Rosecliff Mansion

Our year-round residents revel in the laid-back, slower pace of this season. They know winter is a perfect time for reflection, reading, study, and learning. It is also a time to renew friendships and meet new people at one or more of Newport’s cultural centers’ lectures, films, or seminars. The challenge always is navigating the often conflicting dates of so many interesting activities. Tour Guides, too, will find a wide variety of opportunities to enhance and strengthen their knowledge about our city’s history. The next few weeks offer all of us a rich smorgasbord of learning choices.  Enjoy this season of renewal and personal enlightenment.

TOUR GUIDES TIP: Attend as many of these Winter lectures and events as you can to learn and also to network with the people who manage the city’s historic venues and biggest summer events.   

TOURISM JOBS – Keep Your Eyes Open

Newport’s tourism industry never sleeps. Keep up with the news, the people in transition at the city’s key cultural institutions and event sites. Be open to the temporary jobs that can lead to a fuller schedule of work.  Watch for new job postings at  website and at  


NOW THROUGH APRIL 8 – Modernity vs Tradition: Art at the Paris Salon 1750-1900

The fabulous Redwood Library & Athenaeum (50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport) is another local treasure. Go and see their amazing collections and exhibits. Open Monday – Saturday. 9:30 am – 5:30 pm; Sunday, 1-5 pm. Admission: $10.

NOW THROUGH MAY 4 – American Muse: American Feminine Beauty in Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

This is a must-see exhibit at the always fascinating National Museum of American illustration (492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport). Entrance is on Victoria Avenue. Open Friday, 11 am – 5 pm. Guided tours at 3 pm. This museum is also another of our city’s gems to share with visitors and guests. You need to visit this one.


Check out the wide selection of lectures, exhibits, talks, classes, and workshops to add to your knowledge and increase your understanding of the people and history of greater Newport.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2 – Opening Reception – 5 pm – 7 pm

Opening Reception for the 2018 Newport Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition (February 2 – May 20). Cushing Gallery. Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport. Free for members. $10 suggested donation for non-members.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7 – Black History Month Lecture – 7 pm – 9 pm

This lecture, The Business of Slavery: Evidence of Control, Power, and Wealth, will be presented by Christine King Mitchell, Historic Interpreter, Old Slave Mart Museum in Charlestown, SC. The lecture is hosted by Channing Memorial Church (135 Pelham Street, Newport) and co-sponsored with the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project.  7 pm – 9 pm. Lecture with discussion to follow. Dessert and Decaf Coffee Served. $5 suggested donation.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8 – Free Illustrated Lecture – The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 – 11am-Noon

Visitors to Newport often ask about the impact of this historic storm that devastated parts of southern New England. Sara Jaworski of Historic New England will discuss the impact and aftermath of the ’38 Hurricane (September 21, 1938) at Rosecliff on February 8th at 11am. This free lecture sponsored by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Advance registration is required at  


The Newport Historical Society has four great walking tours coming up in mid-February you might consider. Two tours step off on Saturday, February 17th include Rogues & Scoundrels (11am – 12 noon) and a Lantern Tour of Colonial Newport (4-5 pm). Sunday, February 18th has the popular Discover Colonial Newport (11 am – 12 noon). Monday, February 19th offers the Road to Independence tour.  Tours depart from the Society’s Museum and Shop at 127 Thames Street. Additional information and reservations may be made by calling 401/841-8770.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15 – 18th Century Medical Lecture

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at 5:30pm, the Newport Historical Society will recreate aspects of Dr. Hunter’s talk when they host an 18th century medical lecture. Dr. Hunter, portrayed by first person interpreter Seán O’Brien, will share insight on the latest medical knowledge from England while discussing remedies and cures that are available at his 18th century apothecary shop.

Seán O’Brien, a teacher and living historian who spends his time moving between the 18th and early 20th centuries, is a regular participant in the Society’s living history events. A selection of Dr. Hunter’s products, made by Caswell-Massey, will be available for purchase. This event takes place at the Colony House on Washington Square, the same location where the medical lectures originally took place. General admission costs $5 per person or $1 for Newport Historical Society members along with active duty and retired military. 


FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16 – Newport Winter Festival Begins!

Opening day of the 30th Annual Newport Winter Festival.  Ask about volunteer and possible work opportunities. More than 150 events with food fun & music. This event runs through Sunday, February 25th. More information available from Winter Festival Office: 401/847-7666.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24 – Educational Program: 10AM – 1PM

In the mid-18th century, Newport was the fifth wealthiest city in colonial America. What jobs were people doing that helped the city become so successful? Join the Newport Historical Society to learn how people made their living. During this colonial career fair, costumed interpreters will represent different occupations that would have been present in this seaport. Jobs range from trades people like a printer, milliner and leather worker to merchants such as a toy seller and store owner, along with food service jobs such as a baker, brewer, coffeehouse owner and tavern keeper. This program takes place at the Colony House on Washington Square. Admission is free, donations are welcome.


