Hi friends, welcome back to my Newport, Rhode Island series! On our last day of the trip, we grabbed coffee from The Picnic and then headed to tour Rosecliff Mansion. This mansion was built in 1899 by Nevada silver heiress Theresa “Tessie” Fair Oelrichs and sits on twenty-one oceanfront acres. Her father discovered the “Comstock Lode”, the largest strike of silver and gold in the country and earned him $40 million (approx. $1.1b in 2023). The house was inspired by the Grand Trianon in Versailles and cost an estimated $2.5 million to build (approx. $86m in 2023). The home was designed by accomplished architect Standford White, a partner at McKim, Mead and White who also designed the Boston Public Library, Washington Square Arch, the east and west wing of the White House, and the Rhode Island State House.
Tessie wanted to be a top hostess in Newport and the house definitely reflects that. I loved these stairs, what a statement! They were designed so ladies could put their wraps upstairs and make their grand entrance coming back down. Nowadays this mansion is a popular spot to host weddings and other events.
This room is the Salon where guests would start their night of partying.
This ballroom is the largest single room in all the Newport mansions. Tessie was a hostess, so she needed a room that could fit all of her guests. During her parties the doors would be open so people could wander in and out enjoying the beautiful grounds and ocean views.
The Library, Tessie’s husband Hermann Olreich’s man cave where he could smoke cigars with his friends.
We walked back through the ballroom and up the beautiful stairs. The second floor has the bridal suite and has been converted into a little museum. I was bummed we couldn’t see more of the house compared to the others, so if you’re short on time I’d prioritize Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms.
The backyard is stunning and overlooks the ocean. It made quite the backdrop for Tessie’s many luxurious parties. The backyard is also situated above the cliff walk, possibly to separate herself and guests from the regular people that would be on the cliff walk.
With the introduction of income tax in 1914 and the first World War, the Gilded Age faded away. People could no longer afford this lifestyle and the maintenance on these homes. Tessie had only known this world and started having imaginary friends and suffered a mental collapse. Her son inherited Rosecliff and ended up selling it with all the furniture in the 1940s. After a few changes of ownership a couple from New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs. J. Edgar Monroe, ended up with the house as a summer escape from the southern heat. They carried on Tessie’s tradition with fun parties, many Mari Gras themed. In 1971 the Monroes generously donated Rosecliff and a $2 million endowment to the Preservation Society so everyone could enjoy the home.
Stay tuned for one more mansion and the finale of our Fourth of July in Newport!
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