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The Story of The Elms: Newport’s Treasure

Last Updated on January 21, 2024


The Elms, in Newport, Rhode Island, showcases the opulence and architectural grandeur of the Gilded Age at its heart.

In 1901, coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind commissioned this iconic mansion, witnessing Newport’s history and embodying the city’s elegance.

The Elms is a prime example of the Beaux-Arts architecture that defined the turn of the 20th century.

Horace Trumbauer, a prominent architect, designed the mansion with a striking façade, adorned in intricate detailing and classical elements.

The estate sprawls across 39,000 square feet, showcasing landscaped gardens, fountains, and a sunken garden, enhancing its allure.

The Elms transcends its role as a mere architectural marvel; it is a living chronicle of Newport’s past.

The Elms, a grand summer cottage defining the Gilded Age elite’s retreat, shaped Newport’s cultural landscape significantly.

The mansion hosted lavish soirées and extravagant gatherings that brought together the crème de la crème of American society.

Furthermore, The Elms holds historical significance as the stage for diplomatic events during World War II.

The Free French Naval Forces headquarters resided in the property, marking its historic significance in global history.

Delving deeper into The Elms’ past reveals architectural marvels, vibrant personalities gracing its halls, and its enduring legacy shaping Newport’s cultural tapestry.

Historical Background of The Elms

Construction and Architectural Style

Nestled amidst the opulent landscapes of Newport, The Elms stands as an architectural masterpiece, a testament to the Gilded Age’s grandeur.

Constructed between 1899 and 1901, this sprawling mansion was designed by Horace Trumbauer, a prominent architect known for his contributions to the Beaux-Arts style.

The Elms, with its symmetrical facade, colossal columns, and intricate detailing, showcases the epitome of elegance that defined the architecture of its time.

The mansion’s interiors are a marvel, adorned with handcrafted woodwork, ornate plaster ceilings, and imported marbles, all reflecting the affluence and sophistication of the era.

Original Owner and Significance

The Elms was commissioned by Edward Julius Berwind, a coal magnate whose wealth allowed him to indulge in the extravagance of Newport’s high society.

Berwind, with an affinity for European aesthetics, spared no expense in creating a residence that mirrored the grand châteaux of France.

The mansion served as a summer retreat for the Berwind family, providing a lavish backdrop for entertaining the social elite.

The significance of The Elms extends beyond its architectural brilliance; it encapsulates the aspirations and lifestyle of America’s industrial tycoons during the Gilded Age.

The opulence displayed within its walls reflects the social stratification of the time, where the elite sought to outshine one another through grand residences, creating a visual spectacle that still captivates visitors today.

Role in the Gilded Age of Newport

During the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island, became the playground of the wealthy elite, and The Elms emerged as a focal point of this extravagant social scene.

Lavish soirées and elaborate gatherings hosted within its grand halls were symbolic of the excesses and ostentation that defined the era.

The mansion, surrounded by meticulously manicured gardens, became a stage for the elite to flaunt their wealth and social standing.

The Elms, with its rich history and architectural splendor, stands as a time capsule, offering a glimpse into the bygone era of unparalleled opulence.

As visitors wander through its halls and gardens, they are transported to a period when the pursuit of luxury and social prominence was at its zenith, leaving an indelible mark on the legacy of Newport’s architectural treasures.

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The Elms as a Treasure

Grandeur and opulence of the mansion’s interior

The interior of The Elms is a true testament to grandeur and opulence. Every room exudes elegance and sophistication.

The entrance hall greets visitors with its exquisite marble and mosaic floor, ornate ceiling, and stunning chandeliers.

The drawing room is adorned with intricate woodwork, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, and luxurious silk draperies.

The dining room features a beautifully set table with fine china, silverware, and crystal glasses, fit for a lavish feast.

The library is a book lover’s paradise, with floor-to-ceiling shelves housing rare and valuable books from around the world.

The ballroom is the epitome of grandeur, with its polished wood floors, decorative pillars, and stunning crystal chandeliers.

Each room is meticulously decorated with period furniture, exquisite artwork, and delicate tapestries that transport visitors to a bygone era.

