Christmas at the Newport (Rhode Island) Mansions

Scenes from the Gilded Age at the Newport Mansions [Photo Gallery] No expense was spared in the luxurious homes of Newport's affluent. Catch a glmpse of these opulent mansions in festive Christmas decorations. | Newport | Rhode Island | New England | USA #travel

The Newport Mansions at Christmas

Scenes from the Gilded Age

A visit to Newport, Rhode Island is incomplete without seeing the Newport Mansions at Christmas. There are ten incredible estates that The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains year round. Guests may explore independently or follow guided tours by headset.

Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months.

Their lifestyle was supported by behind-the-scene efforts of a large domestic staff catering to their every need. Tours showcasing little seen servant areas (“Beneath the Breakers“) and servant stories (“Servant Life“) give fascinating detail. (Tip: These tours are on a limited basis, so I recommend getting tickets in advance.)

Holiday evenings at the mansions are alive with entertainment, complete with Christmas Carolers, Dinner Dances, Nutcracker Performances, and Bands of the era.

I’ve toured the mansions on several occasions (they are a little more than an hour from my hometown), but this was the first time I visited the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed. The mansions are beautifully decked out for the holidays through January 1st. (Photo Gallery follows.)

The Breakers

The Breakers was the Vanderbilt family’s summer “cottage,” located in Newport, Rhode Island. It is considered the most grand of the Newport mansions. The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County.

The Breakers - Newport RI | Resplendent with marble, gilded walls, architectural craftsmanship and an impressive art collection, The Breakers itself occupies about 1-acre, and is situated upon a 14-acre property with waterfront views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a throw back to a grand time, indeed — the magnificent Gilded Age!
The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a house museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Resplendent with marble, gilded walls, architectural craftsmanship and an impressive art collection, The Breakers itself occupies about 1-acre, and is situated upon a 14-acre property with waterfront views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a throw back to a grand time, indeed — the magnificent Gilded Age!
The Breakers - Newport RI | The wrought iron gates welcoming guests to The Breakers are tastefully decorated with wreaths for the holiday season. The gates, weighing 5,000 pounds each, are works of art in themselves, topped by an ornate crown piece. They were recently restored to their original grandeur.
The wrought iron gates welcoming guests to The Breakers are tastefully decorated with wreaths for the holiday season. The gates, weighing 5,000 pounds each, are works of art in themselves, topped by an ornate crown piece. They were recently restored to their original grandeur.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Four immense chandeliers adorn The Grand Hall of The Breakers mansion. They are suspended from soaring ceilings and flanked by layers of gilded crown molding. It’s easy to imagine the hundreds of elegant guests gathering here for one of the Vanderbilts’ large parties.
Four immense chandeliers adorn The Grand Hall of The Breakers mansion. They are suspended from soaring ceilings and flanked by layers of gilded crown molding. It’s easy to imagine the hundreds of elegant guests gathering here for one of the Vanderbilts’ large parties.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A bronze cherub is poised beside a soaring tree made of poinsettias in the Great Hall of The Breakers Newport mansion.
A bronze cherub is poised beside a soaring tree made of poinsettias in the Great Hall of The Breakers Newport mansion.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A vintage angel heralds the Christmas Season atop one of many festive fireplace mantels at The Breakers.
A vintage angel heralds the Christmas Season atop one of many festive fireplace mantels at The Breakers.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Vibrant holiday decorations surround the Campan marble fireplace of the gilded Music Room, once used for recitals and dances.
Vibrant holiday decorations surround the Campan marble fireplace of the gilded Music Room, once used for recitals and dances.

One Mansion, Thirty Christmas Trees!

Opposite the fireplace, the Music Room is aglow for the holidays, complete with a red-themed Christmas tree.
The Breakers - Newport RI | Festive glass ornaments and other baubles adorn one of thirty magnificent Christmas trees during the holidays at The Breakers mansion.
Festive glass ornaments and other baubles adorn one of thirty magnificent Christmas trees during the holidays at The Breakers mansion.
The Breakers - Newport RI | The Dining Room of The Breakers features twelve Corinthian columns, 18-, 22-, and 24-karat gilded walls, and an elaborate ceiling fresco. Two baccarat crystal chandeliers shimmer from above. Surely more than a few elite and famous guests have dined in the opulence of this majestic room.
The Dining Room of The Breakers features twelve Corinthian columns, 18-, 22-, and 24-karat gilded walls, and an elaborate ceiling fresco. Two baccarat crystal chandeliers shimmer from above. Surely more than a few elite and famous guests have dined in the opulence of this majestic room.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A vintage stuffed horse and an old-fashioned Saint Nicholas at The Breaks bring good cheer to children visiting The Newport Mansions at Christmas.
A vintage stuffed horse and an old-fashioned Saint Nicholas at The Breaks bring good cheer to children visiting The Newport Mansions at Christmas.

