The Elms & Its Neighbors: The Battle for Historic Preservation

The Elms & Its Neighbors: The Battle for Historic Preservation (HM211J)

Location: Newport, RI 02840 Newport County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 28.669', W 71° 18.537'

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Demolition threatened The Elms and the surrounding summer houses in the 1960s, a critical period when the architectural landmarks of Bellevue Avenue were on the verge of complete destruction. In 1962, The Preservation Society of Newport County saved The Elms, while a developer demolished the neighboring Villa Rosa. Construction of new buildings not in sympathy with the historic setting was also an issue of concern. In 1965, the City of Newport created the Historic District in response to these events.

Bellevue Avenue: A Preservation History
The Preservation Society of Newport County

Bellevue Avenue National Historic Landmark District

Bellevue Avenue is a treasury of American architecture from the 19th and early 220th centuries. Generations of the nations's leading architects made Newport a laboratory for design during the city's "cottage" construction boom. This remarkable architectural legacy in America culture was almost lost through demolitions and neglect during the latter half of the 20th century.

This self guided walking tour consists of several history markers along both sides of Bellevue Avenue. Most of the buildings on this tour are private residence. Please respect their privacy.

The Bellevue Avenue History Marker Project is sponsored by the Preservation Society
of Newport County, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving Newport's architectural heritage.
For more stories and photos of the architecture, history and preservation of Bellevue Avenue, visit and click on education.

1.The Elms (1899-1901)
Architect: Horace Trumbauer
· Pennsylvania coal magnate Edward Julius Berwin built this Classical Revival style French chateau, one of the grandest of Newport's Gilded Age houses and gardens.
· A developer purchased The Elms in 1961 with plans for commercial development.
· The Preservation Society of Newport County saved The Elms from probable destruction in 1962.
· Today, The Elms is a National Historic Landmark.

The Elms (c.1880)
· Edward Berwind demolished the original wooden cottage called "The Elms" in 1889 to make way for his new mansion. The relative simple wooden cottage of the mid-19th century that lined Bellevue Avenue were frequently remodeled or torn down due to a test for more opulent houses in the 1890s.

The Elms (photo 1919)
Sunken Gardens, The Elms (postcard c. 1920)
Original cottage at The Elms (photo c, 1880)

2. Villa Rosa (1901)
Architect: Ogden Codman
· Ogden Codman, a friend of the writer and Newport summer resident Edith
Wharton, designed the villa for the Boston banker and broker E. Rollins Morse.
· E. Rollins Morse and Brothers were the Boston representatives of J. P. Morgan and Co., the most powerful bank of the Gilded Age.
· The estate occupied an entire block on Bellevue Avenue. A developer demolished Villa Rosa in 1962, prompting a major preservation outcry in Newport.
· Three story apartment complex that you see today was built on the site of the Villa Rosa in 1965.
· In 2004, the condominium association approved the demolition of the gates, one of the last surviving original features of the 1901 estate generating public criticism.

Ballroom, Villa Rosa (photo c.1910)
Villa Rosa (postcard c.1910)
Entrance gates, Villa Rosa (photo c.1910)
Voices from the Past
"An auctioneer's ivory gravel sounded on this breezy blue afternoon in The Elms...The sale to settle the estate had legal financial and social overtones that were pure Newport...The changes in Newport have also involved striking contrasts...The Elms looked today like a living museum. Villa Rosa, the adjacent home, looked exactly like a haunted house. Stoneacre, a few blocks away, is under demolition..."
"Auction at Newport Tarnishes Some of the Grander That Was Newport" The New York Times June 28, 1962.

"...The Battle
of The Elms...began early this year when a nephew of Miss Berwind, who inherited the cottage, sold it to a New York syndicate, and the latter promptly made plans for subdividing the property-if this had happened, Newports agree, you could have written off old Newport, or at least that part of it which comprised the world famous "cottages" on Bellevue Avenue...Already half dozen had either been torn down for shopping centers, or given away to churches or schools... Newport's Armageddon, in other words, had come. Whichever way The Elms blew, Newport was going...And here the Newport Preservation Society...leaped into the breach."
"The Crucial Battle of Modern Newport" by Cleveland Amor in The New York Times Magazine 1962

3. deRham Cottage (c.1860)
· The deRham cottage was moved to its present site in 1882 to make way for William G. Weld's new estate directly to the south.
deRham Cottage (photo 2004)

4. William G, Weld House (1882-1884)
Architect: Dudley Newton
· Newport architect Dudley Newton designed this Queen Anne Revival style villa for prominent Bostonian William G. Weld
· The Weld family fortune was based on merchant shipping and railroad stocks.
· Weld family member were important collectors of Japanese art and major donors to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
William Weld was the first board of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with John Quincy Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
· In 1924, the house became De la Salle Academy, a Roman Catholic school for boys.
· In 1973, it was converted to condominium with new units added to the historic grounds
William G. Weld House (photo c. 1890)

5. Arleigh (1891-1893)
Architect: J. D. Johnston
· This Queen Anne Revival style villa was home to many prominent Newport summer residents.
· Arleigh was the setting for the 1903 wedding of Cathleen Gebhard Neilson to Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, whose family established the New York Central Railroad and built The Breakers as their Newport summer house.
· Destroyed by fire in 1932. The lot was vacant until construction of the Heatherwood Nursing Facility in 1972.
· Many of the estate's fine specimen trees survive from the 1890s.

Arleigh (postcard c. 1900)
HM NumberHM211J
Placed ByPreservation Society of Newport County
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, August 24th, 2017 at 1:02pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)19T E 307216 N 4594374
Decimal Degrees41.47781667, -71.30895000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 28.669', W 71° 18.537'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 28' 40.14" N, 71° 18' 32.22" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)401
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 367 Bellevue Ave, Newport RI 02840, US
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