Exquisite gardens and landscape design

The Elms is not only renowned for its magnificent mansion but also for its breathtaking gardens and landscape design.

The garden showcases a variety of plants and flowers, carefully arranged to create a stunning display of colors and fragrances.

Visitors can take leisurely strolls along the meticulously manicured paths, enjoying the peaceful ambiance and picturesque views.

The garden also features several fountains, adding a touch of elegance and tranquility to the overall design.

The landscape design seamlessly integrates the mansion with nature, creating a harmonious and visually striking environment.

Unique features and artifacts showcased at The Elms

The Elms is not just a stunning mansion and garden; it also houses an impressive collection of unique features and artifacts.

One of the standout features is the underground hydraulic system that operated the mansion’s central heating and elevators.

Visitors can marvel at the precision engineering and innovative technology that was ahead of its time.

The mansion also houses an extensive collection of art, including paintings, sculptures, and tapestries from renowned artists.

One notable artifact is the impressive Gilded Age silver collection, featuring intricately designed tea sets, candelabras, and serving trays.

Another unique feature is the Chinese Tea House, a charming pavilion situated in the garden, providing a tranquil retreat for visitors.

These unique features and artifacts add depth and historical significance to The Elms, making it a true treasure in Newport.

Visiting The Elms is like stepping back in time, experiencing the lavish lifestyle of the Gilded Age elite.

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Preservation Efforts

Challenges Faced in Preserving The Elms Over the Years

The challenges faced in preserving The Elms over the years have been significant.

Limited funding has remained a consistent obstacle, inhibiting the necessary maintenance and restoration work.

As one of Newport’s grandest mansions, The Elms has stood the test of time, but its age and deterioration present ongoing challenges.

A delicate balance exists between preserving historical authenticity and adapting to modern requirements.

While restoring and maintaining the mansion’s architectural elements is crucial, necessary updates such as electrical and plumbing systems must be implemented.

This balancing act ensures that The Elms can be appreciated by future generations without compromising safety and functionality.

Moreover, the preservation of The Elms holds immense historical significance and cultural importance.

Its architectural grandeur, adorned with exquisite details, offers a glimpse into the opulence of the era.

Historical Significance and Cultural Importance of Preserving the Mansion

Preserving The Elms provides a tangible connection to Newport’s past, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the social, economic, and cultural context of the time.

By safeguarding this historical gem, future generations can appreciate and learn from the rich heritage of Newport and its role in shaping American history.

Several organizations and individuals are involved in the ongoing preservation work.

The Preservation Society of Newport County spearheads the efforts, overseeing restoration projects and ensuring the mansion’s long-term survival.

Their dedicated team of experts, including architects, artisans, and conservators, employs their specialized skills to execute the restoration work with precision and care.

The financial support provided by donors and philanthropists is vital.

Their generosity allows for the completion of restoration projects and funds ongoing maintenance to safeguard The Elms for years to come.

The commitment of these individuals demonstrates their recognition of the mansion’s historical and cultural significance.

Additionally, skilled craftsmen are essential to the preservation efforts.

Their expertise in historic preservation techniques and attention to detail ensures the integrity of the mansion is upheld.

From restoring delicate plasterwork to replicating intricate woodwork, these craftsmen play a crucial role in reviving The Elms to its former glory.

Organizations and Individuals Involved in the Preservation Work

Volunteers also contribute to the preservation work by offering their time and energy.

Their assistance ranges from guiding visitors through the mansion and gardens to supporting special events that promote The Elms and its historical value.

Their dedication helps create a vibrant community around the mansion and fosters a sense of ownership among locals and visitors alike.

Preserving The Elms is a collective endeavor by organizations, individuals, and the community.

With their combined efforts, the challenges can be overcome, ensuring that this architectural masterpiece continues to captivate and educate generations to come.

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The Story of The Elms: Newport's Treasure

The Elms Today

Current Ownership and Management

The Elms, one of Newport’s most treasured landmarks, is under the ownership and management of the Preservation Society of Newport County.

The society is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the historic properties of Newport, including the magnificent Elms mansion.

The Preservation Society of Newport County was founded in 1945 and has since taken on the responsibility of maintaining and operating numerous historic mansions and gardens.