Luxury Lifestyle

The Breakers - Newport RI | Mr. Vanderbilt’s stately bedroom on the second floor of The Breakers, his summer “cottage,” no doubt offered a comfortable repose at day’s end.
Mr. Vanderbilt’s stately bedroom on the second floor of The Breakers, his summer “cottage,” no doubt offered a comfortable repose at day’s end.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A luxurious bathtub at The Breakers, carved from a single slab of marble and weighing almost one ton, offered the ultimate in relaxation. Four spigots ran hot and cold salt and fresh water. The salt water was piped in from the Atlantic Ocean and considered therapeutic.
A luxurious bathtub at The Breakers, carved from a single slab of marble and weighing almost one ton, offered the ultimate in relaxation. Four spigots ran hot and cold salt and fresh water. The salt water was piped in from the Atlantic Ocean and considered therapeutic.
The Breakers - Newport RI | The rear facing rooms of The Breakers Newport mansion offers views of the manicured property leading up to the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliff Walk follows the perimeter, dividing the two.
The rear facing rooms of The Breakers Newport mansion offers views of the manicured property leading up to the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliff Walk follows the perimeter, dividing the two.

Behind the Scenes

The Breakers - Newport RI | Diffused light pours through grand windows of the hallway leading into the kitchen of The Breakers. One assumes this area was frequented by staff alone, but with such exquisite woodwork and turned rails, who would mind?
Diffused light pours through grand windows of the hallway leading into the kitchen of The Breakers. One assumes this area was frequented by staff alone, but with such exquisite woodwork and turned rails, who would mind?
The Breakers - Newport RI | Heavy copper pots gleam in the spacious kitchen of The Breakers, where scenes from the original <a href="http://amzn.to/2ktO6yy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Great Gatsby</a> movie were filmed. (In fact, several movies were shot at The Breakers.) Outfitted with a massive 21 foot (6.4 m) cast iron stove fueled by a coal, a zinc workspace, and a large marble mortar, one can imagine the kitchen bustling with activity in order to satisfy the Vanderbilts and their guests.
Heavy copper pots gleam in the spacious kitchen of The Breakers, where scenes from the original Great Gatsby movie were filmed. (In fact, several movies were shot at The Breakers.) Outfitted with a massive 21 foot (6.4 m) cast iron stove fueled by a coal, a zinc workspace, and a large marble mortar, one can imagine the kitchen bustling with activity in order to satisfy the Vanderbilts and their guests.
The Breakers - Newport RI | A tray of expertly decorated sugar cookies are strewn with red ribbon by the Pastry Chef and ready to be hung on a Christmas tree. I bet they’re delicious!
A tray of expertly decorated sugar cookies are strewn with red ribbon by the Pastry Chef and ready to be hung on a Christmas tree. I bet they’re delicious!

Rosecliff Mansion

Architecturally inspired by The Grand Trianon (the garden retreat at Versailles commissioned by Louis XIV), Newport’s Rosecliff mansion is on a smaller scale yet no less grand.

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The entryway of Rosecliff features an open-air colonnade, paired ionic columns, second story pilasters, and a roofline balustrade.
The entryway of Rosecliff features an open-air colonnade, paired ionic columns, second story pilasters, and a roofline balustrade.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | An elegant stairway sweeps upward into a heart shaped opening at Rosecliff. This space catered to elite social gatherings in its hayday, as fictionally depicted in scenes from the original <a href="http://amzn.to/2ktO6yy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Great Gatsby</a> and other movies. Today, Rosecliff continues to serve beautifully as an upscale wedding venue.
An elegant stairway sweeps upward into a heart shaped opening at Rosecliff. This space catered to elite social gatherings in its hayday, as fictionally depicted in scenes from the original Great Gatsby and other movies. Today, Rosecliff continues to serve beautifully as an upscale wedding venue.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | This curvaceous stairway as seen from the landing above is an elegant combination of art and engineering!
This curvaceous stairway as seen from the landing above is an elegant combination of art and engineering!

