Newport, Rhode Island – Rosecliff Tour

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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36 thoughts on “Newport, Rhode Island – Rosecliff Tour

    1. Me too! If you like reading I’m currently reading The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post that takes place in this era and is about the Post Cereal heiress.

  1. Another amazing tasteful mansion. Income tax, a “temporary measure” to support the war effort made it tough for the wealthy to keep it all. Thanks for sharing Lyssy. Allan

    1. Even though she had “new money”, she still had good taste! I’m surprised their influence couldn’t persuade the government to not have estate tax. So much wealth was just passed down the line. Must have been nice!

  2. Wow, I can see why this would be a popular wedding spot (though I cringe to just think of the cost). Probably about as much as the income tax. I didn’t realize that’s what caused these mansions to fall from popularity.

    1. The weddings would be beautiful, but I agree the cost is probably insane! I think 27 Dresses filmed some scenes here for one of the 27 weddings. The estate taxes also put a damper on their wealth.

  3. Grand and inviting, Lyssy (just the way Tessie would’ve had us to describe it, eh?) I wonder if anywhere else on the Eastern seaboard attracted these mansions at the time, or was Newport THE address of the Gilded Age? Two details on Rosecliff stand out to me: the unusual coffer design on the ceiling in the Library (it’s usually a a pattern of squares), and the elegant metal/glass overhang sheltering the entrance off the driveway. I assume this is where carriages would’ve dropped off and picked up Tessie’s guests. Er, wait, one more detail… the main staircase. I can see how the design is intentional but the way the stairs turn back above the landing is just so graceful. My kind of staircase.

    1. Maybe Greenwich, but that is just my guess. I am reading The Marvelous Lives of Marjorie Post about the cereal heiress and it takes place during the Gilded Age and her big estate was in Greenwich. Great book so far! I didn’t notice the library ceiling before, you’re right, very interesting. I love the look of the entrance and staircase too, I wouldn’t mind living here 🙂

  4. This one definitely has a gorgeous view, but the house isn’t as impressive as the others. I think it’s just because it is sparsely furnished. It probably has to be because of being a wedding venue but the outside and grounds are stunning! I’m going to be sad when you run out of houses – LOL.

    1. Yeah that could be the reason, it was a bummer not being able to see any bedrooms and I can’t remember if there was a kitchen. It is such a stunning place to get married! All those pictures would be so gorgeous! I will be sad to finish this series too. I’ll have to do a part 2 and see them at Christmas.

  5. Another reason the wealthy left beside taxes was the crash of 29. When stock margins were called in and there was a run on the banks and the wealthy could not pay. But remember these are just summer homes for them. Many still kept their other mansions……for awhile.
    And I can so see you living here with your dog.

    1. Yes I don’t feel too sorry for these Newport owners haha. I think I would have two dogs if I lived here. Imagine all the decorating I could do for Christmas!

  6. While other mansions in Newport are more exquisite, lavish, and absolutely worth the price of admission, I still like this one, too. I think the larger appeal for Rosecliff lies in the exterior. The mansion itself is beautiful with its sculptures, decorative accents, statues, trellises, rose garden, wrought iron balconies and doorways, and fountains. Plus it was one of the shooting locations for The Great Gatsby (1974) starring Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

  7. Great pictures! There are several great houses in Newport inspired by French architecture, I like this American habit of copying what is beautiful rather than trying to reinvent.

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