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History of Newport and the Mansions
Founded in 1639, Newport was an important port city, a center of the slave trade, a fashionable resort and the summer home of the Gilded Age rich.
What was the Gilded Age?
The Gilded Age was a period of unprecedented change in America. Fortunes were spent on luxuries such as the lavish "summer cottages" of Newport.
Deep Dive into the Show
Learn about the people, places and events depicted in Julian Fellowes' popular historical drama series.
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We invite you to become a member of the Preservation Society today. In addition to joining an active community of preservation supporters and advocates, members are offered unlimited access to all open houses.
Our mission is to protect, preserve, and present the best of Newport County's architectural heritage. Learn more about us and our work.
Wind Farm Federal Appeal: FAQs
The Preservation Society of Newport County is appealing federal agency approval of two massive wind farms off the Rhode Island coast.
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The Gilded Age comes alive with engaging audio tours of life in the Newport Mansions. From the soaring marble columns that greet you at Marble House to the platinum wall panels at The Breakers, immerse yourself in these social and architectural landmarks. Hear the fascinating stories of people who lived and worked in these grand houses.
The Gilded Age, approximately 1870-1910, was a period of unprecedented change in America. The expansion of industry and transportation – and the lack of an income tax – gave rise to a new wealthy class of people with names like Vanderbilt, Morgan, Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller. Massive fortunes were made very quickly and spent on lavish lifestyles.
Gilded Age pageantry was nowhere more on display than at the spectacular “summer cottages” of the Newport Mansions, where the new millionaires sought to outshine each other at balls, banquets, carriage parades, concerts, sporting events and other entertainments. Constructed at the height of the Gilded Age, The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and Rosecliff reflect their owners’ obsession with social status and emulation of European aristocracy.
Not everyone was impressed by the newly rich. They were shunned by the “old money” members of New York society, who considered them invaders. It was a battle that would last for years.
Despite tremendous economic growth and the expansion of the workforce, the gap between rich and poor became ever wider during this period. The term “Gilded Age,” coined by Mark Twain, refers to the thin veneer of wealth that covered a less attractive reality. Yet this period marks the beginning of America’s development into a prosperous, growing, innovative, modern nation.
“Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes chose the Newport Mansions to provide authentic scenery for his historical drama “The Gilded Age”.
Fans of HBO’s “The Gilded Age” will love this guided tour of locations in the Newport Mansions where the show was filmed. Coming Winter 2024!
Parking is free onsite at all properties except for Hunter House and The Breakers Stable & Carriage House, where street parking is available.
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Explore the 11 properties under the stewardship of the Preservation Society and open as historic house museums.
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