Christmas at the Newport Mansions returns to The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House with newly imagined holiday decor from November 17 to January 1, 2019. Rosecliff will also be open in December, with a new exhibition, Bill Cunningham: Facades, featuring photographs by the late New York Times photographer.
Dozens of volunteers will spend a month working on the decorations, putting up trees, hanging ornaments, garlands and wreaths, and decorating fireplace mantels, among other activities. The decorations in each house – and in individual rooms – are tailored to match the historic decor. Many new trees and ornaments have been added this year, and decorating schemes have been re-imagined, including new tour routes through some rooms and additional museum interpretation of historic collections.
Throughout the three houses, there will be a total of 25 large decorated Christmas trees, plus additional smaller potted trees and topiaries. Hundreds of live flowers will add to the decor in each house, including poinsettias, lilies, cyclamen, azaleas, paperwhites, amaryllis and mini-evergreens. Windows in each mansion are lit with individual white candles.
New this year, professional event designers will create contemporary holiday tablescapes in the dining rooms at Marble House and The Elms, and in the Breakfast Room of The Breakers, to provide inspiration and ideas to visitors for ways they can decorate their own holiday tables.
In the Dining Room of The Breakers, the table will be extended and decorated for a traditional High Victorian Christmas, with an elaborate floral centerpiece, vintage china, glassware and flatware. The room will also feature new Christmas topiaries.
New 9 foot tall Christmas trees will be added to the Vanderbilt family bedrooms on the second floor for the first time, with all new decorating schemes.
The traditional 15-foot tall red poinsettia tree will once again be on view in the Great Hall of The Breakers. Made up of up to 150 individual plants, the poinsettia tree is a perennial visitor favorite. On the second floor loggia, a garden scale Hudson JE Steam Locomotive, a replica of one of the Vanderbilt family’s New York Central Railroad locomotives with accompanying cars, will run on a newly designed track and landscape layout.
In the continuation of an annual tradition, 4th grade students from Newport’s Pell School will make decorations for 8 potted trees that will be displayed in the kitchen of The Breakers. The decorative theme, “Celest-yule 2018: A Space Holiday” encourages the students to explore various aspect of outer space, such as spaceships, stars and planets, meteors and comets, and then create inspired ornaments for the trees.
At The Elms, a cluster of three angel-themed Christmas trees in the Ballroom will provide a selfie photo backdrop for visitors. Many of the other rooms will see new decorative layouts and tree ornaments. A collection of vintage holiday toys and Santas, donated to the Preservation Society over the years by Berwind family descendant Margaret Schiffer, will be curated and displayed with interpretive signage in the basement cold kitchen.
Marble House will also feature a number of new decorative elements. The 12 foot Christmas tree in the entrance foyer, previously staged under the staircase, will be moved to the center of the foyer. The oversized wreath hung on the marble staircase wall has been redecorated, and six matching smaller wreaths will be hung on the French doors overlooking the terrace.
New larger trees have been added to other rooms as well. For the first time, Alva Vanderbilt’s bedroom will feature a 9 foot tree decorated in purple feathers and ribbons matching the room’s historic purple wall covering.
The exterior of Marble House also includes a 25-foot tall live tree decorated with white lights, displayed directly in front of the elevated entrance driveway.
Rosecliff will be closed from November 5 to December 1 to accommodate rehearsals and performances of the Island Moving Company’s annual production of the “Newport Nutcracker” (www.islandmovingco.org for tickets), and also for the installation of a new exhibition. Rosecliff will reopen on December 2 for tours, including the exhibition Bill Cunningham: Facades in the second floor gallery. The exhibition celebrates the creative intersection of fashion and architecture through the lens of a visionary photographer who documented the architectural riches and fashion history of New York City.
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 2, Marble House on December 9, and The Elms on December 16. The visit with Santa is included in the regular admission price. Don’t forget your camera!
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions
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 24, December 1, 8, 22 and 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On December 15, 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 15, a single ticket provides admission to The Elms and Marble House, as well as shuttle service operating between the two houses. More information and 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 annualMembers’ Sale from November 15-18, where 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. Every Monday from November 21 to December 10 will be Cyber Monday at NewportStyle.net, with extra discounts and shopping promotions for all online shoppers. And on Sunday, November 25 the Newport Mansions Stores will participate in the national Museum Store Sunday celebration, with discounts of 25% on all purchases and special events throughout the day.
Holiday Operating Schedule
The Christmas season begins on Saturday, November 17, 2018. The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House will be fully decorated and open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through January 1, 2019. Rosecliff will close from November 5 to December 1 but will reopen on December 2 for tours and visits to the exhibition. A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to up to 4 houses can be purchased for $30 for adults, $10 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.
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.