Newport, Rhode Island: Houses, Mansions, and Gardens from Colonial Days to Gilded Age, and to Today

The ICAA is pleased to partner with Classical Excursions to present this exceptional tour highlighting the architecture and designs of Newport, Rhode, Island.

Newport was founded in 1639 on Rhode Island, which is now called Aquidneck Island. No American seaside resort is more famous or historic than Newport. In part, that’s because few other places retain so superlative and intact a legacy of extraordinary buildings dating from the early colonial period to the modern day. In the eighteenth century, Newport’s harbor was the most important port in the country, especially in the American Revolution, making Newport a very prosperous town. In the mid-nineteenth century summer cottages started to appear and the Gilded Age kicked off around 1865 and ran up to 1915 and World War I. Preservation of historic Newport started in 1945 with the purchase of Hunter House (c.1748) in the Point Section of town – and this led to the formation of the Preservation Society of Newport County (now popularly called Newport Mansions). Newport Preservation Foundation and other groups followed. All major architects and firms are represented in Newport starting with Peter Harrison in the mid-1700’s, then to Richard Upjohn, Richard Morris Hunt, McKim Mead & White, Horace Trumbauer, Peabody & Stearns, John Russell Pope, Delano & Aldrich, Charles Platt, to name a few. Today, firms like Fairfax & Sammons, Peter Pennoyer Architects and others are all engaged in projects.

This tour is arranged by Classical Excursions. Please note, that you must contact Classical Excursions’ Director, Lani Summerville to formally register for this program. Upon completing a registration form, submitting a deposit to Classical Excursions, and receiving a confirmation from Classical Excursions you will be considered registered for this program. Payment of the $600 donation to the ICAA prior to registration does not guarantee placement on the trip. Again, to inquire about registration for this program, please contact Lani Summerville at [email protected] or 413-446-8728.

This tour is not yet open for registration.


  • Double Occupancy: $2,950 per person
  • Single Occupancy: $3,600 for a double-room

A fully tax-deductible donation of $600 per person is required to participate in this travel program. Please note that this donation is non-refundable except in the case that this travel program is cancelled by the organization. All travel program participants have the opportunity to receive a complimentary Individual level membership for one year to the ICAA.

The tour will begin with a welcome lecture and dinner at the New York Yacht Club’s property called Harbour Court. This once magnificent private home was built for John Nicholas Brown’s family and completed in 1906. Perched high above the harbor,it offers incredible views of moored sailing vessels, yachts, Fort Adams, and Narragansett Bay. The house was designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram and inspired by the Chateau d’Osmoy.

Our talk will be presented by architectural historian John Tschirch. John is an author of numerous books, and he is a professor at RISD and is former head of education at the Preservation Society.

The touring begins with a special visit to Kingscote, a Gothic Revival 1839 mansion by architect Richard Upjohn, with Leslie Jones, Chief Curator and Head of Museum Affairs. This mansion built at the era at the beginning of the “cottage boom.” In 1880, Stanford White was commissioned to design a dining room addition.

Participants will then visit the Isaac Bell House by McKim Mead & White dating to 1882. The House is an outstanding example of the Shingle Style. The group will have a behind-the-scenes visit as the house will just be completing a $3.285 million-dollar major renovation.

The tour will feature the Newport Casino, now the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Casino, built c. 1881, by McKim, Mead & White in the shingle style, was originally designed with both public retail along Bellevue and then private club facilities.

Participants will enjoy a short visit to the John N.A. Griswold House, designed by Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1864 in the stick-style of architecture – it now is one of three buildings of the Newport Art Museum. Another museum building was designed by Delano & Aldrich and completed in 1919.

The tour will include a special visit to Redwood Library and Athenaeum, c.1747, by architect Peter Harrison. On this private visit, the group will be welcomed by Director Benedict Leca. The Redwood was America’s first purpose-built library, and the oldest continuously operating in its original location. In 1875 the Redwood added Rhode Island’s first art gallery to the building. The group will have the opportunity to explore with their curator a special selection of some of the treasures in the collection.

The first full day will conclude with a private visit to a 300-year-old house in the heart of Newport that has been recently restored. Participants will enjoy a wine and cheese reception hosted co-hosted by ICAA Member Sandra Liotus and the homeowners.

Travellers will enjoy a special morning visit to The Breakers, the grandest and largest of all the Newport mansions. Built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, it was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895. It is in the Renaissance Revival Style with interiors by Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman, Jr. The mansion stands on the site of a previous brick and shingle Queen Anne style house by Peabody and Stearns that had burned to the ground in 1892. The landscape of both of The Breakers was designed by Ernest Bowditch. In 1948, Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi leased the property to the Preservation Society of Newport County for $1 a year to open the first and second floors and take care of the maintenance of the property. Members of the Vanderbilt family continued to use the third floor up until 2018.

The group will have a private hard-hat visit to the third-floor of The Breakers, an area not open to the public. This floor contained eight bedrooms and a sitting room for guest, plus a north wing section for staff.

The program features an afternoon visit to The Elms. Built for Edward Julius Berwind and his family, it was completed in 1901 to the designs of architect Horace Trumbauer. Mr. Berwind’s sister Julia kept the house until her death in 1961. Then there was sale of the contents in spring of 1962, and a developer hoped to redevelop the property for multiple housing lots.

