Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Years ago, when I was a boy, my parents took me to the Vanderbilt estate (mansion), in Centerport, New York, In my adult life, I have visited mansions through out the United States.

With that in mind, I recently visited the Elms, 367 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. The mansion was built between 1899 and 1901. The architect was Horace Trumbauer.

The mansion was built for coal baron, Edward Julius Berwind, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Berwind was considered one of the 59 most influential Americans at the time.

The house is Classical Revival design and was built during the Guilded Age at a cost of $1.5 Million ($1,500,000.00). It was one of the first houses to be fully built that was totally electrified at the time. Like all mansions built in Newport, it was considered by the wealthy as a "Summer Cottage." It would normally be occupied for about eight (8) weeks every summer (the social season).

During the week, Mr. Berwind would spend his time at his company headquarters in New York City.. His wife Mrs. Sarah "Minnie" Berwind would stay at the mansion. Mr. Berwind would visit the Elms on weekends. The couple had no children.

When you enter through the main entrance (3 pairs of double doors) you see two marble spiral staircases leading to the second level. On the first floor is a conservatory (room made like a garden on the southwest corner). On one of the interior walls has arched mirrored doors, that match the arched doors leading out of the room to the outside of the house. A great idea, it reflects light and makes the room look larger.

On the second floor, is the family room, a family dining room and the bedrooms for the mansions occupants (Mr. Berwind, Mrs. Berwind and Julia Bewind (Mr. Berwind's sister). Julia's (the sister's) bedroom was on the south east corner. Mrs. Sarah Berwind's bedroom was on the South west corner of the house, with Mr. Berwind's bedroom connected to Mrs. Berwinds bedroom on the west side of the mansion.

On the other end of the second floor were other bedrooms for other members of their families.

Quests of the Berwinds, stayed in three (3) quest houses across the street. The quest houses had no kitchens or dining rooms, as the quests were expected to eat at the mansion.

In 1922, Sarah "Minnie" Berwind died. Mr. Berwind, invited his sister Julia Berwind to stay at the mansion, so the family could be represented during the summer social scene. In 1936, Mr. Edward Berwind died, leaving the estate to his sister, Ms. Julia Berwind. Ms. Julia Berwind died in 1961 leaving the mansion to her nephew. At the time of Ms. Berwind's death, the mansion had a staff of 40 people. The mansion never had an electric washing machine or electric clothes dryer installed.

Outside the mansion, was a carriage house, which later on was used for a garage for automobiles. Inside the garage house, is a turntable to turn the cars around. There are also two (2) magnificent gazebos.

The nephew and the family auctioned off the contents of the mansion and sold the mansion to a company, that planned to tear down the mansion and put something else up. The Preservation Society of Newport County was able to purchase and preserve the building.

Brokenwing, what about the GREEN TABLE? It seems that the green table, which is at the top of the winding stairs on the second floor, was made out a solid slab of green marble. It is about five (5) feet wide and about ten (10) feet long. It weighs about 5,000 pounds. It was auctioned off, but it couldn't be moved. How did it get there? It was lifted into place with a crane before the third floor (servants quarters) was put on. On the second floor is a painting that was secured to the ceiling. It too, was sold at auction, and couldn't be removed from the building.

The point of the story, is that a great deal of planning went into the building of this mansion. The furniture was built for the mansion, in fact some interior pieces were taken from other mansions in Europe. Putting the green marble table in place took a great deal of planning. Funds were put in place to secure that the building would be completed.

Could you imagine the Mohegan Tribal Government ever attempting such a project? Would the MTGA have built the mansion and forget to install the Green marble table ? Would they have figured it out? What about the ceiling painting?

Can they build a casino inside a budget? Didn't the Sky Casino and hotel cost $1.2 Billion when in the beginning the projected cost was $800 Million? HOW MANY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HAS THE PRESENT AND PAST TRIBAL COUNCILS SPENT TO PRODUCE NEGATIVE RESULTS?

What about the "WHITE ELEPHANT" (the Mohegan Tribal Government Community Center), that no one seems to want? Were the funds secured for the construction of the government community center? What about Pocono Downs? What about a projected casino in Palmer, Massachusetts? What about the projects in Wisconsin and the State of Washington?


EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: If you get the chance, visit the Elms and see the Green Marble Table. What do you think?


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