The internationally-renowned Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation exhibition has been resident at Rosecliff mansion for the past seven months. Originally scheduled to close on January 1st, the exhibit’s popularity has caused an extension through February 25th.  Go experience this one-of-a-kind exhibit before it closes.  

FRIDAY, MARCH 9 – Museum of Newport Irish History – Special Opening Hours

The Museum of Newport Irish History [] will offer special opening hours (Noon to 6 pm) for six days during Irish Heritage Month in March, beginning on Friday, March 9th.  The museum at 648 Lower Thames Street in Newport will be open March 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18.  The regular season starts with a grand re-opening Memorial Day Weekend, beginning on Saturday, May 26th.  Learn here about Irish immigration to Newport County and the key aspects of Irish influence and contributions to life in Newport.

SATURDAY, MARCH 17 – St. Patrick’s Day Parade – 11AM

At 11 am, the 62nd Annual Newport Rhode Island Saint Patrick’s Day Parade will step off in front of Newport City Hall on Broadway.  There will numerous events and activities at Newport’s many bars and restaurants all along the parade route and elsewhere in the city.


NEWPORT COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ANNUAL EXPO & JOB FAIR 2018. Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. One Goat Island, Newport, RI 02840. Info: 401/847-1600

SATURDAY, MARCH 24 – New Exhibition Opening – Rosecliff

Bohemian Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement & Oscar Wilde’s Newport.  Opening day: March 24.  A new exhibition at Rosecliff.  Open daily through November 4th. 9am until 5pm. Additional information available at:

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 – Rough Point Re-Opens

The Newport Restoration Foundation’s (NRF) historic Rough Point mansion will re-open on Thursday, April 5th for Guided Tours. The Foundation will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. This year its exhibitions, as posted on its website ( will be: “‘To Preserve and Restore’: Newport Restoration Foundation at 50,”  and “A Hand in Design: Exquisite Drawings of Jewelry and Architecture for Doris Duke.” a collaboration between NRF and David Webb New York, jewelry designer to Duke and many other prominent figures from 1948 to the present.”  Rough Point will be open for tours through November 11th. Don’t miss this.  


The best leaders, guides, and managers of historic sites, mansions, and tour companies read constantly to know the most about the places they work and to learn the latest research about the places they talk about to their guests.

Here are two more classic books to read, learn from, and share.

A Field Guide to American Houses. By Virginia Savage and Lee McAlester. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984. Hailed as a landmark text on its publication, it has since been recognized as a definitive guide to American residential architecture. Its scope and coverage of so many styles, richly illustrated with both photographs and drawings, is a stunning accomplishment. The authors begin with an introduction to the style, form and structure of American houses. They then discuss, examine and illustrate examples of American homes from the Colonial period (1600-1820), the varied styles of Romantic era houses (1820-1880), the Stick, Shingle and Second Empire style of the Victorian houses (1860-1900), a review of the so-called Eclectic houses (1880-1940) including Neoclassical and Beaux Arts to Mediterranean Period and Modern Houses, and conclude with a section on Modern and Contemporary Folk houses since 1940. A thorough review and study of this comprehensive volume will expand your vocabulary and understanding of the history, sources, and links among building styles. You will also become more familiar with building materials, designs and favored architects of each period. Put this reference book on your reading list. Buy it if you can find it.  

The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: A Practical Guide to the Conservation of Old Houses and Their Contents.  Compiled by Hermione Sandwith and Sheila Stainton. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1984. This is more than an instruction manual. It is a window into the soul and magic of what made some of our most revered historic homes such delightful and inviting places to live in and which have been now preserved for visitors to enjoy. For the tour guide or maintenance person working in one of Newport historic homes, the information and insights provided in this manual offer the details and rational for the protective measures that are taken by building caretakers. The issues of light, humidity, atmospheric conditions as well as specifics of preserving and caring for the wide variety of materials, objects, furnishings, wall coverings, and décor are addressed in detail. In each chapter, the editors provide the best practices of the past that continue to be implemented to preserve these historic assets.


The Breakers continues offering the new guided tour first launched in 2017 — “Beneath the Breakers” — throughout the winter. Tours begin every hour on the half hour from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm and are one hour in length. At The Elms, their now world-famous guided “Servant Life Tour,” is offered throughout the winter at 10:30 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm.  I encourage you to take each of these two tours and experience a unique behind-the-scenes insight into the operation of these grand homes from the Gilded Age.  


Ken Proudfoot is a documentary film producer, tour guide, and author of The Official 2018 Newport Tour Guides & Greeters Handbook (Shoreline Press (RI), 2017).