Archive for the ‘RI’ Category

Newport Mansions Host Christmas Festivities at Breakers, Elms, Marble House

November 19, 2013
Alva Vanderbilt's grand Marble House, one of the Newport Mansions, is inviting guests for Christmas © 2013 Karen Rubin/

Alva Vanderbilt’s grand Marble House, one of the Newport Mansions, is inviting guests for Christmas © 2013 Karen Rubin/

The famed Newport, Rhode Island, Gilded Age mansions, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House, welcome visitors for Christmas from November 23 through January 1, 2014. The Preservation Society of Newport County is presenting music, tours, shopping events, and visits from Santa Claus at three of America’s grandest historic houses.

New this year is a gingerbread house competition at The Breakers.  Four local pastry programs have created gingerbread models of the Newport Mansions that are on display in the kitchen.  The competitors are Clements’ Marketplace in Portsmouth, RI; Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School of Fall River, MA;  Fatulli’s Gourmet Bakery in  Middletown, RI; and Russell Morin Fine Catering of Newport and Providence, RI.

Returning to the Great Hall of The Breakers this year is the 15-foot tall poinsettia tree, which for the past few years had been displayed at The Elms.   The “tree” is made up of 150 individual poinsettia plants, grown in the Preservation Society’s own greenhouses.  The plants are removed and replaced several times during the six-week holiday season to ensure the display remains fresh.

Christmas trees of various sizes throughout the houses are adorned with new flickering LED candle lights. Additional decorations in the three houses include dozens of wreaths, hundreds of yards of garland and thousands of flowers, including poinsettia plants, lilies, roses, carnations and potted palms.  Ornaments reflect the colors and décor of individual rooms, and white candles illuminate the windows.  Additional highlights include an eight-foot decorated wreath on the grand staircase of Marble House, new large evergreen kissing balls hung in each house, and a pastel floral theme in the ballroom of The Elms.

Three Houses Open Daily

Christmas officially arrives at the Newport Mansions on Saturday, November 23.  The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House will be fully decorated and open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through January 1, 2014.  A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to all three houses can be purchased for $28 for adults, $9 for children 6-17. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free.  Individual house tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased online at, or at each property.

Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions

Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions provide a unique opportunity to see these historic houses lit up for a night-time celebration. Guests can take a leisurely self-guided tour through the museum, enjoying live holiday music and a stop for cookies and pastries, eggnog and cider.  Holiday Evenings at The Breakers are scheduled for November 30 and December 7, 14, and 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On December 21, guests can enjoy a Holiday Evening Duet: The Elms and Marble House, and see both of the houses for the price of one, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Admission to Holiday Evenings is $28 in advance, $35 at the door.  Children 6-17 are admitted for $10. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free.  Preservation Society members enjoy reduced admission, $25 in advance, $30 at the door.  On December 21, a single ticket provides admission to both The Elms and Marble House, as well as shuttle service operating between the two houses.  More information, including the schedule of Holiday Evening entertainment, and advance tickets are available online at, or call (401) 847-1000.

Visits with Santa Claus 

Children can visit with Santa Claus in a spectacular setting at each of the three mansions on Sundays in December.  Santa will make public appearances from noon to 3 p.m. at The Breakers on December 8, Marble House on December 15, and The Elms on December 22.  The visit with Santa is included in the regular admission price.

About The Mansions

The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad.  Its interiors include rich marbles and gilded rooms, a 50-foot high Great Hall, mosaic tile floors and ceilings, and open-air terraces with magnificent ocean views.

The Elms is an elegant French-style chateau built in 1901 for Philadelphia coal magnate Edward J. Berwind.  It serves as a backdrop for monumental artworks, including wall-sized 18th century Venetian paintings and Chinese lacquer panels.  The Elms is situated on a 10-acre park with an elaborate sunken garden.

