Rosecliff Mansion

A $150,000 State Preservation Grant will be used to help repair the roof balustrade at Rosecliff (1902), which was inspired by the balustrade of the Grand Trianon at Versilles.

“This is critical funding that will help to save this original and visually important architectural feature of Rosecliff, allowing us to stabilize the crumbling stone and stop the water seepage that is contributing to its deterioration,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO & Executive Director of The Preservation Society of Newport County. “This grant program not only provides much-needed support for the state’s cultural programs and historic sites, it is also important to the state’s economy, by helping to create jobs.”

The grant from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) will be used to restore approximately 312 feet of the balustrade, including repointing all masonry joints, resetting lifted capstones over the parapet, and installing new copper flashing.  Some deteriorated features will be replicated in cast stone and reinstalled using stainless steel pins and rods.

Positioned above the second floor cornice, the balustrade at Rosecliff hides the third-floor servants’ living quarters.  But its location at the top of the building exposes it to wind, rain and salt spray from the ocean. During the comprehensive exterior restoration of Rosecliff from 1979-80, some damaged terra cotta units were similarly replicated in cast stone, so that the current balustrade is a mix of terracotta and cast stone units. Over the years, many of the masonry joints have failed, allowing moisture to penetrate and freeze, contributing to shifting, fracturing and deterioration of the balustrade.  A 37-foot section on the north side of the house was rebuilt in 2014 with funding from the Monroe Foundation.

The Rosecliff grant was included in $4.6 million in capital grants announced by the RIHPHC and the RI State Council on the Arts for arts, culture, heritage and public historic sites across the state.  The competitive grant program requires that the Preservation Society provide matching funds for the project.

Commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. After the house was completed in 1902, at a reported cost of $2.5 million, Mrs. Oelrichs hosted fabulous entertainments here, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini.

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.


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