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Belcourt Castle in Newport Rhode Island Restores Crystal Chandelier

Belcourt Castle in Newport Rhode Island Restores Crystal Chandelier

Tue, 21 Apr 2009 09:50:48Belcourt Castle in Newport Rhode Island Restores Crystal Chandelier

A Russian crystal chandelier in Belcourt Castle’s Banquet Hall has been re-wired and restored after over 45 years as the sparkling centerpiece of the Newport mansion’s Italian Banquet Hall.

The Russian Crystal Chandelier at Belcourt Castle

PRLog (Press Release) – Apr 02, 2009 – In 1962, the Harold B. Tinney Family purchased from an antique dealer a large crystal chandelier from St. Petersburg, Russia, which had languished for forty years in a basement. Thousands of chandelier crystals, fine hand-cut prisms and long garlands, had been thrown into bushel baskets, weighing over 250 pounds each. A brass rim, which had not been polished for decades, lay nearby with a stunning imperial crown which, though dull with age, was obviously the top of the fixture. It was transported to the shop to sort out the pieces, which included a wheel of seventy-two lights, two smaller groups of a dozen lights, eight external arms, mirrors and miscellaneous pieces of brass and iron pipe.

Donald Tinney and the family buffed the brass, sorted the hand-cut crystal garlands into matching lengths and graduated sizes according to the few original garlands that had survived their long disuse. They hung the chandelier with the assistance of Glenn Betzer, Mrs. Harold B. Tinney’s brother, a licensed electrician. Three weeks of labor resulted in an assembly with magnificent statistics: 105 lights illuminating a ten-foot long fixture, eight feet in diameter, with over 13,000 pieces of hand-cut crystal. The light was much needed in the banquet hall, sixty by seventy feet, which was formerly the carriage room.

By 2008, approximately one-third of the chandelier’s sockets were functional. In January 2009, an enthusiastic young volunteer was eager to restore the fixture and update the wiring as a favor for Belcourt Castle. “But we just did that… Oh dear, it was 45 years ago”, said owner of Belcourt, Mrs. Harle Tinney, as she recalled vividly the labor of her family in its acquisition, restoration and installation. However, the sockets and internal wiring of the fixture dated back to 1900 and required replacement.

With the help of the maintenance staff, the dismantling of the chandelier was begun in the second week of January. The initial step was the removal of all of the crystal, which was carefully sorted and stored in trays to wait cleaning. After ensuring that the power to the fixture had been entirely shut off, the chandelier was disassembled piece-by-piece from the bottom up. The disassembly was completed within a day. The chandelier was stripped, polished and lacquered over a period of over three weeks, during which time the various components were also rewired. All 105 sockets were replaced with new ones and the wiring inside the fixture is entirely new. Where the chandelier had been installed with six switches; the fixture’s switching had been reconfigured multiple times. It was decided to again wire the chandelier for six switches which will be set up for dimmers in the future.

By the first week of February, the chandelier was completed and reassembled over a period of two days by volunteers and members of Belcourt Castle’s staff. The effort of restringing the crystal was time-intensive and collaborative. Days before, a delivery of brand new light bulbs had arrived and the chandelier was lit again for the first time at 3 AM after a long last day of work. During the restoration, volunteers and crew found evidence of the fixture’s original gas jets and candle holders. The entire process of the rewiring and the final installation was supervised and approved by a licensed electrician.

Belcourt Castle (1891 – 1894) was the summer cottage of Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and his wife Alva, the former Mrs. William Kissam Vanderbilt. The Honorable Perry Belmont, brother of Oliver, sold the house and furnishings in 1940, when he was 90 years old. For fifteen years, the magnificent gilded age building, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, was in danger of demolition until it was bought by the Harold B. Tinney Family in 1956. The Tinneys have restored and maintained the edifice for over a fifty year period and refurnished the elaborate rooms with their collection of antiques from thirty-three countries. Belcourt Castle is open for guided tours from 11 am to 4 pm Fridays through Mondays, and daily from April 10 through 26, 2009 where The Russian Imperial Crown Chandelier, newly restored, may be viewed.

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Belcourt Castle is a historic mansion museum in Newport, Rhode Island which features guided tours and events

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86 Spring Street, Newport, RI 02840  |  401-849-0004  |  887-294-0004  |