Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Architects of the Gilded Age

A firm that left a significant mark on the late-19th century American architectural landscape - and on Newport's Bellevue Avenue - was McKim, Mead & White. The company was considered the frontrunner among those practicing the Beaux-Arts style at the turn of the century.

Stanford White, one of the three principals in the firm, was the designer of Rosecliff, home of Nevada silver heiress and Gilded Age hostess Theresa Fair Oelrichs. Among White's other notable projects is the arch in New York City's Washington Square.

Built in 1899, White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. His design principles embodied the American Renaissance, a movement which espoused a return to classical architecture.

Mrs. Oelrichs was a very successful hostess in a competitive social climate, her Bal Blanc remained a legendary party long after the Gilded Age came to a close, and Rosecliff, like other houses of the period, was designed primarily for entertaining.

Scenes from several films have been shot on location here including The Great Gatsby, True Lies, Amistad and 27 Dresses.

As I said in my last post, Newport's Gilded Age gardens are comparatively modest in relation to the scale of the houses they accompany, but Rosecliff does have a pretty rose garden.

The view from the back of the house.

Two book recommendations if you are interesteded in this period of history and its architecture: McKim, Mead & White: The Masterworks and Stanford White, Architect.

Rosecliff is maintained by The Preservation Society of Newport County and opened to the public for tours. The annual Newport Flower Show, which is always a fun event, is held here in June.


  1. Rosecliff has always been my favorite of the Newport Historical Society houses. I love the location, and the indoor-outdoor connection of the house. I also love the grand architecture of the ballroom - those floors, those arched doors, the detailed moldings - it would be the perfect place for a party.

  2. Hi, Phyllis - Beautifully photographed, once again! The gardens add to the fantasy of Rosecliff and Newport. I first learned of Stanford White when I worked at the Smithsonian. His fine and important frames were favored by many artists from the Gilded Age, including Dewing and Thayer. Thank you for another gorgeous post!

  3. Those Newport cottages are amazing.
    An endangered property by Stanford White near me was recently sold and what's left of it will be restored.

  4. What an interesting and enlightening and beautiful post! It makes me wish I was taking a class on art/history appreciation again! We could all use refresher courses! Thanks so much for taking the time to post something this lovely and worthwhile! The grounds are magnificent as is your photography! I would love to visit here one day! Thanks again!

  5. Stunning! It's been quite a few years since I've visited Newport and now that I'm back in CT I have no excuse. Those mansions are splendid!

  6. What a beautiful place I love all the classical details and the gardens are stunning. I didn't know they also did the arch in NYC, nice to know. I haven't been to Rosecliff in years but this makes me want to go back. Thank you for sharing Phyllis!


  7. I toured homes in Newport around 20 years ago and, this was not one I saw. It's beautiful and very interesting. I need to find the Newport coffee table book I purchased while I was there and refresh on all this!


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