The Preservation Society was able to purchase the house and grounds in late 1962, saving it from the wrecking-ball. Since that time, approximately 20% of the original contents have made their way back – including, just earlier last year, a donation of Mr. Berwind’s bed and dressing console – so there is always hope for more pieces to make their way back. We’ll enjoy a walk on the grounds to admire the two garden pavilions, the sunken garden, and the carriage house. Several spaces, including the kitchens, have been featured in the HBO series “The Gilded Age.”

The tour includes a private, before opening hours, visit to Rough Point, the former home of Doris Duke, and now part of the Newport Restoration Foundation which she founded in 1968. The English Manorial style home designed by the architectural firm Peabody & Stearns for Frederick William Vanderbilt. Construction on the red sandstone and granite began 1887 and was completed 1892. In 1922, the property was acquired by James Buchannan Duke and in 1925, 12-year-old Doris inherited the property upon her father’s passing.

Participants will take a private tour of Vernon House, c. 1760. This architecturally distinguished colonial-era house isan unrestored property and not open to the public. It is a National Historic Landmark as it is known for its extraordinary Asia-inspired wall murals. During the American Revolutionary War, it served as the headquarters of the Comte de Rochambeau, commander of the French forces from 1780 to 1783.

What’s included

  • A three night stay at the Brenton Hotel. The boutique hotel opened in July 2020 and overlooks the harbor on one side, and at the historic Colony House on Washington Square on the other.
  • A welcome lecture given by architectural historian John Tschirch, and dinner at the New York Yacht Club's property, Harbour Court.
  • A visit to Kingscote, a Gothic Revival 1839 mansion by architect Richard Upjohn. This was the era at the beginning of the “cottage boom," with Leslie Jones, Chief Curator and Head of Museum Affairs.
  • A tour a behind the scenes visit of the Isaac Bell House, designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1882. The house will just be completing a $3.285 million major renovation.
  • A visit to the John N.A. Griswold House, designed by Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1864.
  • A private tour or the Redwood Library and Athenaeum (c. 1747, architect Peter Harrison), with the Library's curator.
  • An exclusive visit and wine and cheese reception at a 300-year old private home in the heart of Newport with the homeowners, co-hosted by ICAA member Sandra Liotus.
  • A special morning visit to The Breakers, the grandest and largest of the Newport Mansions. The tour will include a private hard-hat visit to the third-floor of The Breakers, an area not open to the public.
  • An afternoon tour of The Elms, built for Edward Julius Berwind and his family, it was completed in 1901 to the designs of architect Horace Trumbauer.
  • A special visit before opening hours to Rough Point, the former home of Doris Duke and now part of the Newport Restoration Foundation which she founded in 1968.
  • An exclusive tour of Vernon House, c1760. This architecturally distinguished colonial-era-house is an unrestored property and National Historic Landmark, and is not open to the public.

International Tennis Hall of Fame and North Casino Building

Rough Point Cliff Walk

Kingscote, Newport, RI (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Case)

The Isaac Bell House (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Dms1788)

John N.A. Griswold House (Image: Wikimedia Commons/ajay_suresh)

Redwood Library and Athenaeum (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken)

The Breakers (Image: Wikimedia Commons/UpstateNYer)

The Elms (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Marco Almbauer)

Vernon House (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Kenneth C. Zirkel)

Newport Rhode Island, Aerial View (Image: Wikimedia Commons/User:MVASCO)



How do I register for an ICAA travel program?

If you would like to register, you may contact the travel operator organizing the program. Please note that a $600 donation per person to the ICAA is required in order to participate in each travel program.

What does the required $600 donation fund?

Your $600 donation helps to further the ICAA’s goal of advancing the practice and appreciation of the classical tradition in architecture and the allied arts by supporting its varied educational programs, including continuing education courses, college workshops, the Summer Studio in Classical Architecture, New Heights, and many more.

Am I required to pay a $600 donation for each travel program I register for?

Yes, a donation of $600 to the ICAA is required for each travel program you register for. The donation is required for each person attending a tour.

How do I make my $600 donation to the ICAA?

You can make your $600 donation to the ICAA online, or you can download, complete, and mail this form to the ICAA. You can alternatively fax a copy to 212-730-9649. You may also call 212-730-9646 x111 or email [email protected] to make a donation. Donations must be made separately from the registration fee.

Do I have to be a member of the ICAA to participate in an ICAA travel program?

No, membership is not required to attend an ICAA travel program. However, complimentary Individual membership to the ICAA is included with your $600 required donation.

I don’t see the full itinerary for the tour I am interested in. When will it be released?

For full itinerary and more information, contact [email protected], 413-446-8728. Due to the exclusive nature of our tours, some private locations or visits may be omitted from the ICAA's website.

What kinds of trips does the ICAA offer?

Over the past several years, the ICAA has travelled to destinations including Paris; Andalusia; Atlanta; Barbados; South Africa; Chicago; the Netherlands and Belgium; Scotland; the French Riviera; Morocco; the Italian Lake Region; Charlottesville; Naples; and New Delhi, among many other locations. The ICAA is always looking to diversify its travel offerings. If you have a suggestion or location you would like to see added, please email [email protected].