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Belcourt Castle in Newport Rhode Island Restores Crystal Chandelier

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Belcourt Castle in Newport Rhode Island Restores Crystal Chandelier

April 21st, 2009 by billfarrell

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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

An Amazing Stroll through TimeÂ… Walking the WalkÂ…The Cliff Walk

April 18th, 2009 by billfarrell

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 23:15:01By Linda S. Manning

Outlining the perimeter of an ancient pathway, twisting, turning, and curving high above the ocean along the cliffs is the incredible and famous Cliff Walk. Stretching from Memorial Boulevard on the north to the very southern end of Bellevue Avenue, a 3.5 mile hike is known as one of most beautiful and diverse walks in America. Cliff Walk has been designated as a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service.

On any given day strollers can be seen enjoying the vast ocean scenery, architecture, wildflowers, rabbits and birds, secret tunnels, steps leading to a granite platform of rocks overlooking the ever changing sea and mansions, glorious, opulent mansions fringing the walk adding to its grandeur.
It wasn’t always this picturesque. The path had its creation hundreds of years ago when the deer foraged for berries and food. Later the Narragansett tribe followed the same tracks, deepening the path along the ridge. Lastly the Colonists traced the same trail 350 years ago as they searched for seaweed and fished alongside the boundary of the sea.

But who owns this celebrated and glorious walk alongside the deep-sea with its white lace dancing and showing off endlessly through time?

During the first half of the 1800’s, wealthy New Yorkers claimed the center of Newport Harbor and the many miles of undeveloped shoreline, sometimes disputing access rights to the walk by making them less navigational; some built stone walls and erected fences and still others placed huge rocks in the pathway or planted trees or bushes to discourage use.

The “fisherman’s rights” clause was adopted from the colonial charter and incorporated into the Rhode Island Constitution in 1843, establishing a public right of way to the entire shoreline. Although most of Cliff Walk is private and owned by sixty four families, the right of way continues. Today the walk above the cliffs is a public right of way over private property.

In the 1880’s Cliff Walk estate owners took the walk more seriously and spent the next fifty years developing and improving what is now today’s national treasure.

The trail runs north-to-south along the eastern side of Aquidneck Island beginning at the basin of Newport Beach on Memorial Boulevard, once known as Bath Road. A picturesque view showing its rugged and dangerous cliffs decorating the edges of the path and rising fifty feet above the sea winding and turning for miles at a time, is incredible.

Along the trail to the east one can view the stately cottages with their fancy turrets, gargoyles, and pediments while to the west the calm or sometimes furious sea mysteriously piques your interest as you are enveloped by a feeling of peace. Breath in the salt air as it moistens your skin and kisses your cheek. Explore this jewel’s ever-changing views from the north of the trail to the south.
The walk is divided into four sections with the easiest, the Classic beginning at Memorial Boulevard and extending to Forty Steps, a 2/3 mile walk. The cement and asphalt trail lends itself as an easy walk, slightly uphill and simple to navigate. The drop off to the rocks below is shielded by bushes and fences in some areas and unguarded in others.

The Classic Walk begins at The Chanler, an luxurious and magnificent hotel and restaurant built into the cliffs in 1855 at the base of the walk at Easton’s Beach. Landscaped greenery and thick bushes on the right lead slightly uphill to a public right of way at Seaview Avenue. This right of way is marked with a few steps and a pathway through a fence.

The Hopedene mansion built in 1902 cannot be seen due to vegetation and Seaward, another fine mansion is not easily viewed either. This home was once owned by former governor Bruce Sunderland.

Following the path further, Ocean Lawn, a Queen Anne style home was built in 1889. Once owned by the Firestone family it sold in 2001 for $7 million dollars.

Few have the time to leisurely saunter beyond the Classic Walk and enjoy the full beauty that the walk represents; they may end their journey as the Classic at the base of Narragansett Street at Forty Steps.

A rocky path dating to long ago leading to the sea at Ellison’s Rocks and Conrad’s Cave to the south are what is known today as Forty Steps. Once rugged and rocky, wooden steps were built in the 1880’s and used by the mansions servants and workers for social dances and get-togethers. Hurricanes and storms created damage and unsafe terrain over the years. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the forty steps were restored, made of five foot by one foot slabs of granite and sold for $3,000 each and engraved with the name of the donor.

