The bad news is that, despite 4-ft. tall deer fencing staked securely all around the garden, some dastardly varmint has been munching away at the lettuces. So a complete salad is an impossibility. Let's just hope that he doesn't decide to turn his attention to the tomatoes!
Colette had the day off work, so the two of us did the grocery shopping together...a rare treat! We went to the basic grocery store. And to Whole Foods for some of their fresh pasta for dinner (yum!). But our first stop was at a local farmstand, housed in an old barn, for bread and butter.
Having such easy access to farm fresh meat, dairy, and produce is one of the best things about living in New England!
I discipline myself to stop at every barn sale I see. Whew! That's a task! How could I not? Field filling up with cars, and the barn filled with antiques and bargain hunters...simply irresistible. I passed up this chair and this picnic basket (because, honestly, I have one exactly like it), but came away with a small piece of crockery and a cut crystal rose bowl. Score!
As I've mentioned before, I'm notoriously bad at keeping houseplants alive. Although, I noted with some amusement the other day, that now that we are finished homeschooling, I seem to be able to keep a dog happy and houseplants alive. (There are only 24 hours in a day! Priorities.) But this summer, I wanted something large and delicate and sort of growing with wild abandon to sit in a silver champagne bucket in the middle of the dining room table. So, I bravely plunked down about $25 on a maidenhead fern.
I say "bravely", because they are very temperamental plants. I was warned at the nursery not to let it ever dry out. Well there's a full-time job! But I read online that you can't over water it either. And I shouldn't let sunlight ever hit it. And it can't bear it if heat or air conditioning hit it. This was going to be a challenge.
Well, I'm happy to report that it's lived here almost two months now, and it's still alive! I can't picture it staying there in the autumn or winter, so it may have to go live in the master bath then. If it makes it through the summer in its present location, I will have gotten my money's worth...because it's large and delicate and growing with wild abandon.
Last on our tour of the Newport Mansions (although there are more of them than we visited) was Marble House. Sadly, this grand home was our least favorite because of the sad lives of the couple who had it built. It was built in the early 1890's by Mr. William K. Vanderbilt. His wife insisted that she would only live there if it was an outright gift to her. And then, after only living there for a couple of years, she divorced her husband and married a neighbor. Her husband begged her to only separate, but she wanted to "set an example for women" (as the audio tour told us) and prove that women could initiate divorce. After marrying the neighbor, she used Marble House as basically "an extra closet".
While not the largest of the summer "cottages", it is considered the grandest, with $7-million of its $11-million building costs spent on marble. And certainly the grand entrance hall has marble in abundance!...walls, ceiling, underside of the stairs, stairs.
Passing by the foot of the stairs, we went into the opulent formal dining room. Each chair is made of bronze and plated with gold. A footman was required for each chair, as they weigh 75 pounds empty.
The ceiling of the library.
This is the Gothic Library, with a large collection of books and antiquities. It was said that at the time Marble House was built, there were few museums in America, so scholars would make an appointment to come and study in the Gothic Room of the Marble House since it housed so fine a collection.
From there, we proceeded into the gold room. This room would've been used for grand balls, hence why the floor is wooden and not marble. Everything that looks gold in this room is actually covered in gold.
Then we ascended the grand, marble staircase to the second floor and its many bedrooms. Mr. Vanderbilt's gold bedroom was first. Very tastefully done.
Linked by a shared bath, Mrs. Vanderbilt's much larger bedroom was a profusion of lavender, and I couldn't help but think of Marie Antoinette while glancing about the room.
Back out in the hallway, we passed this servants' stairway...a masterpiece of construction!
Their daughter's bedroom was also quite grand. Consuelo Vanderbilt was forced, by her mother, to marry an English duke, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, in one of the many marriages between wealthy American heiresses and English aristocracy struggling to financially maintain their grand estates. (Think Downton.)
By stark contrast, down a small passageway, you find the bedrooms of her two brothers. I took no photos there, save this one of the beautiful silk draperies. Ahh...silk! There's nothing like it! Just look at that body! How it holds itself together so beautifully! Sorry...just a little crazy about fabric!
