Fun things to do in Rhode Island

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Rhode Island

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    The Elms

    by traveldave Updated Aug 8, 2012

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    The Elms was built by Philadelphia coal baron Edward Julius Berwind. The Classical Revival mansion was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, whose design was inspired by the eighteenth-century Château d'Asnières near Paris. Constructed between 1899 and 1901, The Elms was equipped with the latest technology of its day.

    The ground floor has opulent rooms that include a grand ballroom, a salon, a dining room, a breakfast room, a library, a conservatory, and a grand hallway with a marble floor.

    Its 14 acres (six hectares) of grounds contain a sunken French garden with terraces, fountains, statues, and teahouses. They were designed by landscape architects C.H. Miller and Ernest Bowditch.

    The Elms has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    Marble House

    by traveldave Updated Aug 8, 2012

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    Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, Marble House helped spark the transformation of Newport from a quiet backwater of wooden summer homes to the opulent resort of marble and stone palaces that marked the Gilded Age.

    The mansion was built by William Kissam Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, an industrialist and philanthropist who was one of the richest Americans in history. He made his fortune in shipping and railroads. The Beaux Arts mansion was constructed between 1888 and 1892. It was modeled after Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon at Versailles, and contains formal gardens, designed by landscape architect Ernest Bowditch, that were based on those at Versailles.

    Upon its completion, Vanderbilt gave Marble House to his wife, Alva Erskine Vanderbilt, for her 39th birthday. She called it her "temple of the arts" and used it for lavish parties. In later years, she built a replica of a Chinese tea house at the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean in the mansion's backyard.

    Marble House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    Château-sur-Mer

    by traveldave Updated Aug 8, 2012

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    Built in 1852, Château-sur-Mer was the most palacial mansion on Bellevue Avenue until the Vanderbilts constructed their homes in the 1890s. Noted for its Victorian architecture and furnishings, and stenciled wallpaper, the home was also one of the few Newport mansions used as a year-round residence.

    Château-sur-Mer was built by Seth Bradford as a French-style villa for William Shepard Wetmore, who had made his fortune in the China trade. Wetmore's son, George Peabody Wetmore, inherited the home. In the 1870's he went to Europe on an extended trip and left architect Richard Morris Hunt to remodel and decorate the house in the Second Empire style.

    Château-sur-Mer has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    The Isaac Bell House

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    The Isaac Bell House, also called Edna Villa, was constructed as a summer home for Isaac Bell, Jr., a successful cotton broker and investor. He was also the brother-in-law of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the publisher of the New York Herald.

    The mansion was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White. Constructed between 1881 and 1883, it is one of the finest examples of the uniquely American shingle-style architecture, with finely crafted details in wood, glass, and stone. The shingle style of architecture was pioneered by Henry Hobson Richardson when he designed the William Watts Sherman House in Newport. This style of Victorian architecture was popular in the late nineteenth century and is named for the decorative, unpainted shingles used on the exterior of a building.

    In later years, the mansion was subdivided into apartments and at one time was used as a nursing home. It was purchased in 1994 by the Preservation Society of Newport County and restored as a museum.

    The Isaac Bell House has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge is a gravity-anchored suspension bridge that spans the East Passage of Narragansett Bay to connect Newport (right), which is located on Aquidneck Island, to Jamestown (left), which is located on Conanicut Island.

    The bridge was constructed between 1966 and 1969. Its main span is 1,601 feet (488 meters), and its total length is 11,274 feet (3,428 meters). The main towers are 400 feet (122 meters) tall, and the four-lane roadway is 215 feet (66 meters) above the water at its highest point.

    Originally called the Newport Bridge, the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge was renamed in 1992 in honor of United States Senator Claiborne Pell. However, most people still refer to it as simply the Newport Bridge.

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    The Sylvanus Brown House

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    The Sylvanus Brown House is located on the grounds of the Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket.

    Sylvanus Brown was a millwright and carpenter who worked at the Slater Mill. He had a background in building water-powered mills in Europe, and helped Samuel Slater produce mechanical textile machinery.

    His house, which dates from 1758, is typical of artisans' dwellings during the mid- to late 1700s. Brown lived in this particular house between 1784 and 1824. While he worked at producing machinery, his wife Ruth worked in the home, weaving cloth by hand for sale to factories and for the family's own use.

    The Sylvanus Brown house is furnished based on Brown's probate inventory, and contains some of his early nineteenth-century belongings, a loom, spinning wheels, and other tools used to make cloth by hand. The house and its furnishings offer an insight into daily life in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

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    The College Hill Historic District

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    The College Hill Historic District was established in 1960 and expanded in 1977 and 1990 to preserve one of the most impressive collections of colonial houses in the United States. Brown University is located at the top of the hill on which the historic district is situated, thus giving rise to its name.

    The neighborhood is characterized by numerous fine examples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture. The properties within the historic district (which currently total 945) are regulated by Providence's historic district zoning ordinance and cannot be altered without the approval of the Providence Historic District Commission.

    The historic district covers the area first settled by Roger Williams after he fled Massachusetts to establish a new colony. Many of the neighborhood streets mark the location of the original strips of farmland laid out in the early settlement, and are named after the families that farmed the respective plots of farmland.

    The College Hill Historic District is bisected by Benefit Street (pictured here), which was built as a "benefit" to the early community. Called the "Mile of History," Benefit Street has an impressive collection of historic colonial houses. Visitors can see many fine examples of early Federal and nineteenth-century architecture in the area, and many of the private homes are open to the public during the Festival of Historic Homes.