Forty steps (actually now forty eight) is a theatrical staircase dropping down the side of a cliff to a loggia over the sea. Rocks projecting into the sea form a stage as the waves crash onto the boulders each more spectacular than the last. Panoramic breathtaking views capture the Sakonnet Lighthouse in the distance and the outer edge of the Elizabethan Islands near Martha’s Vineyard. Local Newporters fish off the rocks year round or swim in the sea in the warmer weather. Forty Steps is open from dawn to dusk.

The University Walk begins just after Forty Steps and extends one half mile to the Breakers Mansion gate. There are several steps in this section of the walk some up and some down but easy to navigate. Ochre Point, a privately owned summer cottage owned by the Goelet family is obscured from view only to be seen from Narragansett Avenue. Ochre Court, an astonishing French Chateau was donated by the Goelet family to establish Salve Regina University in 1947.
A private home called Cave Cliff is next along the walk to be followed by the Queen Anne style Vineland, also part of the University. A new building to the south is also owned by the University. More glorious homes are yet to be seen as you continue to Mansion Walk.

Beginning at The Breakers and continuing 1-1/4 miles along the coast to a tunnel under the Chinese Tea House and further to what is known as Sheep Cove Tunnel is the finest collection of mansions and summer cottages ever to be built.

The Breakers, offering glitz and glamour a one of a kind ornate structure is open to the public by the Preservation Society as well as Rosecliff and Marble House. At the Chinese Tea House* gravel and dirt paths sometimes muddy and impassable make this part of the walk more difficult.

Continuing along the way, are resting points to catch your breath and take in the scenic overlooks.
Sheep Point Tunnel named for a farmland area and laced with grazing sheep some time ago is located at Clarendon Court once owned by the Von Bulow family. Ending the scenic vista is the most difficult of the walks, Hiker’s Walk.

Careful navigation is needed at this point of the walk and for the next 1 ¾ miles to Ledge Road. A narrow path covered with rocks and boulders sometimes extremely slippery decorates the shoreline. Only the experienced should venture across its path that leads to Miramar, Ocean View and Rough Point, former home of the tobacco heiress Doris Duke. At Rough Point is one of the most breathtaking views imaginable as the wave’s crash onto the rocks and the sea hisses at you as she recedes.

Reaching Ledge Road, a spectacular collection of 20 foot rocks lining the sea is one of the most pleasing and serene viewing points. As the waves crash in a thunder-like sound, migrating birds can be seen in the fall and spring and in the winter seals congregate to rest and sun themselves. This is where most people end their journey but some go on past The Waves to finish at Reject’s Beach located next to private Bailey’s Beach.

Your expedition has come to a conclusion and should you desire to return the way you came, you would have walked the walk for seven fabulous miles of famous, Cliff Walk.

International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum Newport, Rhode Island

April 18th, 2009 by billfarrell

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 21:40:11The International Tennis Hall of fame offers stately architecture, beautiful grounds, legendary grass courts, and an extraordinary Museum. Housed in the Newport Casino, a National Historic Landmark and one of the world’s finest examples of Victorian Shingle-Style architecture, it is one of the region’s finest attractions.

In 1881, the first US National Lawn Tennis Championships, the tournament that evolved into the US Open, was held on our grass courts. An outdoor walking tour showcases the rich history of  "the cradle of American Tennis".

An Extraordinary Museum – explore the world-class sports museum, six acres of historic grounds and Victorian architecture. Featuring interactive exhibits, extraordinary videos, and popular memorabilia form past champions to the stars of today, the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum chronicles the entire history of the sport, dating from the 12th century through today’s champions of professional tennis. Witness the evolution of tennis through the players, the equipment, the rules of the game, and the tournaments held around the world.

Play at the Hall of Fame – You don’t have to be a member to play on the legendary grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 13 grass courts, 1 clay court and three award-winning indoor courts are available for public play.  Call for daily court rentals, play programs, match arranging, and group play. Our professional staff offers year-round instruction for all ages and ability levels.

Grass courts are open May through September, with on-site Pro Shop. For daily reservations, call 401 846-0642.

EVENTS
July 6 – 12, 2009 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships
August 19 – 23, 2009 Hall of Fame Champions Cup

The Breakers, Historic Rhode Island Mansion Gives Servant View

April 11th, 2009 by billfarrell

Sat, 11 Apr 2009 23:19:10

ERIC TUCKER
Associated Press Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Helen Bjurberg’s elderly voice greets visitors as she recalls her summers in the 1920s at The Breakers mansion, the opulent oceanside retreat for the wealthy Vanderbilt family. But as a servant’s child, she wasn’t coddled like guests.

