Newport, Rhode Island – The Elms Tour

Hi friends, welcome back to my Newport, Rhode Island series! The final house of the day was The Elms, and this might’ve been our favorite because it was luxurious but not so gaudy. This home was owned by Edward Berwind and his wife Herminie. He started his career in the Navy before retiring and founding the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company with his brother and another partner. This company was one of the largest producers of coal in the 1900s and supplied coal to the Navy. At one point Edward was considered the largest individual owner of coal mines in the world. He also helped with creating the NYC subway and was an avid art collector. When he died in 1936, it’s estimated his worth was about $30 million or the equivalent of $500 million today.

The Elms cost the equivalent of $28 million dollars today and was built based on a chateau outside Paris. It was set to be demolished in 1962 and all of the artwork and furniture was successfully auctioned off. Luckily the Preservation Society saved the house and worked hard to buy back many of the original items. The home opened to the public for tours three weeks after it was supposed to be demolished.

I loved the backyard except that it isn’t on the ocean. Such a shame 😉 Twelve gardeners used to tend to the massive garden when the Elms first opened. The backyard used to be covered with Elm trees, but Dutch Elm Disease killed almost all the elms in New England before WWII. The Preservation Society is currently working to replant them.

The home had all the luxuries of the times including over 1,500 electrical lights. Back then they only had 10-watt bulbs which were the equivalent of a candle, so that is why they had so many clustered together.

Edward’s Library fully lit and the space where he gathered with his friends.

The Drawing Room was where Mrs. Berwind entertained her friends. The furniture in the room was recently acquired in 2016 after being sold in the auction.

The Ballroom held up to 400 guests when the Berwinds threw a celebration to open up The Elms. The home was designed so each room fed into the other and also into the entrance hall so people could flow freely during a party. The room was also designed to be symmetrical, so there are four doors on each wall, but not all of them open.

The dining room features Venetian paintings that are worthy of a museum. The big paintings in the room are glued to the wall so they weren’t sold at auction, but the smaller ones were reacquired by the Preservation society. This room has the most complete series of 18th century Venetian history paintings outside of Venice, pretty crazy to think they were in someone’s home and not a museum.

The butler’s pantry was connected to the kitchen below via a dumbwaiter.

There are seven bedrooms in the house, this one here is the Rose Room and was the regular bedroom of Edward’s grandniece.

This was Edward’s sister Julia’s room who lived in the house until 1960 from May through October.

Herminie’s room that was mostly used as her office to run the affairs of the house. This room was used in a scene of The Gilded Age.

Edward’s room is noticeably smaller because he worked all week in NYC and only spent the weekends in Newport.

A private sitting room upstairs for the family.

Lastly, a kitchen well suited for the large parties thrown at The Elms. I’m glad the Preservation Society saved The Elms because we loved touring the home and gardens. It’s hard to imagine this mansion being demolished and all the tireless work to reacquire everything inside.

We didn’t have a dinner reservation this day so we got Birria Tacos from Tijuana Burrito Grill. Jon was bummed he didn’t get the burrito because they were the biggest burritos we’d ever seen. I thought our tacos tasted good, but Jon wasn’t totally impressed.

We ended the day with some much-needed ice cream from Sticks and it was incredible! The scoops were massive and the ice cream tasted so good. I changed it up a little and got the Cake Batter and Salted Caramel Pretzel, and Jon went with Butter Pecan and Moose Tracks.

We enjoyed our ice cream and then watched the sunset in the harbor to end our fantastic day in Newport. Stay tuned for a few more fabulous houses 🙂

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25 thoughts on “Newport, Rhode Island – The Elms Tour

  1. I agree with you. The home was lavish without being flamboyant, like it was built and decorated by someone with good taste. Hard to believe it was slated for demolition. Buildings like this in Europe would last for hundreds of years. Nothing wrong with tacos and ice cream, but when you have your heart set on something, it can be disappointing. Thanks for sharing Lyssy. Allan

    1. It was refreshing to see something more tasteful, but still extravagant. It is hard to believe it was going to be demolished. These mansions were built with the best materials, so hopefully they will be around hundreds of years to tour. True, I’m always in the mood for tacos and ice cream!

  2. Seven bedrooms… finally, a modest cottage 😉 I’m glad you included photos of the formal gardens because they’re my cup of tea (including the water features). I could learn to maintain something like those. The Elms is somehow less imposing from the outside than the mansions you’ve covered so far, maybe because of that bulb-out section in the middle or the casual curve of the windows on the first floor. The 10w bulbs is an interesting bit of trivia. And the giant mirrors caught my eye, striking me as something that wasn’t able to be manufactured all those years ago. Must’ve made for interesting parties, where you catch the occasional glance of a guest in the mirror instead of in person.

    1. The garden was so nice, wish I had something like that (along with all the maintenance funds). This house is less imposing, and seems more inviting than the other houses. The lightbulb fact is interesting, now I’ve noticed it in all the other houses. The giant mirrors are impressive! It would be fun to attend a party there, good people watching for sure!

    1. Definitely! You had me curious so I looked at their tax return. They make about $20M in revenue from admissions each year and $50M of investments generating income.

  3. I am so impressed that the preservation society was able to locate and return most of the furnishings to The Elms! Secondly, I have always wanted a butler’s pantry and this one would definitely make me happy. Well, the entire house and grounds would make me happy. Great post, Lyssy!

    1. It is impressive how they could track things down! It seems like that could be fun. A butler’s panty would be so nice! I see so many nice ones on those home design shows. They are like mini kitchens now! The house and grounds would make me happy too 🙂

  4. What a beautiful house, it’s so pleasing that it wasn’t demolished and has been saved for the nation. This house feels more like a home as it’s less ostentatious than the other villas you’ve covered. Cake batter ice cream sounds delicious. Never heard of it before! Hope your week goes well. M.

    1. It’s hard to imagine this home being demolished! It does feel like somewhere I would have wanted to spend my summers compared to the other homes. You’ll have to try cake batter ice cream next time you see it, there is cake chunks in it usually. Have a great week, Marion!

  5. OH we didn’t get to enjoy the gardens when we toured (it was cold in Newport in December!) but they do look fabulous. Did you get to eat at Cupcake Charlies while you were in town?

    1. I would love to see it decorated for Christmas! We did not go to Cupcake Charlies, but we walked by it all the time. I can’t remember why we didn’t go in, next time!

  6. The Elms is another one of these Newport mansions that we visited in December and got to see it all decorated for the holidays. It’s too bad that most of the elms were killed by a disease as I’m sure they would be quite the site if they were still around. The gardens look so lovely.

    1. I really need to go back in December! The garden was so beautiful, it is sad all the trees were killed, they would be the perfect place to sit under and enjoy the day.

    1. The black and white marble is pretty! Haha I think my apartment could handle a black and white marble vase 🙂

  7. Wow, this house is truly magnificent too! I loved the garden even though it didn’t face the ocean! And the pantry is incredibly big! As you say, I can’t imagine that it used to be an actual house and not a museum!

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