Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Our campground for the three days in Newport was in Rochester, MA. Which most people, including those in Massachusetts, don't know exists. People kept getting incredulous looks thinking we were telling them that we'd made a day trip from Rochester, NY. which we found very funny in contrast to FINALLY being someplace in the country where people didn't ask about the witches when we said we were from Salem, VIRGINIA.

The campground was Gateway to Cape Cod RV Park.  It's a Thousand Trails campground but they have spaces available to non-members AND they recognize PassportAmerica. We didn't use any of the facilities except the laundromat but everything looked well maintained and inviting. The people were very nice as well. Click on the link to see about the amenities we didn't use. They really are the best location for doing Newport, New Bedford, Plymouth and Cape Cod. Of course if you are going to only visit Newport like we did, there are lots of RV parks a lot more convenient. And we'll probably stay in one the next time we go to Newport.

It was only a two hour drive from Gateway to Tuxbury Pond RV resort, another Thousand Trails location in South Hampton, NH. But most of the two hours was on Interstate around/through Boston so we were glad it was a short drive.We only stayed two nights and again didn't use facilities but it was perfect for our visit to Salem. Shaded, quiet, off the beaten path.

Salem, MA  -  Our main reason for visiting was to see The House of Seven Gables. Witches were secondary. Which turned out to be a good thing because, we were told, most of the "museums" weren't worth the admission fee. A long walking tour was not on the agenda because it rained most of the day. So we started with a "Red Trolley" tour. We had discovered the Red Trolleys in St. Augustine, FL and got hooked. It's a great way to get an overview of the area, with local guides who without exception have been extremely knowledgeable and funny. The guide on this tour was a retired school teacher who had lived her entire adult life in Salem. AND they usually have free parking at the starting point. Not here, but we found street parking a few blocks from the Visitor's Center, which is a National Park Service facility. This is a must do first stop. They have an excellent film and the Rangers are very helpful. This was the first place we heard, "Salem has over 400 years of history. It's a shame everyone concentrates on the 15 months of the witch trials." We did learn some fascinating things about them, though. It is believed now that many of the accused were landowners or business owners and the accuser and/or the judge took possession of all of their assets after they were charged. 400 years ago, "follow the money." The more things change, the more the stay the same. One of the supposedly corrupt judges was John Hathorne. But more about him later.

We rode the Trolley for the tour and then returned on it to The House of Seven Gables.

We took the tour but photography was not allowed. It would be a fascinating old house, just for the age and details even if wasn't associated with Nathanial Hawthorne. The property included his birthplace. It was complete and close to original but it had been moved from another location. It was actually his Grandmother's house but his mother and siblings were living there at the time of his birth because his father was a Ship's Captain and was at sea, sometimes for years. I mentioned that one of the three Salem Witchcraft Judges was John Hathorne. More than 150 years later, his reputation was still so maligned that Nathaniel added the "w" to his name to distance himself from his ancestors.

The Museum Shop is in the Retire Beckett which was built c. 1655 and moved to this location in 1924.

A quick ride on the Red Trolley got us to The Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The small museum was interesting and we were there at the right time to take a short walking tour to two of the houses that are part of the Historical Area. The Ranger, again, was extremely knowledgeable.  It was obvious that he was an archeology fan. Fanatic is probably a better word. We saw the Customs House where Hawthorne worked.  He got the job because he was a devoted Democrat. Of course he lost it when the Whigs came to power. But later in life, when one of his best friends, Franklin Pierce was elected President Hawthorne was rewarded with the consulship in Liverpool.

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We then saw the Derby House which Elias Hasket Derby built as a wedding present for his new bride, Elisabeth Crowninshield Derby in 1762. They and the children to come lived there for over 20 years. Elias had a small fleet of sailing ships which he turned in Privateers during the Revolutionary War. Many of the small cargo shippers did this and they became very rich. This was the start of the great East India trade. Please go here for a very interesting and slightly cynical, I think, review of the Privateers and Patriots of Salem.

The rich lived different lives in the 1700's just as they did during the Gilded Age and today.

