, the waterfront, museums are walking distance from Vanderbilt Hall.
Mr. De Savary has made his mark with renowned hotels and clubs – some 30 projects to date – including the St. James Clubs worldwide (members have access to the Vanderbilt Hall’s amenities), Cary Arms (a boutique inn and pub on the beach in Devon, England, http://www.caryarms.co.uk); The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in Scotland; Bovey Castle in Dartmoor National Park; Stapleford Park in England; the Abaco Club in the Bahamas; Carnegie Abbey, Rhode Island; Cherokee Plantation in South Carolina as well as Port Louis (www.portlouisgrenada.com) and Mount Cinnamon in Grenada in the West Indies http://www.mountcinnamongrenada.com).
Vanderbilt Hall, 41 Mary Street, Newport, RI 02804, 401-846-6200, 888-826-4255. http://www.vanderbilthall.com.