Largest Private Ballroom in Newport, RI

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Rosecliff is home to Newport's largest private Ballroom, at 40 x 80 feet. With two massive chandeliers suspended from a coffered ceiling, gleaming wood floors, a gothic fireplace, and a string of arch-headed windows overlooking the front gardens, it's simply magnificent. And, did I mention the 8-acre manicured property offers stunning ocean views of the Atlantic Ocean? Yup, fairytale wedding venue, for sure.
Rosecliff is home to Newport’s largest private Ballroom, at 40 x 80 feet. With two massive chandeliers suspended from a coffered ceiling, gleaming wood floors, a gothic fireplace, and a string of arch-headed windows overlooking the front gardens, it’s simply magnificent. And, did I mention the 8-acre manicured property offers stunning ocean views of the Atlantic Ocean? Yup, fairytale wedding venue, for sure.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Natural light pours into the Ballroom through large windows, which give view to the lush formal gardens gracing the entrance. On the opposite side of the Ballroom, more windows overlook the adjacent canopied terrace. Steps lead from there down to the back grounds overlooking the Atlantic ocean beyond.
Natural light pours into the Ballroom through large windows, which give view to the lush formal gardens gracing the entrance. On the opposite side of the Ballroom, more windows overlook the adjacent canopied terrace. Steps lead from there down to the back grounds overlooking the Atlantic ocean beyond.

Hers & His

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The Salon, decorated with a lighted Christmas tree amidst French Renaissance decor, was a comfortable receiving area for the lady of the house's guests. Here, a working, carved Gothic fireplace provided ambiance as well as heat in addition to the mansion's central heating. A large portrait of the home's hostess, Theresa "Tessi" Oelrichs, oversees the room.
The Salon, decorated with a lighted Christmas tree amidst French Renaissance decor, was a comfortable receiving area for the lady of the house’s guests. Here, a working, carved Gothic fireplace provided ambiance as well as heat in addition to the mansion’s central heating. A large portrait of the home’s hostess, Theresa “Tessi” Oelrichs, oversees the room.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | The rich woodwork and masculine decor of this room were intended for the gentlemen of Rosecliff mansion. A model ship and fine art collection might have been worthy discussion pieces while enjoying the finest of cigars.
The rich woodwork and masculine decor of this room were intended for the gentlemen of Rosecliff mansion. A model ship and fine art collection might have been worthy discussion pieces while enjoying the finest of cigars.

Relaxing in Style

Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | A gilded desk occupies a corner of this spacious bedroom, one of three located on the second floor of Rosecliff mansion. Each bedroom is filled with lovely furniture, artifacts of the day, and fine art. As a writer, no doubt I could become well acquainted with this inviting creative space.
A gilded desk occupies a corner of this spacious bedroom, one of three located on the second floor of Rosecliff mansion. Each bedroom is filled with lovely furniture, artifacts of the day, and fine art. As a writer, no doubt I could become well acquainted with this inviting creative space.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Vintage books--one with a marbled edge--are stacked and ready for the bedroom guest's repose.
Vintage books–one with a marbled edge–are stacked and ready for the bedroom guest’s repose.
Rosecliff Mansion - Newport RI | Perhaps a tasty nightcap before retiring? Every amenity is covered in this lavish bedroom retreat.
Perhaps a tasty nightcap before retiring? Every amenity is covered in this lavish bedroom retreat.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. It put me in a festive spirit!

What is your favorite tidbit of information about the Newport Mansions and/or life in The Gilded Age? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me. I’d love to hear from you.

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22 thoughts on “Christmas at the Newport (Rhode Island) Mansions

  • December 24, 2017 at 7:51 pm
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    These are just gorgeous! I’m a bit of a fan when it comes to European castles and chateaux so of course these stunning buildings caught my attention straight away. They do remind me of the big mansions that appear on american tv shows (like Revenge!) ….noble families having such incredible homes in their families for generations. I think the Breakers is the one I love the most but would happily spend time in all of them. I had no idea that they were in existence so really enjoyed reading all about them. Your photos brought them to life!

