The second Gilded Age “cottage” on our Newport tour is The Elms, home to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind. The Elms is probably my favorite of these great mansions, both for the look of the building as well as the grounds. The Elms is located at 367 Bellevue Ave. and was built between 1899 and 1901. At the time, it cost approximately $1.4 million – in today’s US dollars that would be somewhere around $24 million! The family had a much smaller house on this site previously, but tore it down to build something more acceptable for one of the richest men in Newport at that time. Architect Horace Trumbauer designed the house in the image of the chateau d’Asnieres in France.
Mr. Berwind, Homeowner of The Elms
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
As I mentioned above, The Elms is gorgeous. You approach the house up this driveway that is surrounded by these giant trees – previously the eponymous elm trees. It is however the back of the home where the most beauty is – in my opinion. As you come down the stairs from a wide terrace, there is a large stretch of beautiful manicured lawn that leads down to a sunken garden. Every time I go to The Elms I have to go down to the sunken garden and can just imagine how much fun it would have been to play down there. Besides the obvious flowers and topiaries, there are several fountains, a little grotto, stone gazebo and weeping beech trees.
The inside is stunning too – my favorite room is the conservatory – which looks out over the backyard and also contains fountains and some lounge chairs that look so comfy. Among the other rooms that are located on the first floor are the ballroom, library, and marble foyer. The second floor houses the bedrooms for the family and guests, while the third floor housed the indoor servants. The Elms was one of the first homes to be entirely wired for electricity, with no alternate form of power/lighting. Mr. Berwind was all about technology and having the best upgrades (something his sister, Julia, would not continue in the 25+ years she lived there following her brother’s death in 1936).
There is also a carriage house on the property which was turned into an automobile garage at a later date. The outdoor staff lived above the carriage house.
The carriage house patio where you can lunch
Photo Credit: Me
After the death of Mrs. Julia Berwind, the home was auctioned off and in 1962 it came quite close to being demolished. It ended up being sold to the Newport Preservation Society for $116,000 – the equivalent of just shy of a million dollars in 2014 US dollars. The home has been open for tours since.
Speaking of tours – you can visit the Elms as a one house tour or as part of the Gilded Age tour package. During the high season the home is open daily, during the off season it is open only on weekends. There is an additional tour you can purchase called the Servants Life Tour which will take you down into the bowels of the house as well as up to the third floor dormitories allowing you to see what it would have been like to be a servant. Lunch (sandwiches, salads, and snacks) can be purchased and consumed in the carriage house.
I have been to this home in both the summer and winter seasons and it is beautiful at all times. If you go, you definitely need to plan some time to spend out in the gardens. My other favorite place is one of those places that weren’t really meant to be seen. There is a cul-de-sac that terminates at the delivery entrance that is covered with a very large trellis that is covered by wisteria and other climbing vines.
You can read more about The Elms at the Newport Preservation Society page.
Here is a video that might be worth checking out. It is a short clip from the Servants Life Tour to give you a little behind the scenes peek.
What do you think of The Elms? Have you been here?
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