The historic streets of Newport will echo with the sound of hooves and horse-drawn coaches as A Weekend of Coaching returns for the first time since 2018, hosted by The Preservation Society of Newport County.
From Friday, Aug. 19, through Sunday, Aug. 21, nine colorful 19th-century coaches drawn by teams of highly trained horses will drive around Newport and surrounding areas, starting daily at Chateau-sur-Mer, 474 Bellevue Ave. A schedule of the drives can be seen at www.newportmansions.org/events/a-weekend-of-coaching.
In addition, the coaches and their expert drivers, known as Whips, will give an exhibition of driving skills on the grounds of The Elms on Saturday, Aug. 20, starting at approximately 10:30 a.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public, offering an opportunity to get a close-up look at each of the teams and to hear details about the horses and the history of each coach.
There will be no parking at The Elms during the exhibition. Dogs are not permitted on the grounds, except for certified service animals.
The weekend also will include a sold-out formal Dinner Dance in Honor of the Whips on Saturday evening at The Breakers.
“Coaching Weekend is a wonderful experience that we are thrilled to share with the local community, thanks to the participation of members of the Coaching Club of New York,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO and Executive Director of the Preservation Society. “It brings the Gilded Age to life on our properties and throughout the area. Usually it is held every three years, but it was delayed one year by the COVID pandemic. This weekend’s events will be worth the extra wait.”
The Whips who are expected to participate in A Weekend of Coaching are: S. Tucker S. Johnson, President of the Coaching Club; Frances Baker; Walter F. Eayrs; James Fairclough; Dr. Rae Fischer; John Frazier Hunt; James Mather Miller and Misdee Wrigley Miller; William R. Staples; Harvey W. Waller; and John P. White.
The Co-Chairs of A Weekend of Coaching are Kenneth M.P. Lindh and Beverly Little. The Chair of Coaching is Walter F. Eayrs.
The Chairs of the Coaching Dinner Dance are Leslie Hull, Elaine Lindh, Beverly Little, Neva Little, Pamela Owens and Daisy Prince.
The tradition of coaching grew out of the 18th- and 19th-century mail runs in England, which later made their way across the Atlantic to the United States. The horse-drawn mail coaches were eventually replaced by railroads, but nostalgia led to the development of coaching as a sport. The Coaching Club of New York was formed in 1875, and its activities soon became part of the social fabric of Newport in the summer. The Wetmores, the Bells, the Vanderbilts and the Belmonts were all active members, bringing their coaches together to go to the races, the polo games and the Newport Casino.
The two types of open-air vehicles used in the sport of coaching — the Road Coach and the slightly smaller Park Drag — employ a team of four horses. All seating is outside, with the driver, or Whip, sitting in the slightly elevated right front seat, and the Whip’s wife or female relative taking the “box seat” on the left. The rear bench of the coach holds at least two specialized footmen called grooms. Two center benches can hold up to 10 passengers.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is 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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