It’s Memorial Day, and I’m with my daughter in Newport, Rhode Island, where ironically I discovered a family tie to Newport more than 200-years-old. Have you heard of Oliver Hazard Perry, the Naval Commodore who successfully fought the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812? A statue in his honor stands in a central park in Newport, and his family gravesite (photo below) is just down Farewell Street from my daughter’s house.
I got curious about our family ancestry when I found some intriguing papers in my mother’s files after her death last year. I learned that my paternal grandfather was raised by his grandmother, Virginia Theresa Perry, after his mother died young. Virginia told stories about her famous cousin Oliver Hazard Perry. When I began to read about OHP, my research put the spotlight on Newport, and I was able to learn even more on a visit to the Newport Historical Society.
But enough about me and the Counselman family from Baltimore. So many of us Americans have descended from the pilgrims who braved the seas and landed in New England. Or perhaps your family came from Africa or a more recent immigration. We must honor today all the brave men and women who did their part, large and small, in forming and preserving this “land of the free and home of the brave.”
Soon after I flew home from the Wild West of Wyoming, I found myself booking a flight to Rhode Island to help out with the grandchildren. I can’t say no to an invitation like that! In fact, I got myself to Newport a day early so I could visit a few of the historic mansions built by American Industrialists at the turn of the century (c. 1900).
Rosecliff is a gleaming white mansion inspired by Le Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s private retreat in the gardens of Versailles, near Paris, France. Silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs commissioned architect Stanford White to design and build Rosecliff in 1899. It was completed in 1902 and was often the setting for lavish parties. This elegant home has a grand ballroom in its center that spills out to a grassy lawn, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You may recognize it as the setting for the movie The Great Gatsby. If you are very fortunate, you may have attended a wedding reception here.
I found it interesting to learn that the exterior may look like white marble, but it is actually made of white ceramic, which was made more quickly and economically in molds.
This weekend, I’ll have the opportunity to compare Rosecliff with its inspiration, Le Petit Trianon in France, as I am currently visiting France and hope to tour Versailles this weekend.
If you are interested in touring Rosecliff or other properties like the Breakers, The Elms, or Marble House, refer to the Newport Mansions website for hours and admission fees.
The historic Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island celebrate Christmas with old world charm. At Marble House, Christmas trees adorn every room. Yesterday, even Santa Claus arrived to meet the children.
You may also tour the upstairs bedrooms, the living room and the kitchen at Marble House. If you have time, be sure to visit the Breakers and Rosecliff, or six others! You will need a week to see them all and to walk the Cliff Walk while you learn about the Gilded Age of American history.
Fog is hard to predict, but it can help you make some unique photographs. On Sunday, fog was literally rolling in off the ocean like smoke pluming from a major wildfire. You could see fog billowing past buildings, but you could not see the ocean. God giveth and He taketh away.
In this photo of the entrance to the Breakers, the Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, fog worked hand-in-hand with depth of field to enshroud the background — the monumental building and allow me to feature the color and detail of the foreground lamp, to illustrate the artisanship of the late 19 century.
There is so much detail to take note of as soon as you enter the Breakers: colored and carved marble, ruby red drapes and a three-story great hall, enormous and elaborate chandeliers, and more. Perhaps that is why I enjoy this very simple image just before entering.