Newport and Her Southern Sisters

newport-ri mansion-Mardi-Gras-dress

A Mardi Gras dress worn by Marjorie Monroe Colomb is on display in “Newport and Her Southern Sisters.” Colomb was the niece of J. Edgar Monroe, last private owner of Rosecliff. Photo by Nick Mele/The Preservation Society of Newport County.

With all of the New York and Massachusetts license plates buzzing around town during summer months, it’s easy to forget that Newport has much broader historical connections to other regions of the country. Now, a new exhibition, Newport and Her Southern Sisters: Three Centuries of Art and Design, put on by the Preservation Society explores Newport’s ties to the American South.

From ball gowns to furniture, objects in the exhibit – displayed in a newly upgraded gallery space at Rosecliff – show a history of commerce, romance, and war. The tale begins in colonial times (when the city was a major player in the slave trade) and continues through the antebellum period, post-Civil War era, the Gilded Age, and the early 20th century. In particular, New Orleans, Charleston, Baltimore, various Virginian plantations, and Palm Beach are in the spotlight.

Objects and costumes on display, which come from Preservation Society properties and private collections,  help examine how a hotel boom led to construction of private cottages, how post-Civil War marriages between Southern belles and Yankee gentlemen led to Gilded Age mansions, and, consequently, the winter migration of such families to Palm Beach. The show, which runs through January 3, 2016, is a worthwhile – and pretty – peek into how our city has become what it is today.

newport-ri mansions-palm-beach-fashion

High-end fashions are on display in the exhibit, part of which details how Newporters helped turn Palm Beach into a winter playground. Photo by Nick Mele/The Preservation Society of Newport County.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

1 Comment

  • […] If Mad Men taught me anything, it was the perverse joy of watching miserable people try to be better people, usually in vain. Henry James obviously didn’t have the Drapers in mind when he wrote The Ivory Tower, but this tale of a wealthy, dying couple and the bitterness and greed that erupts around them is an apt critique of one percenters from any age. The story, which is set in Newport, has succeeded as one of James’s most praised novels. (As an added bonus, you get a primer in plutocracy, too.) It’s a sad and biting love story about the rich in Newport’s Gilded Age. […]

Leave a Reply