Then we took (a different) servants' staircase down to the kitchen rooms. The Vanderbilt china in the butler's pantry.
Nearby was an early hot water heater. And there was also an ingenious device for measuring the water level in the rain water cisterns on the roof of the mansion, saving a servant a 4-story climb up the stairs to determine it.
Although quite faded, I tried to enhance the contrast so you can read the list of servants required to run Marble House. After doing a bit of math, and dividing the mansion's square footage by the number of servants required, it seems I might need to employ a single servant for my home! Oh wait. That's me! That's just as I would have it too!
Then we wandered outside to take in the view of the house from the back, the ocean ahead, and the Chinese tea house that Mrs. Vanderbilt had built and where she hosted teas in support of her pet cause, "Votes for Women".
And that concludes our touring at the Newport Mansions. I hope you've enjoyed following along in our footsteps!
The earth with all her fullness owns
Jehovah for her sovereign Lord;
The countless myriads of her sons
Rose into being at His Word.
His Word did out of nothing call
The world, and founded all that is;
Launched on the floods this solid ball,
And fixed it in the floating seas.
But who shall quit this low abode,
Who shall ascend the heavenly place,
And stand upon the mount of God,
And see his Maker face to face?
The man whose hands and heart are clean
That blessèd portion shall receive;
Whoe’er by grace is saved from sin,
Hereafter shall in glory live.
He shall obtain the starry crown;
And, numbered with the saints above,
The God of his salvation own,
The God of his salvation love.
- Charles Wesley (1743)
Colette and I had a tasty lunch at the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, where we had patio seating with this pretty, green view...
...while enjoying this roasted vegetable wrap.
Then we drove to the next Newport mansion on our agenda for the day, The Elms. This was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. The view of the back of The Elms.
At all of the mansions we toured, we were given the option of a self-guided audio tour headset. We accepted it at The Breakers and at our last stop, The Marble House. But we declined it at The Elms. We have a love-hate relationship with those audio headset tours. We feel like we learn more, and that's good! But we feel like we perhaps study and appreciate the beauty slightly less. And we relate to each other much less, and that's bad. So, for this house, we just walked through and admired and pointed things out to each other and chatted. And while it was a nice break from being "plugged in", I have much less to say about this house, because I learned less. Like I said...a love-hate relationship.
Looking down the length of the grand entrance hall.
A beautiful painting of Mrs. Harry Lehr (1905) on display.
The conservatory was my favorite room! So pretty!
And my second favorite room was the dining room.
Beautiful ceiling detail work.
Peeking out at the grounds where we would later explore.
Then we took the main staircase upstairs to see the bedrooms.
I thought this one was very tastefully decorated.
This was called the Gold Bedroom.
The hallways on the second floor are covered in red silk damask.
Then we took the servant's staircase (but isn't it pretty?) down to the butler's pantry and kitchen.
This tea set in the butler's pantry caught my eye. There's a teapot of that exact same shape in an antique store I frequent, and I always pause and admire it. But the one at the antique store is missing part of its spout, which is a terrible shame, because its form is otherwise so nice.
Then it was out into the gardens! The Elms is not situated on the shore. But what it lacks in ocean view it makes up for with gardens!
And it has garden follies! Be still my heart! Having just finished my college course of English country houses, I'm currently quite smitten with garden follies, so we headed straight down to get a closer look at these. There are two matching ones, but the view of one is entirely obscured from the house by a large tree.
It was a terribly hot and humid day, and we were grateful for every breeze and patch of shade. No air conditioning has been added to the houses, and I passed a digital temperature gauge in one room that showed nearly 80 degrees inside. It was 84 outside with a warm breeze...and humidity. I was glad I had worn cotton and linen and clothing that flapped in the breeze. One lady I met that day said to me, "Oh, look at you! You look so cool. How can you be cool today? It's SO hot!" Oh goodness. My whole life I've wanted to be one of those women who look calm and cool when everyone else is sweating. But that's never been me. And it really wasn't this day either. I was miserably hot, but I guess I didn't look it. So, I took that compliment...and I think I'll hang onto it...and remember it with fondness! Just leave me here, in the shade of the folly, because I'm quite content here.
Coming up next...a tour of The Marble House!