FrontRunners: Gilded Cottage

  • James Y. Bartlett

When the elegant cottages began to rise along the rocky waterfront of Newport, R.I., during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, the owners—members of elite New York society—called in the finest interior designers of the time. In the game of one-upmanship between the Astors, the Whitneys, and the Vanderbilts, among others, no expense was spared in creating living spaces of munificence. Shiploads of travertine marble sailed from Italy, entire rooms of French châteaus were dismantled and reassembled along Bellevue Avenue, and armies of craftsmen and artisans carved moldings, created intricate friezes, and applied gold leaf.

 

The owners of the recently opened Chanler at Cliff Walk hotel (401.847.1300, www.thechanler.com) embraced this spirit of overstatement when they purchased the 15,000-square-foot mansion, originally built in 1873 as the summer home of New York Congressman William Chanler and his wife, Margaret Astor Ward. John and Jean Shufelt, who also own the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island, Mich., and the LaFarge Perry House bed-and-breakfast a few blocks away in Newport, have decorated each of the boutique hotel’s 20 suites in a different period style. Thus, guests can choose to sleep in Colonial, Regency, Greek Revival, Louis XVI, Renaissance, English Tudor, Federal, Williamsburg, Victorian, French Provincial, Empire, Georgian, or Mediterranean surroundings.

The public-access Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile paved walking trail that winds between the rocky shoreline and the backyards of famous mansions such as the Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, Rosecliff, the Elms, and Marble House, begins at the hotel’s property at Memorial Boulevard. For a long weekend of mansion-hopping, the Chanler at Cliff Walk is ideally situated, and its array of rooms should suit anyone’s taste.

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