Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Gilded Age on PBS tonight and Newport Mansions: Part II

The Elms, one of the cottages of Newport from the Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is coming tonight on PBS and we've got unfinished business.

Tonight, on PBS (Channel 56 for Detroit viewers), The Gilded Age is airing at 9:00 PM as part of The American Experience series.

Of course, we're counting down the minutes. But, we're also inspired to go back to some of our Gilded Age journeys.

A year ago last October, we traveled to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the grand mansions ("cottages") that belonged to the benefactors of the Gilded Age.  We wrote our first installment, "My Gilded Pleasure: Newport Mansions and Vanderbilding" back in November, 2016. Today, we pick up where we left off with "Newport Mansions: Part II".

One of two tea rooms on the lawn of The Elms

Newport Mansions: Part II

The Elms, although not directly on the ocean, is located on the prestigious Bellevue Avenue, which was almost as important as being on the water. Built in 1901 by Edward Berwind, who made his money from the coal industry, The Elms was designed by Horace Trumbauer to resemble yet another Paris chateau.

However, the key to the design, was to make it look as though it ran by magic. Servants quarters were hidden behind a brick wall on the third floor (the facade gives the illusion of two stories, but there are actually three) and all staff entries and delivery stops were cleverly shielded by gates, trees and other decorative ornamentation.

 Another Bellevue Mansion, Rosecliff, is equal to its neighbors in luxury and style. Originally built in 1902 by American heiress Tessie Fair Oelrich, whose father amassed great wealth in silver mining. When Tessie married Herman Oelrich, they purchased the property from historian and diplomat George Bancroft. Bancroft was also a horticulturist and developed the American Beauty Rose.

Rosecliff is known for its heart-shaped staircase, grand ballroom and spectacular views of the ocean. It is also the location of many movies, including the Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford.

Our last tour was of Chateau- sur -Mer, which means, castle of the sea, but, today, it is no longer on the water. Its great landscape once reached to the ocean, but it was parceled out to other family members and other beneficiaries. It was built in 1852 by George Peabody Wetmore and was designed by William Morris Hunt. Chateau-sur-Mer was erected during the first wave of wealthy migration to Newport and it was the biggest home in the town in its time.

It suffered from some "remodeling" on the second floor by Wetmore's two daughters, Edith and Maude, who never married. It has slowly been restored to give visitors a glimpse of mid-19th century decor.


The Gilded Age may be over a century old, but it'still a time that captivates.  We'll be watching tonight and keeping up our "Gilded Pleasures"!

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