Are you hooked on the new TV drama, “The Gilded Age”? It’s a fascinating watch with lavish set pieces, sumptuous costumes, and stunning scenery.
But as you watch, you might be wondering: what’s the REAL history here?
The Gilded Age refers to a period between the American Civil War and the turn of the 20th century. Before that, all wealth was pretty much inherited. Either you were born into a wealthy family, or you weren’t. But in the late 1800s, America’s Industrial Revolution had created a brand-new batch of ultra-rich millionaires. Railroad tycoons and coal magnates suddenly became the most powerful class in society.
Nothing represents the Gilded Age better than the Newport Mansions. The nouveau riche families retreated from the city to the scenic coast of Newport to spend their fortunes on vacation homes. These mansions are defined by two things: extreme opulence and unbridled excess.
Traverse the grounds just like a nouveau riche.
This self-guided Newport Cliff Walk tour is a perfect way to learn about the Gilded Age. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side the magnificent mansions on the other, you’re surrounded by beauty!
Let me give you a glimpse at a few of the mansions you’ll see on the Cliff Walk:
- The Breakers, home to the Vanderbilt family, are named for the waves breaking on the shore. It’s the largest of Newport’s summer homes, clocking in at 125,000 square feet!
- Rosecliff, a gorgeous white mansion with an extraordinary outdoor garden and fountains. Look familiar? The style was modeled after Versailles! Back in the Gilded Age, Rosecliff was known for hosting the most extravagant dinner parties around.
- Beechwood belongs to the ultra-wealthy Astor family. Their monopoly on the international fur trade made them the very first multimillionaires in America. The Beechwood ballroom can accommodate 400 guests, which is a LOT of dancing!
In between stops, you’ll hear all about the culture of the wealthy elite in the early 1900s. Learn about high-society banquets, turn-of-the-century fashion trends, and the ins and outs of ballroom etiquette. It wasn’t all leisure; the ladies who lived here often used their free time to fight for women’s right to vote!
Step inside and step back in time!
The Elms, The Breakers, Marble House, and Rosecliff are open for tours. This is your chance to immerse yourself in history with a Newport Mansion tour. The narration borrows from actual journals and correspondence of those who lived here to deliver an account from their point of view. It’s an exciting way to learn about magnificent homes from a primary source. Even a children’s version of the tour is designed for younger listeners. You’ve never heard of history like this! Click here for more information and to download the tour.
Want to see more than mansions?
Take a drive around Newport! This Newport driving tour will take you around the entire town to catch you up on what the town is like today.
- Check out the Audrain Auto Museum, a must-see for any car enthusiast.
- Hear why prankster James Gordan Bennett Jr. started his very own social club, the Newport Casino.
- See original Leyendecker and Rockwell artwork at the National Museum of American Illustration.
- Learn about Doris Duke, the 12-year-old girl who inherited the Rough Point mansion from the founder of the American Tobacco Company.
Hop in the car for a luxurious vacation!
If The Gilded Age has inspired you to learn more about the era, you can’t do better than a day trip to Newport. Immerse yourself in the lavish wealth of the nouveau riche and pretend to be an affluent industrialist for a day!
Enjoy your trip to Newport!