“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
You may remember taking a road trip with us early last fall to New England…Boston, Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. Ring a bell? After Butch carefully planned our itinerary, I realized how close we would be to Newport, RI…so I suggested we add a couple of extra days to see what it was all about! He was so sweet to agree, and we made our way over! Being the history buff that I am, I had read and been somewhat fascinated by the Gilded Age, a time in American history that saw rapid economic growth. A couple of visits to the Biltmore and a trip to Hearst Castle had piqued my interest in this era of American history. Newport was the summer playground for the wealthiest industrialists who built opulent mansions facing the sea. So of course, I had to see what this was all about We toured three of the mansions, and with Valentine’s Day on my mind, I am sharing the most romantic of all, Rosecliff. Put on your walking shoes and be ready to take in all of the eye candy!
Rosecliff was built between 1898-1902 by Nevada silver heiress, Theresa “Tessie”Fair Oelrichs and her husband, Hermann Oelrichs who was wealthy in his own right. They purchased the land in 1891 from George Bancroft, an amateur horticulturist who developed the American Beauty Rose. The flamboyant architect, Stanford White modeled the mansion after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. In 1902 upon Rosecliff’s completion, it was reported to have cost $2.5 million.
Tessie hosted some of the greatest parties of the Gilded Age at Rosecliff, a perfect stage for entertaining. Today, Rosecliff hosts countless weddings and special events bringing the romance of the Gilded Age back to life for the 21st century.
Mrs. Oelrichs hosted fabulous entertainments including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini.
Party guests were first ushered into the salon that was decorated in a French Renaissance style. The large portrait is that of Rosecliff’s hostess, Theresa ” Tessie” Oelrichs. She was born in 1870 and described as an Irish beauty. She was not a shrinking violet, nor was she demure, but she was brassy and new money. Upon her marriage to Hermann, a society figure, her father, by now a Nevada senator handed the couple a million dollar check as a wedding present to give them a proper start in society.
Although Rosecliff was built with central heating, each of the main rooms downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs also included a working fireplace. Carved French limestone makes up the base of this Gothic fireplace.
Rosecliff was built for entertaining and the grand ballroom is its heart. The ballroom occupies the center of the house opening to the ocean to the east and the gardens to the west. This is the largest single private room of any house in Newport and measures 40 feet by 80 feet. The house was used for extravagant parties and to show off their wealth.
The famous “white ball” was given by Tessie in August 1904. The invitation had strict orders that the guests were only to appear in white. She wanted guests to dress like the French court of the 18th century with the women wearing white gowns and white powdered hairstyles. The party lasted until 5 am the next morning.
When Tessie Oelrichs died in 1926, her son, Hermann Jr inherited Rosecliff. The center of the ballroom, Tessie’s elaborate social stageset, now held a ping pong table. They even used this space as their personal roller skating rink. By the 1940’s, Newport’s mansions were considered useless white elephants and too costly to maintain. Herman Jr sold Rosecliff and most of its furnishings at auction. The price for his mother’s mansion was $21,000.00.
With its wood paneled walls and low ceiling, the men would retreat to the library to smoke their cigars and get away from the ladies. Hermann Oelrichs was a spectacular athlete and a champion swimmer and I am sure that sports was a topic of conversation!
Cole Porter, Broadway composer and society darling, was often a house guest in the 1930’s. He was a good friend of Hermann Oelrichs, Jr and his wife, Dorothy. He was furnished a white piano in this upstairs sitting room and wrote the majority of “Anything Goes”. Rosecliff was the inspiration for his song, “Night and Day”. The room is used today as a consultation room for weddings and events.
This is a view of Rosecliff from the famous Bellevue Avenue. In 1974, the Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was filmed at Rosecliff with the house actually being a character in the movie. Several other movies have been filmed here, also. If you are ever in Newport, Rhode Island I encourage you to visit these beautiful mansions that take you back to another time.
Don’t forget to check out all of the Romantic Tables for Two in our Blog Hop hosted by Chloe from Celebrate & Decorate! There are endless ideas for Valentine’s Day!
Pieced Pastimes, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Coastal Charm, Dwellings-Heart of Your Home, Savvy Southern Style, French Country Cottage, Stone Gable, Confessions of a Plate Addict, Worthing Court, Between Naps on the Porch, Cedar Hill Farmhouse, A Stroll Thru Life, The Charm of Home, Katherines Corner, Share Your Cup, 21 Rosemary Lane, Love Of Home, Rattlebridge Farm, Rustic & Refined, Celebrate & Decorate