Her quarters were hot and cramped. Springs punctured her bedding and poked her in the side. She could touch nothing, or else. She precociously stole glimpses of millionaires and glamorous lawn parties she and her mother, a cook at the house, would never attend.

The stories of the estate’s haves and the have-nots are being shared for the first time in a new audio tour intended to make Newport’s most glamorous and popular Gilded Age mansion more historically accurate and relevant.

"Museums in general have been trying very hard to connect themselves to people," said Trudy Coxe, CEO of the Preservation Society of Newport County, the nonprofit that operates The Breakers. "If you can’t be relevant, then I’m not sure what we’re in this business for."

The new working-man focus could resonate with visitors during a recession that makes the eye-popping Vanderbilt fortune seem all the more out of reach.

"It really connected you to the time and to the house to have someone who actually experienced it," said Bill Stuart, a Boston transit inspector who took the tour earlier this month.

He views the house as a relic of a bygone era. Today, he said, "No one could have this kind of resources and financial clout to build a place like this."

The Breakers, modeled after an Italian Renaissance palace, was completed in 1895 for the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The 70-room house draws more than 300,000 visitors a year, and the city’s mansions — built when Newport was a summer hangout for wealthy industrialists — collectively rank among New England’s most popular destinations.

The tour draws on new research and interviews recorded in the last decade with Vanderbilt family members who lived there and some of the 40 cooks, chauffeurs and coachmen who served them. Visitor surveys showed a desire for more information about the mansion’s residents.

The new tour still notes The Breakers’ decadent, even garish, flourishes: the towering red-carpeted staircase in the Great Hall, the sparkling twin chandeliers and crystal wall sconces in the dining room and the open-air oceanfront terrace.

But it also opens previously closed sections of the house, exposing a warren of cramped corridors and storage space used by the servants to contrast the grand features.

Visitors are directed to a stained-glass skylight and 17th-century tapestry depicting the life of Alexander the Great, then turn to face a drab wooden staircase for staff.

"You’re going to constantly see a contrast between grand space and then functional serving space, and we purposefully walk people through the spaces that way," said John Tschirch, an architectural historian and director of academic programs for the Preservation Society who designed the new tour.

To create the tour, researchers funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant sifted through archives, photographs and documents. They also tracked down senior citizens who as children or young adults lived or labored in the house.

Snippets of their interviews are played throughout the tour. The recollections are often bittersweet.

Mary Seliga, the daughter of a staff worker, fondly recalls dreaming of being a "fairy princess" after peeking at "handsome young men" and stylish women in elegant ballroom gowns.

Rudolph Stanish, a domestic servant who became a professional chef known for his omelets, admits he used to contemplate dumping his 15-pound food trays on the laps of the women he served as they kept him waiting while they finished their conversations. But he also credits the house as a "stepping stone" to professional success for him and other servants.

Mansion officials hope the new tour will foster discussion among visitors.

"The Breakers does trigger a lot of interesting conversations about what it means to be American, what it means to be wealthy, what it means to have a home," Tschirch said.

Please check back

April 8th, 2009 by billfarrell

Wed, 08 Apr 2009 12:04:17

Our classic Victorian Newport Rhode Island bed and breakfast lodging offers amenities that will make your stay memorable. Candlelight breakfast, Jacuzzi style baths and our location close to waterfront dining, shopping and attractions make our Newport, Rhode Island bed and breakfast perfect for your Rhode Island escape. Explore the treasures of Newport and beyond from our exquisite bed and breakfast lodging hideaway. At The Spring Seasons Inn, your exclusive Rhode Island adventure awaits.

Our Tea Room which is open to the public features ML and other fine teas. We serve tea by the pot, Desserts, Afternoon High Tea and Cream Tea. Please click on the link above to visit our Tea Room page.

<<<CLICK HERE TO CHECK AVAILABILITY>>>

Newport and the Gilded Age

April 8th, 2009 by billfarrell

Wed, 08 Apr 2009 06:44:43

NEWPORT AND THE GILDED AGE
Story and Photography by Pat Mestern

Rhode Island was always a Mecca for wealthy Victorian Americans, Newport in particular being chosen as an ultimate summer retreat destination. From its roots as one of the three most important ports in Colonial America during the 1700′s, Newport grew to become the summer playground for several hundred families who possessed more than 80% of America’s wealth during the late Victorian period. Newport, known now as America’s First Resort, had its beginnings as one point in the 18th century port triangle. Sugar and molasses from the West Indies were turned into rum in Newport that was then used as "currency" for the slave trade.

Newport saw its demise as a major port after the British blockade of 1776, when most of the timber wharves were used for firewood during the particular harsh winter. They were never rebuilt and the village languished in near obscurity for a half century. This obscurity contributed to the fact that with little developmental progress, early architecture was kept intact. Today, Newport has one of the most architecturally significant and intact old towns on the Eastern seaboard. It boasts the largest percentage of eighteenth century buildings in New England. Most have been restored and present a beautiful time capsule for today’s visitors.

Beginning in the mid 1850′s wealthy families chose Newport and area as an ideal location for their summer cottages. As mansions and villas sprung up, each more elaborate than the previous, the perfect vacation setting was established for "The 400", an elite group of very wealthy individuals. Their presence, and all the events and activities that surrounded their being in residence, produced a unique and unforgettable time in Newport, known as The Gilded Age. Today, Newport’s streets are bustling with visitors. It is one of the premier tourist destinations on the East Coast. Those that are savvy about the area know that negotiating narrow, one way streets in old Newport can be a headache. It is wise to find accommodation that is within walking distance of all attractions. We stayed at The Cleveland House B & B, located several blocks from the harbor, shops, restaurants and a short walking distance from the mansions along Bellevue Avenue.

Speaking of accommodation, the first item on any visitor’s agenda should be to contact the local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for area information. Because there are a large number of attractions in the Newport area, plan carefully so that you might see as much as possible in the time frame set for your visit. It is also most important that you make accommodation reservations in advance as a room can be hard to find during the height of the tourism season.

The Spring Seasons Inn (www.springseasonsinn.com) is in an ideal location. During our five-day visit, we only had to resort to driving the car twice, both times to attractions at a distance from the main area. Another alternative for visitors is to purchase an all-day pass to ride the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority trolley.

A gentle sound was the first thing that impressed us about Newport. Walking throughout the old town, we were constantly aware of the tinkling of wind chimes. Every street has their share. As there is always a breeze off the harbor, there is "fuel" for the motion bells. Far from annoying, they provided beautiful background music for one of the prettiest towns on the New England coast. They are appropriate for the seaport.

Newport is famous for its mansions and palatial summer homes. There are thirteen properties visitors can visit, some more popular than others. If time is at a premium, choose several from the list provided by the Visitors Bureau. Be prepared for a lineup at the grandest and most popular. Some "waits" are more than an hour. The best way to beat line-ups is to visit the most popular mansions early in the morning, just after the gates open.

Personal recommendations are Rosecliff, Chateau-Sur-Mer, Marble House, The Elms, The Breakers and Kingscote, not particularly in that order. Of this list, The Breakers is by far the most popular and opulent mansion, followed closely by Marble House. Our personal preference was The Elms that has a self-guided tour utilizing headphones and a recording unit. It was a pleasure to view the house at our leisure, stopping here and there to learn more about the mansion, and its operations, from our personal recorded guide.

The above-mentioned homes are owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County. There is one other mansion that I highly recommend, that being the privately owned Belcourt, one of the most unique and unusual mansions in the area. Belcourt is amazing for its collection of artifacts from thirty-two countries including China and England. Belcourt’s stained glass display is wonderful. The place is also reputed to have several resident ghosts.

Be prepared to pay admission to all properties. There are admission packages available for those owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County.

As it is impossible to remember all the details of these magnificent dwellings, it is a good idea to purchase an illustrated book about them. One of the best is Newport Mansions, The Gilded Age by Richard Cheek and Thomas Gannon.

Newport’s heritage envelops more than 360 years of sailing and sailing ships, so it’s appropriate that visitors can enjoy a sail out of the harbor on a number of schooners. We chose The Madeleine. The wind was up and sailing was excellent. What a way to spend an afternoon! If schooner sailing is not be in your blood, there are also motorized harbor cruises.

Browsing all the shops in Old Newport can take some time! Antiquing is great in the many shops on Spring Street and at the old Stone Armory on America’s Cup Drive. Eateries abound in the area and address all tastes and price ranges. We liked Crawley’s on Bellevue, Aidan’s Irish Pub & Grub behind Old Colony House and Sardella’s Italian Restaurant on Memorial Blvd. W. Ask Sardella’s about their two-for-one specials on slow nights! For great seafood try Johnny’s Seafood Restaurant on Newport Beach.

One of the most interesting attractions for visitors is not a mansion but a church. St. Mary’s Church in the heart of Newport was begun in 1848 and dedicated in 1852. It is known throughout the U.S.A. as the church where Jacqueline Bouvier married John Kennedy in 1953.
If hiking is something you enjoy, you are in for a treat. Cliff Walk, an ambitious three-mile hike, can be accessed from Newport Beach, the forty steps at the end of Narragansett Avenue or the end of Bellevue Avenue. Watch for signs. The last one and a half miles cover rough terrain so be careful. The End of Cliff Walk affords a gorgeous view of Rhode Island Sound.

You will have to drive your car to enjoy the panoramic views Ocean Avenue provides of the Sound. The road also winds past some of the most expensive real estate in North America. There are public parking areas for those who enjoy an ocean view. Mind the private property signs! For swimming try sandy Newport Beach, the place to be seen-and to see!

Newport, R.I. Creates Heritage Trail

April 7th, 2009 by billfarrell

Tue, 07 Apr 2009 10:00:46

NEWPORT, R.I. – The Breakers in Newport is an opulent, oceanside mansion completed in 1895 as a summer "cottage" for the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Less than 15 minutes away, and across a bridge into nearby Bristol, stands the 45-room Blithewold mansion and its verdant 33-acre garden estate of trees, shrubs and lawns.

Both buildings are relics of America’s Gilded Age and monuments to unfettered wealth. Now, tourism officials want to make sure visitors to one site are also checking out the other.
Newport and its neighboring communities are creating a trail of historic attractions, linking up notable sites with color-coded maps and eventually road signs to make it easier for tourists to move from museum to mansion to Colonial-era farm. The goal of the initiative, known as the Newport Bristol Heritage Passage, is not to draw more tourists but to encourage those who already come to extend their stays by steering them to attractions they may not have thought to visit.
"We’re going after the quality visitor, and the quality visitor has a particular interest in heritage tourism attractions and events," said Keith Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the trail.

The project’s intent is similar to Boston’s Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red-brick walking trail linking historic sites. But this trail will be accessed more by drivers given the broad swath of land it covers, bookended by Newport and Bristol and winding through the lesser-known towns of Portsmouth, Jamestown, Middletown, Tiverton and Little Compton.

The corridor is already laid out, with more than 80 mansions, museums, gardens, farms and burial grounds highlighted on maps, marked on a Web site and grouped into seven categories such as maritime heritage, religious freedom and tolerance, Gilded Age and museums.

Once the project is completed, Stokes said, highway and road signs will alert drivers that they’ve entered the Newport Bristol Heritage Passage. Signs within the communities, bearing an iconic logo or symbol, will give visitors information about reaching historic sites and attractions along the corridor and will also provide general information about things like public parking and nearby restrooms, he said.

"It helps to communicate that there’s more to see, that this is one part of a greater whole," said Andrew Barresi, a principal of Roll-Barresi & Associates, a Cambridge, Mass.-based design firm hired for the project. "If there was no signage or no indication that it’s part of the heritage trail, it’s a one-stop experience, so to speak."
Organizers have received roughly $65,000 in state grants and private money in the last three and a half years, which has been used to hire marketing consultants, planners and designers, among other experts, Stokes said. He said he expected that the signs and information kiosks would be phased in over several years.

The trail encompasses Newport’s signature attractions, including its late-19th century mansions, the nation’s oldest synagogue, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Fort Adams, a centuries-old coastal fort active through World War II that today is the venue for the city’s heralded jazz and folk festivals.

It also encompasses lesser-known sites including the Colonial-era Mount Hope Farm in Bristol and the Herreshoff Marine Museum, which hosts the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.
Some visitors seemed intrigued by the idea of branching out beyond the best-known attractions.
"I love to learn new things, and I would find something unique about each place," said Christina Villa, 40, a consultant from Los Angeles making her first visit to Newport.

The idea is that tourists interested in the Gilded Age will visit not only Newport’s storied mansions but also Linden Place, the 1810 Bristol mansion featured in the film "The Great Gatsby" and onetime home of the actress Ethel Barrymore. Or that people interested in America’s religious history will visit not just the Touro Synagogue but also a 1699 Quaker meeting house in Newport that is Rhode Island’s oldest house of worship.

The project is part of a broader aggressive effort to get tourists to spend more time and money in Newport, which already draws more than 3 million visitors a year and accounts for one of the Ocean State’s most reliable industries.

Marketing materials for the project beckon visitors to "Discover Your American Heritage," then asks, "Did you know that in the Newport Bristol Heritage Passage, you’ll find the greatest concentration of America’s heritage sites?"

An ambitious claim, perhaps, but Stokes makes no apologies.
"I have no problem challenging and debating Boston and Philadelphia on who’s the most historic community," Stokes said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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