According to Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith, if the Crawley family of Downton Abbey were American, they'd summer at Newport. As the well-known blue blood playground of the country's elite during the Gilded Age, it is easy to picture Lord Grantham and his brood calling one of the famed Newport Mansions home. Today, visitors can experience how Americas wealthiest industrialists, and their staff, with behind-the-scenes mansion tours, Downton-style high tea, historic walking tours and more all without those pesky corsets! And as Downton fan will recall, Lady Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, comes to visit Downton from Newport.
Hotel Viking's Tea Room at One Bellevue
At the Hotel Viking's One Bellevue restaurant you can enjoy Afternoon Tea, an oh-so-civilized way to relax after experiencing Newport's historic mansions, playing tennis at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, taking in the extraordinary museums and galleries, and all that Newport has to offer. Afternoon Tea includes a selection of fine teas expertly brewed, tea sandwiches, house-made scones and other tea breads served with lemon cream and preserves, delicate pastries, and choice of Champagne or Kir Royale. (Afternoon Tea served in the winter on Sat and Sun from 2-4 PM; served daily in the summer season. the summer also includes a Light tea service.)
For an insider's look at the real upstairs/downstairs paradigm, the new Servant Life Tour at The Elms. See and hear how the other half lived as you hear the stories of some of the men and women who worked to service the social whirl of Newport during the Gilded Age. You'll hear the stories of the butler, Ernest Birch; his wife, cook Grace Rhodes; and one of the maids, Nellie Lynch Regoli. Recent research has revealed new details about life behind-the-scenes in the great houses of Newport. Included in the tour is new information about immigration, employment and labor disputes in the early 20th century. From the back staircase to the basement servant entrance up to the third floor staff quarters, you'll see exhibits and photographs about the individual men and women who lived and worked here. Weather permitting your tour will take you out onto the roof for a spectacular view of the ten-acre estate and Newport Harbor beyond. Then, head back down the stairs to the basement kitchens, coal cellar, boiler room and laundry rooms. For a full schedule of tours CLICK HERE.
And if you really want to dine like a Grantham, Newport's Vanderbilt Grace, part of the award-winning luxury boutique hotel group, Grace Hotels, offers its Vintage Vanderbilt menu that is modeled on a Vanderbilt family menu from 1912. Select vintage menu items are a permanent part of the menu in the hotels fine dining restaurant Muse by Jonathan Cartwright. The restaurant requires two weeks notice for guests that would like to experience the full "Vintage Vanderbilt" menu. One of the most celebrated New England chefs, Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux Jonathan Cartwright developed the vintage cuisine based on a historic menu from 1912, found within the Vanderbilt family records. The new menu includes cream of mushroom and lobster broth; oysters with mignonette sauce and a main course of turkey supreme with roasted potatoes or sea bass with hollandaise and grilled asparagus. Vintage dessert options are chocolate meringues with coffee ice cream or roasted peaches with cinnamon ice cream.
Downton's Newport Connection: George Reginald Oliver Molyneux Herbert, the genuine owner of the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed, Highclere Castle, descends from the Stanhope family, Earls of Chesterfield. On August 14, 1783 Sir Henry Edwyn Stanhope, captain of HM Frigate Mercury, married Margaret Malbone, daughter of Colonel Francis Malbone, a well-known shipping merchant. The two wed at Newport's Trinity Church and today, the Francis Malbone House, named for its most well-known owner and on the National Register of Historic Places, stands at 392 Thames Street and is a luxury inn. Click here to see more of the inn.