Few houses had rooms dedicated to a specific purpose. One large room might serve as dining room, parlor, and even bedroom for the kids. Furniture would be pushed back and pulled forward from the walls to meet the needed purpose.

Not These folks.

Dining Room.

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 One of the parlors.

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Beautifully carved staircase.

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Master Bedroom.

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 The children even had their own rooms.

The girl's bedroom.

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I apologize for the stock NPS photos. Flash wasn't allowed and it was such a dreary day. BUT it stopped raining, well almost stopped during our walking tour so we really can't complain. My Dad would have described the heavy mist by saying, "It's not raining unless you move." 

A short walk through the mist took us to the Narbonne house which was built in 1675.

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 After the ultra-rich in Newport and the very very rich in Salem, it was very interesting to contrast those with this home of a butcher, and later a "Cent Shop" selling fabric, lace, trim etc. The original house had one room downstairs and one up, a shallow root cellar and an attic. Later owners added a small addition.  The significance of this middle class home is that the same family lived in it from 1780 until the National Park Service bought it in 1963. Sarah Narbonne was born there in 1794 and lived there until her death in 1895, when it was inherited by her nephew.

Also, the trash pit behind the house has been an absolute treasure trove of artifacts. Many are on display inside the house and this is where our NPS guide really beamed.

This is the original downstairs room, called a "hall" with displays of the finds from the dig.

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This is the room directly above the hall.

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This shows the post and beam construction of the original 1675 structure.

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After a full day of sightseeing we were ready to break our regular "post heart attack diet". Turner's Seafood was recommended by several people. And rightly so. It was a wonderful experience. 5 stars from the ambience, to the wait staff, to the presentation, preparation and TASTE of the food.

We started with Crab Pot Stickers.  

Carol ordered her new favorite - Lobster Bisque. Lobster had never been a top choice. Turns out she just didn't like all the work involved in getting it out of the shell. Her opinion has changed, drastically, since she learned that with bisque, the Chef does all the work and then mixes the lump meat into a pot of butter and heavy cream.

It looks solid in this picture because it almost was.  The spoon would easily stand up in it.

I had the Portuguese Fish Stew. It wasn't as rich as Carol's Bisque but it was delicious.

Carol's Chocolate Lava Cake. Warm brownie, Ice Cream, Hot Fudge and LOTS of Whipped Cream.

I had the Pecan Chocolate Chocolate Mousse. No way to describe it adequately.

After a short drive back to Tuxbury Pond, we collapsed in a sugar coma and planned for our drive to Bar Harbor.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


We chose to visit the Isaac Bell House and had another major in-between. Everything that the Preservation Society of Newport had shown us up to this point was extremely well organized, easy to tour and just all around "well done."

BUT - the last three houses we wanted to see did not have audio tours. They had scheduled tours with docents. They were all about one hour tours and they all started every hour ON THE HOUR. So if you saw one at 10:00am, you wouldn't get out in time to walk the short distance to the next one to be there by 11:00. Cool you heels for an hour doing "something". We asked "Why not have one "on the hour" and one "on the half hour." ?  Everybody said, "Please tell management that. we hear it every day."

By the time we found parking, we got to the Bell House at 5 minutes after 10. The receptionist said, "Welcome. The next tour is at 11." And that was when she explained that we couldn't do any of the others on that block either.

Tinkerbell Jerusalem In-Between. A docent came into the office and said, "Hi. Are you here to take a tour." Receptionist said, "Yes. I just explained to them that the next tour is at 11."  The wonderful docent said, "Oh, I always give an extra 10 minutes for late comers and since they're the only ones for 10 o'clock I'll just take them now,"

YEAH. But, as usual, it gets better. The house was designed by Stanford White, the most famous architect of the late 1800's. I believe it is safe to say that this docent had a school girl crush on Stanford White. When I told her that I had owned a house in Salem, VA that was attributed to White, we became her favorite tourists of the year. The "hour" tour ended up being over an hour and a half.

This was Carol's favorite house of the entire group. Not anything like the opulence and extravagance of the others. But it felt like a home. When we told the docent that she said, "This is what normal rich people lived like during this time." Mr. Bell gave White free rein do "do his thing" and the result is one of the finest examples of the Shingle Style in the country.

