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.