The organization’s mission is to inspire an appreciation for Newport’s architectural heritage and educate visitors about the city’s rich history.

Under the society’s care, The Elms has thrived, attracting visitors from around the world who are eager to explore the grandeur of this beautiful estate.

Visitor Experience and Guided Tours

Visiting The Elms offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the opulence of Newport’s Gilded Age.

Guided tours are available to provide visitors with an in-depth exploration of the mansion and its history.

As visitors journey through the mansion’s opulent rooms, they can imagine themselves as esteemed guests of the Berwinds, the family who called The Elms home.

The highlight of the tour is undoubtedly the breathtaking gardens.

The Elms is renowned for its elaborate landscaping, featuring European-inspired terraces, fountains, and beautiful floral displays.

Visitors can stroll through the meticulously manicured grounds, taking in the serene beauty that surrounds them.

Events and Activities Held at The Elms

The Elms offers a wide range of events and activities throughout the year to enrich visitors’ experiences and promote a deeper understanding of Newport’s history.

One popular event is the Gilded Age Evening, where guests can enjoy a glamorous night reminiscent of the mansion’s heyday.

Attendees are treated to live music, dancing, and an elegant cocktail reception, all within the luxurious backdrop of The Elms.

For those interested in a more intimate setting, The Elms hosts Garden Tea Parties.

Participants can savor delectable treats while surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the gardens.

Additionally, The Elms frequently collaborates with local artists and musicians to showcase their talents.

Concerts, art exhibitions, and lectures are just a few examples of the cultural events that take place at The Elms.

The Elms not only provides a window into Newport’s history but also serves as a vibrant hub for cultural enrichment and community engagement.

In essence, The Elms continues to captivate visitors with its grandeur and rich history.

The Preservation Society of Newport County owns and manages the mansion, preserving its elegance from Newport’s Gilded Age. Visitors can immerse themselves in its well-maintained grounds.

Explore opulent rooms, stroll through magnificent gardens, and attend events at The Elms for an unforgettable Newport experience.

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Impact on Newport’s Tourism and Economy

In the heart of Newport, Rhode Island, stands a timeless masterpiece that transcends architectural beauty – The Elms.

This iconic mansion has woven itself into the very fabric of the city, leaving an indelible mark on both tourism and the local economy.

Influence of The Elms in Attracting Tourists to Newport

The Elms stands as a beacon, drawing visitors from far and wide to marvel at its Gilded Age grandeur.

The Elms has become synonymous with Newport, a key player in the city’s tourism narrative.

Tourists flock to Newport year-round to experience the magic of The Elms.

The guided tours offer an intimate view into the elite’s lives in the early 20th century. Explore lavishly decorated rooms and meticulously manicured grounds.

Economic Benefits Derived from the Mansion’s Popularity

The surge in tourist footfall has translated into substantial economic gains for Newport.

Tourists boost patronage for local businesses, exploring boutiques and cafes before and after visiting The Elms.

Moreover, the mansion’s popularity has spurred the growth of auxiliary services, such as guided tours, transportation, and hospitality.

Therefore, The Elms isn’t merely a historic mansion; it’s a dynamic force shaping Newport’s tourism and economic prosperity.

It captivates visitors’ imaginations, stimulates economic growth, and stands as a true treasure in Newport’s heart.


Concluding our exploration, we unveil The Elms’ historical significance and appreciate its architectural marvel, brimming with history.

Nestled amidst the opulent streets of Newport, The Elms stands as a testament to the Gilded Age’s grandeur.

Sprawling gardens, intricate architecture, and lavish interiors transport us to Newport’s elite playground in a bygone era.

In 1901, coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind commissioned The Elms, showcasing America’s high society prosperity and refined tastes in the early 20th century.

European art and furnishings grace the meticulously designed rooms, resonating with the grandeur favored by frequent guests, the Vanderbilts and Astors.

The Elms, with its architectural charm, recounts tales of lavish parties, grand ballroom secrets, and evolving societal norms.

Preserving The Elms is not just about safeguarding a structure; it’s about conserving a piece of Newport’s identity.

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