Pictures inside were a challenge because there was little light and flash was not allowed. But Carol got several worth sharing.

White was inspired by everything from the Arts and Crafts movement to Japanese influence.

The few of my readers who were ever in my Main Street will see the similarities to this room and my living room and hall. From the Newport Preservation website - "Oversize doorways connect the living hall to the other rooms, allowing the first floor to function in two ways: as individual rooms or as one large entertaining space. This idea of free-flowing interior space, taken from Japanese architecture, was revolutionary for America in 1883.

All of the "windows" you see here are actually doors to allow on to enjoy the ocean breezes.

Two of the upstairs bedrooms.

One of the kid's rooms.

More incredible woodwork.

This was one of the earliest and most interesting of the McKim, Mead and White residents. It influenced American architecture for decades.

Our second house was Chepstow. 

It was named by the second owner, Mrs. Emily Morris Gallatin in commemoration of her family's Welsh origin and their role in the English civil war in 1648 brothers Lewis, William and Richard Morris, officers in Cromwell's Parliamentary Army took part in the siege of Chepstow Castle. History has it that Lewis ordered the burning of the castle after which it surrendered. In 1660, with the restoration of the monarchy, the brothers deemed it wise to not remain in England and after a stay in Barbados, emigrated to New Amsterdam. The Morris family was very influential in colonial and Revolutionary times.

Although is was an early "cottage", built in 1860, its fascination to us was that it was lived in by the  second owner, Mrs. Gallatin and her husband until the house and all its contents were bequeathed to the Preservation Society in 1986. They purchased the house in 1911 and their original furnishings are there. But so is a black and white TV. It was most interesting to see all of the "stuff" Mrs. Morris Gallatin collected over 70 years.

Like the Bell house, this was a home, not just a theatrical showpiece. This elegant yet simple staircase is the perfect example.

"Clutter" or "full of memories". It's all in the eye of the beholder. Mrs. Gallatin was a talented artist and all of the needlepoint decorations and furniture cushions are her work. Click on the pictures to see more detail.

What a time capsule. Again, all of the furniture in this room is upholstered in needlepoint created by Mrs. Gallatin.

Here's that TV set. Along with more needlepoint upholstery.

This tour didn't run quite as long as anticipated so, in spite of the Society's best efforts, we were able to see the three houses back to back.

Last on our list was Kingscote. Considered the very best example of the Gothic Revival style house still standing in America. Although it is a wooden house, it was painted with gray paint with sand mixed in to give it the appearance of stone.

This was the first of the outrageously opulent "cottages" in Newport, built in 1839 by George Noble Jones, a wealthy Florida plantation owner. Although his plantations (yes, he had TWO ) were in FL, he lived in Savannah in the winter and Newport in the summer. At the start of the Civil War, he left RI and never returned. The house was sold to in 1864 to the King family, whose wealth came from the China Trade.

Like Chepstow, the house was occupied for a very long time by one family. William Henry King's descendants lived in the house until 1972 when they donated it to the Preservation Society, along with most of its contents circa 1880. In 1880 the house was enlarged by, here he is again, Stanford White.

Entrance Hall.

Tiffany windows.

Dining Room designed by Stanford White. Suspended cork ceiling, intricate woodwork and Tiffany opalescent glass bricks - the first time glass bricks were used in an American residence.

"Compromise" in White's usual fascination with open floor plans. This beautiful wooden screen dining room wall is easily removed to open hall and opposite room to the dining room.

Sitting Room with  marble fireplace and huge bay window behind the curtain.

Master Bedroom


Carol always proofreads my posts. I remembered this being a library. She reminded me that it was just a corner of a staircase landing. A large landing.

After a late picnic lunch at Ft. Adams Park we toured the Fort.

 And so we finish our tour of Newport. Except we haven't. There are several more houses that are not part of the Preservation Society of Newport County. We must move on as we have reservations at campgrounds waiting but we will return on another trip. There is so much more to see and do.