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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.
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Learn about the people, places and events depicted in Julian Fellowes' popular historical drama series.
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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 design for the new railway station shown in the first scene shares many similarities to other transportation buildings of the era, including, Madison Square Garden and The Golden Door Transportation Building at the Chicago World’s Fair. They reflect the new age of large-scale architecture only possible with the new mode of steel-beam construction. The Breakers is an early example of the use of steel construction in a residential structure.
☞ Broadway Omnibus was a common public transportation option at the time. There was an omnibus in Newport that ran from the downtown wharves and Thames Street to Easton’s Beach.
☞ Bloomingdale Bros. became one of America’s largest department stores, with its origins in the Gilded Age. The first department store in Newport was in the historic Audrain building (1902) on Bellevue Avenue.
☞ Mrs. Chamberlain’s house features artwork that was considered exceptionally “modern” at the time: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and a particular repetition of Edgar Degas, in both sculpture and painting.
☞ Grinling Gibbons was a real Dutch sculptor born in the 17th century. His work was highly sought after as he was a master carver of wood. Salvaging the interiors of historic sites from Europe for wealthy Americans was a common practice. Mrs. Chamberlain’s collecting of his work foreshadows an even more aggressive movement in the early 20th century when whole rooms attributed to Gibbons would be cut out of buildings and transported across the Atlantic.
☞ “Pumpkin” the spaniel: This was considered one of the most desirable breeds by elites for well over a century. The breed is featured in the Gilbert Stuart painting of “Dr. Hunter’s Spaniels” at Hunter House. Dr. William Hunter was a physician and apothecary who served as a surgeon in the Revolutionary War, though he was a supporter of the British Crown; he died in 1777.
☞ The Elms kitchen is featured several times in the episode.
☞ Table settings: the English way vs. Service a la Francais vs. Service a la Russe vs. the new American way. This was a true distinction of taste in the era as it employed different types of flatware, plates, serving dishes, serving styles and even furniture in the newly established, purpose-built dining room in such houses.
☞ Ward McAllister’s 400, the list of social elites, is mentioned for the first time.
☞ George “Jay” Gould (1864-1923) is mentioned by Mr. Russell as a major player in the railroad industry; however, he was never accepted into society, partially for the reasons the Russells encounter (new money) but also due to long-established antisemitism. The house he built at 857 Fifth Avenue eventually became the home of Alice Vanderbilt after she sold the palatial 1 West 57th Street.
☞ Consuelo Vanderbilt’s bedroom in Marble House again is featured as Mr. Russell’s bedroom (see Episode 1).
☞ The art collection of the Scott family has many romantic American landscapes. While none are immediately identifiable, one of the most well-known and Newport-connected African-American landscape artists of the Gilded Age period was Edward Bannister (1828-1901), who painted the shorelines of Rhode Island, including Newport. His works are in the collections of the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He resided in Providence, R.I., with his wife.
☞ Mrs. Henry Schermerhorn, who had a box at the Academy of Music in which Mr. Raikes was a guest, is not a real historical figure but the surname comes from a prominent and wealthy New York family. Edmund Henry Schermerhorn (1815-1891) was the original builder of Chepstow and cousin to Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, portrayed in the show.
In 1882, Marian arrives at the home of her “old money” aunts Agnes and Ada, whose new neighbors vie to break into New York high society.
Marian receives a visit from Tom Raikes, whose legal advice Peggy seeks. The Russells take center stage at a charity bazaar.
George faces a surprise development. Marian sees Mr. Raikes against Agnes’ wishes. Ada runs into an old friend. Peggy gets an opportunity.
Bertha, Marian, Aurora, and Peggy make an overnight trip to see Clara Barton speak. Gladys’ desired beau is invited to dinner.
Mr. McAllister’s visit to the Russells shakes the aunts’ household. George aims to control the narrative. Marian considers her feelings.
As a historic moment captures the city, Agnes vows to protect her family’s reputation, while Larry’s career plans rub George the wrong way.
Peggy reveals the truth about her past, while George’s day in court arrives, and Marian considers her romantic future.
Marian’s grand plan is threatened. Bertha and Mrs. Astor lock horns over Gladys’ debut. Peggy is stunned by a major reveal.
Agnes shares news of her nephew Dashiell's imminent arrival in New York. Bertha decides to back the new Metropolitan Opera House.
Kingscote makes its debut as the home of widow Blane, with whom Larry starts an affair. Peggy is welcomed back to the van Rhijn house by almost everyone. Oscar's hopes are dashed, while Marian fends off a suitor.
A surprising guest attends Bertha's fundraiser and starts trouble. Larry begins renovations at Mrs. Blane’s house, aka Kingscote. Peggy presses her editor to let her go to Tuskegee. Oscar Wilde charms society, but his play does not.
Bertha angles for position with the visiting Duke of Buckingham. With Marian’s help, Ada continues to see Mr. Forte. Peggy travels to Alabama and meets Booker T. Washington. Mr. Russell is confronted by angry critics of his labor practices.
The Marble House Dining Room is the setting for Bertha Russell’s dinner for the Duke of Buckingham. Peggy narrowly escapes danger in Alabama. Ada’s engagement causes conflict between her and Agnes.
Bertha’s opera house project is far from harmonious. George goes to Pittsburgh to deal with a potential strike by his steel mill workers. Peggy takes up the cause of schooling for Black children in New York City.
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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