Marble House was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Built and furnished at a reported cost of $11 million, it was the most lavish house in America when it opened in 1892.  It became a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes and decorative arts.  Its 11 historic properties—seven of them National Historic Landmarks—span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

For further information, visit

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Marble House Marks 90th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, Aug. 26

July 25, 2010
Marble House Celebrates 90th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, a noted suffragist, called Marble House her "temple to the arts," and used the house as a setting for suffrage rallies. On Thursday, August 26, there will be a free event to mark the occasion © 2010 Karen Rubin/

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, a noted suffragist, called Marble House her “temple to the arts,” and used the house as a setting for suffrage rallies. On Thursday, August 26, there will be a free event to mark the occasion © 2010 Karen Rubin/

On Thursday, August 26, Marble House, on Newport’s tony Bellevue Avenue, will be the site of a commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The festivities will begin at 11 a.m., and the event is free and open to the public.

Taking place on the terrace of Marble House, where Alva once hosted rallies to raise funds for the suffrage movement, the celebration will include poetry, music, and readings from historical documents.   Participants will include Rhode Island State Senator June Gibbs; the state’s Poet Laureate, Lisa Starr;  Amber Rose Johnson, the 2010 Poetry Out Loud National Champion from Classical High School in Providence, RI; and Lt. Colonel Jayme M. Sutton, Naval War College Military Professor of National Strategy Decision Making.

Why would a Gilded Age mansion in Newport be the scene to mark Women’s Suffrage? The House, so opulent in its architecture and decoration, was built by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, as her “temple of the arts.” But Alva was a pioneer feminist – the decorations are loaded with imagery of goddesses and feminine symbols of learning and art. She became a vigorous sponsor of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and held suffrage rallies at the House, attended by women of all classes (there are some wonderful photos and audio about them as you tour the house). Visiting the house, you can sense Alva’s frustration and longing for a society in which women had the right to pursue their talents and ambition, but in her day, the way to power was to marry wealth.

“Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was a rebel right from childhood, and despite becoming one of the leaders of Newport and New York high society, she never lost her independent spirit,” said Preservation Society CEO and Executive Director Trudy Coxe.  “Alva used her position in society to raise money and lobby for the right of women to vote, so she would be very proud to see her beloved Marble House hosting this celebration today.”

“Women got the vote through struggle, by organizing themselves, talking with politicians and marching in the streets.  The League of Women Voters continues the struggle by telling all that voting is the mainstay of democracy,” said Joanne DeVoe, President of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.  “We also work out consensus positions on issues and then publicize and lobby for these positions.  The League thanks the Preservation Society for opening the grounds of Marble House to remember the women who were part of the struggle. Could there be a better place in Rhode Island for this celebration?”

“The example that Alva Vanderbilt Belmont set for women of her day, and the women of ours, is unmatched,” said Marcia Coné, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. “The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is so pleased to be a part of this important event and to celebrate her legacy.”

“Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was a force who championed the cause for the 19th Amendment’s passage. Imagine what our lives would be like today if the passage had not been won,” said Deborah L. Perry, Executive Director of YWCA Northern Rhode Island. “It is an honor for the YWCA to be part of this celebration.”

“We sometimes forget that Newport in the 19th century was a stage for more than just social entertainment, but was also a backdrop for many dramas of national consequence,” said Pieter Roos, Executive Director of the Newport Restoration Foundation. “Alva used Newport’s glamour and prestige to advance one of the most important social movements of the era, and this event will highlight that for contemporary audiences.”

Marble House was the summer cottage built for Alva Vanderbilt in 1892 to cement her place in high society.  But in later life, she moved from socialite to social reformer, using Marble House as a stage from which she rallied women to the cause of equal rights.  In 1921, Alva was elected President of the National Woman’s Party, and was the founder of the Political Equality League.  She is credited with the original advice, “Pray to God.  She will help you.”

Alva even partnered with songwriter and columnist Elsa Maxwell to write a light-hearted, one-act operatta entitled Melinda and Her Sisters to convince New York and Newport high society that the time had come to grant women equal rights. The play was performed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in 1916, and was re-staged by the Preservation Society at Marble House in 2003.

The Suffrage event is free and open to the public at Marble House, 596 Bellevue Avenue.  Call 401-847-1000, ext. 169 or visit

For more about the Women of Newport, Gilded Age Mansions and visiting Newport, visit

–Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate