Travel: Culture & Architecture

Will It Survive the Storm?

The front entrance to Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island.
The front entrance to Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island.

I do hope Castle Hill Inn will not be disturbed by approaching Hurricane Sandy. It has weathered many severe storms in its 138 years and even lost its turret back in the early 1900s. An exact replica of the original turret has recently been built, and it would be a darn shame if Frankenstorm were to destroy it.

Castle Hill Inn was built as a summer residence in 1874 for the renowned scientist and explorer, Alexander Agassiz. There’s not much information about the house’s architecture history, but there’s plenty of information on Agassiz. From what I learned touring the earlier Newport mansions, I would say this building’s design is a good example of shingle style architecture with the interiors influenced by the English Aesthetic style which was very much in vogue during the mid to late 1800s. I’ve had to do some homework since I’ve returned to understand these movements. The Aesthetic Movement in the decorative arts could be considered a sub category of the Arts and Crafts movement. My explanation may be a bit over simplified, but researching and understanding all the nuances gave me a major case of tired head.

Agassiz decorated his house with the best of Chinese and Japanese art and furnishings—all of which were elements of the Aesthetic style. Today Castle Hill Inn’s interiors still adhere to this style with elements such as William Morris wallpaper and fabrics; ebonized wood with gilt highlights; far Eastern influence; a prominent use of nature, especially flowers, birds, ginkgo leaves, and peacock feathers; and blue and white porcelain and other fine china.

Update: On Thursday, November 1, Brian Young, the General Manager, left a comment saying “Hello, and thanks for your kind words and well wishes. I’m happy to report that, although we suffered some beach erosion and landscape damage from the effects of Sandy, we had no lasting damage and are open for business as always. We look forward to welcoming you back soon.”

(above) The west side of the house and its lawn stretching down into a quiet portion of Narragansett Bay.
(above) The west side of the house and its lawn stretching down into a quiet portion of Narragansett Bay.
(above) Here on the first landing at the mezzanine level the Aesthetic Movement is well represented.
(above) Here on the first landing at the mezzanine level the Aesthetic Movement is well represented.
(above) This little study was located just off the second floor landing and down the hall from my room.
(above) This little study was located just off the second floor landing and down the hall from my room.
(above) Here we’re looking away from the study down the hall that leads to my room which is to the left just beyond the door opening.
(above) Here we’re looking away from the study down the hall that leads to my room which is to the left just beyond the door opening.
(above) You have now just entered my room, otherwise known as the Mrs. Agassiz Room.
(above) You have now just entered my room, otherwise known as the Mrs. Agassiz Room.
(above) Another view of my room.
(above) Another view of my room.
(above) And another view of my room.
(above) And another view of my room.
(above) Here’s the entrance to my bathroom.
(above) Here’s the entrance to my bathroom.
(above) I’m guessing that at one time this room was the dressing or sitting room that was originally connected to the master bedroom next door. I was able to find where the former entrance from the hall had been located. Perhaps both my room and the master bedroom had both shared it.
(above) I’m guessing that at one time this room was the dressing or sitting room that was originally connected to the master bedroom next door. I was able to find where the former entrance from the hall had been located. Perhaps both my room and the master bedroom had both shared it.
(above) The fireplace is another clue to this room having been originally a dressing room.
(above) The fireplace is another clue to this room having been originally a dressing room.
(above) Despite being sick, I was able to take advantage of this one sunny day and just sit back and soak in the peaceful view.
(above) Despite being sick, I was able to take advantage of this one sunny day and just sit back and soak in the peaceful view.
(above) On my first full day in Newport, I walked some of Castle Hill Inn’s trails. The hotel property is located outside of Newport on a 40-acre plus peninsula which gave the place an impression of isolation.
(above) On my first full day in Newport, I walked some of Castle Hill Inn’s trails. The hotel property is located outside of Newport on a 40-acre plus peninsula which gave the place an impression of isolation.
(above) Even though it was October, there were blooming wild flowers.
(above) Even though it was October, there were blooming wild flowers.
(above) I love this wild state of flower and foliage.
(above) I love this wild state of flower and foliage.
(above) And here’s the famous lighthouse—the lighthouse that has a place in history and a place in my memories. It may look charming and innocent, but during foggy weather its fog horn blares every ten seconds. It was foggy nine days of the ten days I was there. Not good if you’re not used to it and happen to be very sick and need a good night’s sleep.
(above) And here’s the famous lighthouse—the lighthouse that has a place in history and a place in my memories. It may look charming and innocent, but during foggy weather its fog horn blares every ten seconds. It was foggy nine days of the ten days I was there. Not good if you’re not used to it and happen to be very sick and need a good night’s sleep.
(above) At the end of the trail are the Beach Houses and Beach Cottages which are part of Castle Hill Inn’s accommodations and are located on a private beach. I didn’t take a photograph of the beach side, because it was beginning to rain. I understand that families and couples love these little romantic shelters.
(above) At the end of the trail are the Beach Houses and Beach Cottages which are part of Castle Hill Inn’s accommodations and are located on a private beach. I didn’t take a photograph of the beach side, because it was beginning to rain. I understand that families and couples love these little romantic shelters.
(above) Taking a different trail back to the old house, I came upon this group of trees. I don’t know what they are, but I did see much older, knobbier, and gigantic versions of this tree on the grounds of the old Newport mansions.
(above) Taking a different trail back to the old house, I came upon this group of trees. I don’t know what they are, but I did see much older, knobbier, and gigantic versions of this tree on the grounds of the old Newport mansions.
(above) On the opposite end of the peninsula from the Beach cottages are the Harbor Houses. This staircase was built specifically for Grace Kelly, and it leads down to a tiny beach. The Harbor Houses are located on a much quieter side of the peninsula.
(above) On the opposite end of the peninsula from the Beach cottages are the Harbor Houses. This staircase was built specifically for Grace Kelly, and it leads down to a tiny beach. The Harbor Houses are located on a much quieter side of the peninsula.
(above) Despite being sick with a nasty cold, I did manage to enjoy a couple of cocktails and not waste this incredible view.
(above) Despite being sick with a nasty cold, I did manage to enjoy a couple of cocktails and not waste this incredible view.
(above) I don’t know much about sailing, but this was a novel site for me. I know there’s sailing in and around Dallas on our manmade lakes, but it’s just not the same.
(above) I don’t know much about sailing, but this was a novel site for me. I know there’s sailing in and around Dallas on our manmade lakes, but it’s just not the same.

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