Rosecliff Mansion

A new exhibition curated by The Preservation Society of Newport CountyNewport and Her Southern Sisters: Three Centuries of Art and Design, will open to the public on Saturday, September 5, 2015, and run through January 3, 2016.  The first exhibition in the newly-renovated gallery space on the second floor of Rosecliff (1902) will take visitors across three centuries to explore the relationship between Newport and the American South: from New Orleans, Charleston and Baltimore to Virginia’s fabled plantations and resorts and the winter playground of Palm Beach.

Admission to the exhibition will be included as part of the Rosecliff house tour.  For details on ticket options and to purchase tickets, visit

From never-before-seen ball gowns to portraits, silver and furniture, the exhibition will shed new light on Newport as a vibrant cultural crossroad over 300 years. It will tell the story in four chronological chapters: the colonial period, the antebellum period, post-Civil War & Gilded Age, and early 20th century.  Objects and costumes on display will come from several Preservation Society properties, as well as loans from the private collections of families with ties to both Newport and the South.

“The close bond between Newport and the South – through trade, tourism and marriage – didn’t stop with the Civil War.  In fact, Southerners like Alva Vanderbilt and Ward McAllister helped define Newport as the Crown jewel of Gilded Age society,” said Preservation Society Museum Affairs Director Dr. Laurie Ossman.    “We hope this exhibition will generate interest and encourage further discussion about these complex and influential economic, cultural, artistic and social relationships.”

“This is just the first of many museum exhibitions to come in our new Rosecliff gallery space,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe.  “We will now be able to expand and enhance our interpretation of Newport’s architecture, landscapes, and social history because we will have space to show objects not just from our own collections but also loans from other museums that relate to the Newport story.”

Among the pieces on display during Newport and Her Southern Sisters will be an 18th century mahogany chest on stand from Hunter House, attributed to the workshops of Townsend & Goddard here in Newport.  It will be shown in two pieces–the way it would have been stored on a ship when it was sent to the Southern market.

The antebellum period will be shown as a parlor, and will explore how boarding houses gave way to the hotel boom in Newport, which then led to private cottages built by Southerners who fueled Newport’s taste for luxury.  It will feature several pieces of furniture and a silver tea service descended through the families that lived at Kingscote.

After the Civil War, marriages between Southern belles and Yankee gentlemen led to the construction of the opulent mansions of the Gilded Age.  Finally, in the 20th century, fashionable Newporters looking for a new winter playground headed south to help create Palm Beach style.

The exhibition will be housed in the spacious upstairs hallway, sitting room and two guest bedrooms at Rosecliff where climate and U/V light control, electrical systems and fire suppression systems have recently been upgraded.  The upgrades will not only allow the Preservation Society to borrow and to present objects from other accredited museums, but will improve the care and safety of our permanent collections and ensure the continued preservation of the building.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history.  Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

More Information on The Preservation Society of Newport County

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