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50 States, Day 165

  50 States, Day 165, Newport, 5 Miles
"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers."

Yep. 5 miles. The weather looked to be wet today with a light rain on the scooter (parked it under a tree, very nice), so we elected to ride to the Visitor Center and take a bus on a mansion tour. Great day to walk through other people's marble.
The first mansion-excuse me-'cottage', that's what they call them, 'The Breakers,' was a 70 room 120,000 plus square foot summer place for the Vanderbilts. Commodore Vanderbilt made a ton of money in railroads, and then his son doubled it to around 70 billion dollars in today's money. With a truckload of cash, they built the place, with 50 foot Great Hall and a Morning Room trimmed with platinum and gold leaf. My, oh, my. Forty people worked all summer to keep the place and the people clicking along like a locomotive. Sorry, I just had to use a train analogy. 

Not only was the house a piece of Renaissance art, the art was too. Paintings seven feet tall adorned the walls. The residents hosted parties, trying to out 'over the top' their neighbors with thirty thousand dollar affairs, half a dozen every summer, with up to 400 guests.
Alva Vanderbilt became a huge spokeswoman for Women's Suffrage. So she found somewhere to pour her time and energy. Besides the parties.

We jumped on the bus and stepped into Rosecliff, a house-sorry, cottage built with more of a French flair, with a huge 2,200 s.f. ballroom so when you dance you don't get crowded. The money behind this house was Tessie Oelrichs, of Comstock lode fame. Her family mined the biggest silver reserves in the world, in Nevada. This girl liked to party. And, way cool, you can too. Want to host a wedding here? Prices start at 20 grand. But to see a bride come down the Grand Staircase would be worth it. Not to host the party, but to be a guest.  

After the Gilded Age came to an end (thanks to income taxes), the houses fell out of vogue and, at one point, Rosecliff sold for $21,000. The buyer left the heat off, the water pipes broke, and what a mess. Another man bought it, had it rebuilt, and on his way to visit it, died in a car crash. The last people, the Monroes of New Orleans, lived in it from the forties to the sixties, finally donating to the historical society.
Edward Berwind built The Elms, a thoroughly modern house complete with electricity in 1901. This joint has art. Huge Venetian paintings, a set of six (two are at large, actually, sold at auction) hang on the walls, sixteen feet by sixteen feet. The supplies for the house came through a back way with a tree covering so the house seemed to magically just have everything it needed.
A few interesting tidbits:
A woman could change clothes as much as seven times a day. God forbid she wore the same Afternoon Outfit as the Morning One. And tea, walks, tennis, golf or swimming demanded costume changes. And, of course, evening wear.
Dad and Mom slept in separate rooms, as she could entertain other women in her bedroom during the day. Heaven forbid Pops came in, right?
Almost all the families treated their staff well. And they called them staff, not servants. And if you worked for them, you had a huge leg up on your resume.
The yard people got the lawn ship-shape so the owners' footprints were the first ones on the grass.
A couple of party notes: Without easy electricity, how does one light the lawn for the party? Parked ships near shore aimed their searchlights at the yard.
You never come to a dinner late, or early. Right on time. Late was rude, early was...uncomfortable.
Whenever you came to visit, you brought your calling card and presented it to the butler. He would take it to the footman who brought it to whoever on a silver tray. We still keep this tradition at our house, don't you?
A fascinating tour, excellent and compelling exploration. The tours are audio tours, with headphones and a receiver so each person can go at their own pace, and punch in options if you'd like more information or want to take your time. We punched them all.
Back on the bus, a dinner which QG will highlight, and a dry ride back to the 6.

And now, richer in spirit than the Vanderbilts, Quilter Girl!
It was a blessing to have the bus to take us to all the houses so we didn't have to hassle with raingear, taking it off and putting it on at every stop.  We were about to hop on the bike to find some dinner when a man who was getting into a nearby car asked us if we needed any help.  We asked him for advice on where to eat and he started naming restaurants and pubs.  It was awesome.  He finally told us about one that was only two blocks away, a reasonable distance for our tired feet.  We splashed through the puddles, across the street and down a row of shops in an alley the bus driver had called 'Bloody Alley' for the rough bars that used to be in the area.  

Across another narrow street to the yellow and white awnings of the Brick Street Pub.  It was a great place, every inch of wall covered with-you know, stuff.  There was even a soapbox derby car hanging from the ceiling. It was hard to choose from the 6 page menu, but Kevin picked the Hot Buffalo Pasta and I had Teriyaki Chicken.  We both had trips to the soup/salad/bread bar along with the entree to start.  It is hard to fault a salad that you make yourself!  The food came and it was delicious. My chicken was tender and moist with extra teriyaki sauce on the top.  Kevin's pasta was as hot as advertised, just the thing to take the chill off the day.  The only bad part was the bill, but we did roll out of the restaurant quite full.  This is truly a wonderful town and we will do more exploring tomorrow.  

A few more mansions and weather permitting, Newport touring. See you then.

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