    Reply
    • December 28, 2017 at 3:20 am
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      Thanks, Kerri! If you like castles and homes of nobility, these mansions are right up your alley. It would be hard to see all 10 of them in a day, but worth the trip back or an extended stay. They were especially nice during the holiday.

      Reply
  • December 25, 2017 at 9:53 am
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    These places look incredible, like from a Victorian Christmas tale! But honestly – I think that your way of presenting them in your great pictures adds even more beauty to it – wonderful, puts me in the mood…

    Reply
    • December 28, 2017 at 3:21 am
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      What a lovely thing to say, Renata. Thank you very much! I truly appreciate it, and so glad you enjoyed my post.

      Reply
  • December 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm
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    The house museum looks so handsome on the outside. Couple that with the tall iron gate and you’ve got a remarkably European atmosphere. 🙂

    Reply
    • December 28, 2017 at 3:24 am
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      It does have a very European feel, certainly aristocratic! I’d say the architects were spot on in drawing inspiration from their European counterparts…

      Reply
  • December 27, 2017 at 9:37 pm
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    That’s fascinating to me on more than one level. The house itself is wonderful, and how lovely to see it wearing its seasonal garb. My grandfather did some work for the Vanderbilts and received as a token of thanks a coffee pot bearing their crest. I wonder if he ever stood in some of those beautiful rooms.

    Reply
    • December 28, 2017 at 3:27 am
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      That’s a very interesting connection, Bernie! What a nice gesture of appreciation. If your grandfather worked with the Vanderbilts over the summer months, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear he was at The Breakers.

      Reply
  • December 28, 2017 at 4:49 am
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    Wow! This is simply stunning. The dining room is just so grand. I have always loved castles and mansions etc. I found the houses and the history’s of nobles so interesting. The ones I can across is Scotland were mesmerising but not quite as grand as this place. I also love the touch of Christmas everywhere!

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:48 pm
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      Scotland is on my bucket list, Helena! Are there any castles or mansions you recommend?

      Reply
  • December 28, 2017 at 5:03 am
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    Rhode Island is one of the eastern states I have not been to, so a visit is long overdue. Going during the holidays to tour all these fantastic mansions would be so fun. I already love visiting historic homes and learning about their owners and history and see them all festive would be a great way to get in the holiday spirit.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm
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      Lara, this was an excellent way to “get my Christmas on!” For the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island offers quite a bit. If you happen to be out this way and are looking for ideas, drop me a note. I’d be happy to make some suggestions.

      Reply
  • December 28, 2017 at 9:03 pm
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    Wow! So luxurious and decadent and the Christmas decorations elevate it even more! I’m so impressed by all of the details in each room, and how each one has its own unique charm.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:44 pm
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      Christina, you are so right. Each room does have it’s own unique charm, both architecturally and in terms of decor. And, the photos I posted are only a small sampling of the 70 rooms of The Breakers mansion!

      Reply
  • December 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm
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    I would love to visit Newport, Rhode Island, especially during the Christmas season to see the Newport Mansions all decorated, I can’t believe that there are ten estates. I can’t believe that the Breakers Mansion was a holiday home. My favourite especially with that the Dining Room is stunning, I would easily just get lost in this room.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:41 pm
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      With so many rooms, it wouldn’t be hard to get lost anywhere in the breakers. LOL. Can you imagine, The Breakers was a “summer cottage”? Now that’s luxury.

      Reply
  • December 29, 2017 at 4:57 pm
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    Wow, this looks like such a luxurious and decadent place, wonderful!r

    Reply
  • December 30, 2017 at 9:58 am
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    What a great idea for a New England getaway! My best friend is from Rhode Island and it’s just stunning there in the fall, but now your pictures make me want to go back and visit in the winter 🙂

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:39 pm
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      We are often in Newport during the summer for the beaches. (Great waves!) This was definitely a new way to enjoy one of my favorite destinations in the off-season.

      Reply
  • December 31, 2017 at 2:37 am
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    The Christmas decor in this place with the architecture.. I am in heaven. I want to design my house like this lol! I will definitely have to check it out if I am ever in the area. It sounds like you had an amazing time!

    Reply
    • January 8, 2018 at 1:38 pm
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      I did have an amazing time! I hope you have a chance to check it out sometime, Bailey. If you love beautiful architecture, you won’t be disappointed!

      Reply

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