Cocktails on the Verandah

Late last month I found myself in Newport, RI, to be a spectator for the sailing competition. As we drove past one mansion after another on the elegant Bellevue Avenue or as we walked Newport’s treasured Cliffwalk (the next two images below), above the rocky coast, history and the present moments seemed to merge.

Here was the playground of the richest people on the planet more than one hundred years ago. Yes, those were the days.

The names of these magnificent mansions, like The Breakers (above), Belcourt Castle (next two below),

…Rough Point, and Rosecliff may conjure images of elegant soirées, grand ballrooms, and sit-down, black-tie dinners for nearly 200 people. Here is a 2nd picture of The Breakers.

For most of us, me included, events on this grand scale are nearly unimaginable. Yet, to the people that lived in these homes before they were given outright, or sold to the Preservation Society of Newport for mere pennies on the dollars, they were ’summer cottages’.

Just to give you an idea, The Breakers was built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II. You may have heard of this family. They owned a huge international shipping company before forming the New York Central Railroad.

This opulent summer shack, consisting of 70 rooms, was only half the size of their home in Manhattan, at 1, West 57th Street. The Breakers will take your breath away, but the city home was destroyed by fire many decades ago.

Doris Duke inherited Rough Point (above) when she was only 13 years old. Her father, James Buchanan Duke, amassed a fortune beyond belief by founding The American Tobacco Company, which later became The British Tobacco Company, which later became the parent company of Brown & Williamson, the manufacturer of such American cigarette brands as Kool, Pall Mall, Lucky Strike, and Tareyton.

Here are a couple of images of a pair of the ‘lesser’ homes. First is The Elms. This might be a side-door. And following that is a longer shot so you can see all of it.

Next is the Ochre Court (below) which is now a part of Regina Salve College. Just think of the how much the electric bill might be.

Rosecliff (above) was modeled after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. This stunning mansion was commissioned by Theresa Fair Oelrichs, the heir to the Nevada Comstock silver lode, one of the richest silver finds in history.

Rosecliff is now preserved through the generosity of its last private owners, Mr And Mrs J Edgar Monroe, of New Orleans. They gave the house, its furnishings, and an endowment to the Preservation Society in 1971.

If you can’t get to Newport, then you might want to check out Rosecliff in the movies. Scenes from several films have been shot on location at Rosecliff, including High Society and The Great Gatsby.

Or we can dream about voluptuous women with their own kind of opulence, the kind of ‘trophy’ women that no doubt had the good fortune to find themselves in Newport, Rhode Island, for a July 4th weekend on the arms of various captains of industry, robber barons, or other assorted millionaires, and the hangers-on that hobnobbed with the real life Vanderbilts and Dukes, or their fictional counterparts like Jay Gatsby.

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Song writer Cole Porter penned these memorable lyrics for a duet in High Society between Frank Sinatra & Celeste Holm called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Who wants to be a millionaire? I don’t.

Have flashy flunkeys everywhere? I don’t.

Who wants the bother of a country estate? A country estate is something I’d hate!

Who wants to wallow in champagne? I don’t.

Who wants a supersonic plane? I don’t.

Who wants a marble swimming pool too? I don’t.

And I don’t `cause all I want is you.

You and I will never experience waking up at The Breakers on the 4th of July, or dancing under the stars at Rosecliff or Rough Point. We won’t be donning our tennis whites before breakfasting, or meeting for cocktails on the verandah of one of these fabulous mansions overlooking the ocean, but we can dream about that kind of life.

So for inspiration, or to pad out your dreams, until you do become a millionaire, you may visit my website free of charge anytime you like. There are no tour guides whatsoever, and our doors are always open.

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