What does one do after being sighted in spandex on the boardwalk? Well, head out of town up to Newport, Rhode Island naturally, to close up the cottage for the season! Having never been to the former playground of the rich and famous, I packed up the mermaid and our fins and headed northeast to see what a real mansion looked like.
First of all, whoever drew up the state lines for Connecticut should have shortened the state. It’s simply too long. But the reward is that Rhode Island is not, and so after driving at my new senior citizen speed of 60 miles per hour, we finally arrived at this delightful, New England original town. Why original, you say? Well it turns out that Newport was among the five most important cities in pre-revolutionary America. Joining the seaport city were New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Charleston. And the two most important at the time were Charleston and Newport; and both did not fare as well as post-revolutionary cities. Newport’s problem was that the British took exception to them wanting to split from the United Kingdom and decided to blockade the harbor, effectively killing its businesses.
Remarkably, the city's architecture looks surprisingly like Charleston. The fact that they were both built around the same time and by the British should have been a clue though. At some point, however, all the revolutionary homes were almost lost when after decades of neglect, the city decided to tear them down. But in stepped Doris Duke, at one time the richest woman in America and heir to the tobacco and energy fortune, and she formed a preservation society that saved the homes. And thank God she did because they are so historically important.
Doris lived in an interesting part of town in Newport. Her neighbors at one time were the richest people in America. At a time when there was no income tax in the USA, industrialists amassed great fortunes and spent them as conspicuously as possible by building great, gilded mansions imitating their European ancestors. And then a few funny things happened: the income tax came into being; a depression happened; a world war; and the ancestry gene pool turned sour for a while. The result being that the rich were no longer as rich, and they walked away from their mansions. Those homes fell into disrepair too and several were knocked down until the preservationists stepped in again and saved the mansions.
Today, visitors can visit the revolutionary homes, the gilded aged mansions, eat great seafood, stroll the cliff walk, do a ghost tour and simply have a great time. And although Newport is lesser known than its original five city cousins, it’s a great place to visit and learn about U.S. history.
Did I mention that Jackie and JFK got married here too? Yep, the Bouviers lived in Newport, and of course the Kennedys lived nearby across the bay. Our tour guide told us that Joe Kennedy was in charge of the invitation list and that none of Jackie’s friends were invited. (Sorry MAF, that’s not going to happen!! Lol!)
It rained the whole time we were there, but it did not diminish the trip one bit, and I would happily return; and as a quick getaway from the land of spandexed merman, I definitely recommend Newport.