Beginning November 19, 2016 and running through January 2, 2017, guests are invited to join The Preservation Society of Newport County at The Breakers (1895), The Elms (1901) and Marble House (1892) to create holiday memories as they enjoy music, tours, visits from Santa Claus, model trains, antique toys and shopping at three of America’s most outstanding historic houses.
Led by Curator of Historic Landscapes Jim Donahue and Gardens and Grounds Director Jeff Curtis, Preservation Society staff and volunteers have spent nearly a month filling the three houses with festive holiday decorations, matching colors and themes to the décor of individual rooms.
“We couldn’t do this without our amazing corps of volunteers, many of whom return year after year,” said Donahue. “This year we have 240 volunteer hours scheduled at the three houses.” Volunteers place ornaments on trees, hang garland and decorate wreaths, among other activities.
Each year new themes, ornaments and decorations are added to keep the experience fresh for returning visitors. For 2016, each house will get new, taller pre-lit commercial grade Christmas trees; there will be a total of 28 decorated Christmas trees throughout the three houses each decorated to coordinate with its setting. Thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens and wreaths also fill the rooms. Windows in each mansion are lit with individual white candles.
New this year at The Breakers, the toy train display in the second floor loggia will focus on the Vanderbilts’ New York Central Railroad. Three model train sets, each different vintage reproductions of New York Central rail lines, will run through a grove of decorated Christmas trees. Nearby, display cases will exhibit memorabilia from the New York Central Railroad from the Preservation Society’s collection. Volunteers from The Little Rhody Division of the National Model Railroad Association will operate the trains on weekends and during Holiday Evenings at The Breakers.
Among the three houses there will be 24 holiday-decorated mantelpieces, each with their own theme. At Marble House, eight regional garden clubs will decorate the fireplace mantels in the second floor rooms in a competitive challenge. Each club will be given a subsidy for materials, and their creations will be judged by certified flower show judges. Participating in the mantelpiece challenge will be the Barrington Garden Club, Bristol Garden Club, Newport Garden Club, Plum Beach Garden Club, Portsmouth Garden Club, Quononoquott Garden Club, Seaside Garden Club, and South County Garden Club.
At The Elms, a Gilded Age streetscape theme in the ballroom will feature period sleighs and lanterns, mannequins wearing vintage clothing, trees and a topiary horse. Also on display in the house will be a collection of antique decorations and toys donated by Berwind family descendants.
Rosecliff Will be Open in December
Rosecliff will be closed from November 19 to December 3 to accommodate rehearsals and performances of the Island Moving Company’s annual production of the “Newport Nutcracker” (www.islandmovingco.org for tickets). Rosecliff will reopen on December 4 for tours, including the exhibition “Splendor at Sea: the Golden Age of Steam Yachting in America” in the second floor gallery.
Visits with Santa Claus
Santa Claus will make a special trip to Newport from the North Pole to visit the houses in December. Children can visit with Santa Claus in a spectacular setting from noon to 3 p.m. at The Breakers on December 4, Marble House on December 11, and The Elms on December 18. The visit with Santa is included in the regular admission price. Don’t forget your camera!
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions Now Include Friday Nights
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions recreate the ambience of an evening soirée during the Gilded Age. These open house evenings allow guests to stroll at their leisure through the decorated house, listening to live holiday music and enjoying cookies, eggnog and cider. Holiday Evenings at The Breakers are scheduled for Saturdays, November 26, December 3 and December 10, and new this year, two Friday evenings, December 23 and 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On December 17, guests can enjoy a Holiday Evening Duet: The Elms and Marble House, and see both of those houses for the price of one, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission to Holiday Evenings is $35 in advance, $45 day-of the event. Children 6-17 are admitted for $10 in advance, $15 day-of. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free. Preservation Society members enjoy reduced admission, $30 in advance, $35 day-of. On December 17, a single ticket provides admission to The Elms and Marble House, as well as shuttle service operating between the two houses. More information, including the schedule of Holiday Evening entertainment, and advance tickets are available online at www.NewportMansions.org, or call (401) 847-1000.
Shopping at the Newport Mansions Stores
The Newport Mansions Stores will be bustling with activities for the holiday season. The shopping season gets underway with the annual Members’ Sale from November 17-20. Preservation Society members enjoy 25% off all purchases at The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House, and the downtown Newport store at Bannister’s Wharf, as well as online at www.NewportStyle.net. The stores will also host book signings, food tastings and other shopping events throughout the season. For details, check our Events Calendar at NewportMansions.org.
Holiday Operating Schedule
The Christmas season begins on Saturday, November 19, 2016. The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House will be fully decorated and open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through January 2, 2017. In addition, Rosecliff will be open daily, except November 19 through December 3, for tours and visits to the exhibition. A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to any three houses can be purchased for $29.49 for adults, $9 for children 6-17. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free. Individual house tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased online at www.NewportMansions.org, or at each property.
About The Mansions
The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad. Its interiors include rich marbles and gilded rooms, a 50-foot high Great Hall, mosaic tile floors and ceilings, and open-air terraces with magnificent ocean views.
The Elms is an elegant French-style chateau built in 1901 for Philadelphia coal magnate Edward J. Berwind. It serves as a backdrop for monumental artworks, including wall-sized 18th century Venetian paintings and Chinese lacquer panels. The Elms is situated on a 10-acre park with an elaborate sunken garden.
Marble House was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Built and furnished at a reported cost of $11 million, it was the most lavish house in America when it opened in 1892. It became a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign.
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 and decorative arts. Its 11 historic properties—seven of them National Historic Landmarks—span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.