    In addition to its designation as a historic district by the City of Providence, the College Hill Historic District has also been designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    Waterplace Park

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    Waterplace Park is a four-acre (two-hectare) urban park set around a tidal basin fed by the Woonasquatucket River. The park features almost one mile (1.6 kilometers) of below-street-level cobbled pedestrian walkways, landscaped terraces, an amphitheater for outdoor performances, boat landings for water taxis which carry visitors to dining and shopping areas in the South Main Street part of Providence, and a terraced restaurant which overlooks the basin.

    The park was completed in 1994. It was created by rerouting the Woonasquatucket River, and removing pavements which for decades had covered the entire length of the portion of the river that flowed through downtown Providence. This covering of the river had been referred to by local wags as the "World's Widest Bridge." It was replaced by several real bridges inspired by those in Venice.

    The most popular attraction of Waterplace Park is the Water Fire Spectacle. Forty-one fires are lit at night in midstream, while eerie music wafts across the water. Gondoliers offer visitors rides in Venetian-style gondolas among the fires.

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    The State Capitol Building

    by traveldave Updated Jul 21, 2012

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    The Rhode Island State Capitol Building is situated at the top of Smith Hill, overlooking downtown Providence. It houses the Rhode Island General Assembly, as well as the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and general treasurer.

    The current capitol is the seventh that has served as the capitol of Rhode Island, and is the second to be located in Providence, after the Old Rhode Island State House. Designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, it was built between 1895 and 1904 in the neo-Classical style of architecture. The outer walls and dome are made from white Georgia marble.

    The dome of the capitol stands 278 feet (85 meters) high, including an 11-foot (three-meter) gold-covered bronze statue of the Independent Man, which represents freedom and independence, and alludes to the independent spirit which led Roger Williams to settle and establish Rhode Island. The dome is the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world, after those of Saint Peter's Basilica, the Minnesota capitol building, and the Taj Mahal.

    Public areas in the capitol contain historic documents and artifacts, such as the original parchment charter granted by King Charles II to the Colony of Rhode Island in 1663; and the sword, epaulets, field desk, locket, and signets of Nathanael Greene, George Washington's second-in-command. Around the rotunda are statues, battle flags, and guns representing the state's military history.

    The Rhode Island State Capitol Building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Rosecliff

    by traveldave Updated Jul 20, 2012

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    Sometimes called the Herman Oelrichs House or the J. Edgar Monroe House, Rosecliff was built as a party pavilion for Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs. Her father was James Graham Fair, one of four partners in the Comstock Lode, one of the largest and richest silver mines in history. She threw herself into the Newport social scene, and was one of the top three hostesses of Newport, along with Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish and Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont.

    Constructed between 1898 and 1902, the mansion was designed by noted architect Stanford White of the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. The design was inspired by the Grand Trianon at Versailles, a garden retreat for French kings.

    Rosecliff has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Beechwood

    by traveldave Updated Jul 20, 2012

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    Beechwood, a stucco mansion designed by Calvert Vaux and Andrew Jackson Downing, was built in 1851 for New York City merchant Daniel Parrish. The mansion was a summer residence for many years before being purchased by Caroline Astor in the 1880s. Caroline Astor, the Grande Dame of New York City's Fifth Avenue social elite, was often called the "Queen of the Four Hundred," which referred to the number of people that could be comfortably accommodated in her ballroom.

    Before she moved into Beechwood, Caroline Astor hired the architect Richard Morris Hunt to renovate the entire mansion. She had a ballroom added that was large enough to accommodate "The Four Hundred." Other notable rooms in the 39-room mansion include its lavish dining room, a well-stocked library, and a music room with wallpaper that was imported from Paris.

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    Kingscote

    by traveldave Updated Jul 20, 2012

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    Kingscote, built in 1839, was one of the first summer homes constructed in Newport. The Gothic Revival house was designed by Richard Upjohn for George Noble Jones, a plantation owner from Savannah, Georgia, as a place to escape the heat of the summers in the South. It is one of the few Newport mansions that still has its original furnishings.

    At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jones left Newport and sold Kingscote to William Henry King, an old China trader, in 1864. King's nephew David inherited the house in 1878 and made extensive renovations. In 1880, he added a new wing which included a dining room with opalescent glass bricks made by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

    Kingscote has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

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    The First Baptist Meetinghouse

    by traveldave Updated Jul 19, 2012

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    Also known as the First Baptist Church in America, the First Baptist Meetinghouse is home to the oldest Baptist congregation in the United States, and is the Mother Church for all Baptists in the country. The congregation was founded by Roger Williams in 1638.

    The present church building was constructed on College Hill between 1774 and 1775 in the Georgian style of architecture. Its design represents a dramatic departure from the traditional Baptist meetinghouse style, in that it is the first Baptist church to have a steeple and a bell. The design of the steeple was inspired by that of Saint-Martin's-in-the-Field in London.

    In addition to weekly services, the First Baptist Meetinghouse hosts concerts, talks, and lectures by renowned musicians and speakers on various subjects.

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    Walk on a beach!

    by shrimp56 Updated Aug 31, 2011

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    This was a cold November day -- it's nicer in the summer when it is warm, but then there are more people! While there are a lot of private beaches, you can walk along the waterline and the view down the beach is free:)

    UPDATE: A sunny June day at the beach

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    Chateau sur Mer :: A Newport Mansion

    by shrimp56 Written Aug 31, 2011

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    Chateau sur Mer is one of the smaller mansions held "in public trust" by The Preservation Society of Newport County and a nice one to visit if you don't want to be overwhelmed by gaudy opulence. Available only by guided tours [no reservation needed].

    For me the 4 things that stand out are the atrium architecture, the stairway post statues holding lights, the beautiful wood paneling and details and the immense collection of china, especially a substantial collection of old Wedgwood Jasper ware.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

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Rhode Island Things to Do

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