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a closer view of the back of the house
Photo Credit: guyonthego

The Elms

367 Bellevue Avenue Newport, RI 02840
Open 10:00am-6:00pm in summer with generally fewer hours at other times of year
401-847-1000 2 hours
July 2014 Summer, Fall, Spring
$10-29 Newport Rhode Island
Website Historical Homes
First review
The Elms is a sumptuous Gilded Age mansion built in 1901 by Edward Julius Berwind, a wealthy industrialist. Like other palatial homes of this era in Newport, the Elms was only used as a part-time home during the summer season in Newport when the wealthy and well connected would congregate here to enjoy leisure pursuits. The home also includes sizable grounds and a sunken garden. However, it does not front the ocean. Tours are self-guided with an audio device. Pictures are not permitted inside.

Berwind initially owned a more modest home in Newport, but it was too small to accommodate the family’s lifestyle, so it was torn down and the current house was constructed. It is Classical Revival in style and patterned after a mansion in France. The gardens were developed a few years later and include marble terraces, fountains, and detailed stonework. Berwind lived here till his death in 1936. His sister than occupied the house till she died in 1961. Most of the contents were then sold at auction. The house was weeks away from a wrecking ball when Preservation Society acted to save it.

There was a concert taking place in the ballroom at the time, which was annoying because the ballroom was only visible during concert breaks and could only be seen from the hallway. Also, there were many cars parked on the lawn. Nevertheless, the Elms was one of the best mansions to visit in Newport. It had a great combination of impressive structure, lavish contents, fine art, sizable grounds and an informative tour. The audio tour provided interesting information about major rooms, select decorations, and the Berwind family. It also discussed servants’ lives during visits to the kitchen, pantry and a backstairs. The Elms offers an additional tour that provides more insight about the staff and house operations. The servants were expected to disappear when dismissed and be available when summoned. While all the rooms on the first floor were large, luxurious and becoming, the conservatory was particularly interesting, as it reflected both indoor and outdoor living, an unusual feature in that era. The house also was wired for electricity, an uncommon enhancement in 1901. The Breakers has an edge on the Elms in elegance, but the Elms trumps the Breakers on tour insights and expansive grounds. Accordingly, a visit to both works best for a half day of Blitzquesting historic homes in Newport.
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