Friday, July 20, 2012

"Ochre Court" The Ogden Goelet Estate, Newport

The Goelet fortune was estimated to be around $50 million and it was principally maintained by brother Ogden and Robert Goelet. These two brothers not only maintained the family fortune but also were one of the wealthiest landowners in New York City (second only to the Astors). Eldest brother Ogden had married Mary "May" Reta Wilson, daughter of Richard T. Wilson (of the marrying Wilsons), and had already established himself in a large townhouse in New York City.

May's Family Was Called "The Marrying Wilsons" Because They Each Picked Spouses That Were Wealthier And Much More Socially Prominent Than They Were. For Example, Brother Orme Married Caroline "Carrie" Astor, Daughter Of The Mrs. Astor, Sister Grace Snatched Up Neily Vanderbilt, Son Of Cornelius Vanderbilt II And Another Sister Married Into Royalty.

Robert Goelet married Harriet Warren and moved into a townhouse across the street from Ogden. Robert loved the sea and was the first person to bring the Goelets to Newport (although it's likely they would have ended up there anyway, everyone in society had a cottage in Newport), he commissioned Stanford White to build him a simple and comfortable cottage, not a large marble chateau or french palace but a real cottage. Robert named his new cottage "Southside".

Robert's Cottage "Southside" Was A Real Newport Cottage, Simple And Comfortable

Ogden Goelet had a different vision in mind than his brother's simple cottage. Ogden went to famed society architect Richard Morris Hunt and commissioned him to build a large french chateau on a relatively narrow lot, right next door to "Southside", which he had already named "Ochre Court". Ogden's "Ochre Court" was going to be considerably larger than Robert's "Southside" and would be much more grander. When it was complete, "Ochre Court" was the largest cottage in Newport (although it didn't hold that title long for soon the Cornelius Vanderbilt II's built their massive "Breakers" cottage which quickly stole that title from the Goelets) and one of Hunt's most impressive creations.

 "Ochre Court" Was The Goelet's Newport Showplace

The interiors, considered the most luxurious in the world, were said to have cost some $2.5 million of the total $4.6 million spent. The floor plan of "Ochre Court" was centered around the largest room in the house, the great hall, which had magnificent views of the ocean. The ground floor held the dining room, drawing room, library, ballroom, conservatory, an office, breakfast room and the pantry. The upper floor consisted of bedrooms, boudoirs, a billiard room, master suites, baths, servant's rooms and sitting rooms.  

                                                                    Second Floor

                                                                       Third Floor

The french, heavily gilded rooms were designed for show, not for comfort. The grandest room was the great hall, which reached to the top of the house. The Rococo ballroom was, perhaps, the most detailed room in the palace with heavy gilded carvings and designs. To show off the magnificent interiors, Mrs. Goelet opened the house with a magnificent ball, at which guests danced and twirled through the grand rooms.

The Magnificent Great Hall Was Beautifully Decorated With Spoils Collected From The Goelets Many Trips To Europe.

                                     The Sumptuous Dining Room Could Seat 200 People 

                                   The Gilded Library Really Didn't Hold Many Books  

                                    The Rococo Ballroom Could Easily Hold 1,000 People

By the time "Ochre Court" was built, May and Ogden had lost interest in Newport. They mostly lived in Europe, close to May's sister and mother, although they did return to the United States to attend Mrs. Astor's Patriarch's and Summer Balls and stayed at "Ochre Court" for 2-3 weeks of the Newport Season. In 1897, sadly, Ogden fell victim to a fatal stroke while on his yacht the "Mayflower " and died . His will revealed his estate to be a colossal $65 million, out of which May received a $5 million trust and life occupancy of all of their homes. Ogden's son, Robert, was named the principal heir, inheriting almost $45 million. By 1903 May rarely ever came to America, staying in her apartment in Paris. Robert continued to occupy "Ochre Court" seasonally and soon became a year around resident. Surprisingly, when May died, she was in a New York City hotel. May left "ochre Court" to Robert who lived there till 1945. In 1945 Robert downsized to a smaller cottage called "Champ Soleil" and donated "Ochre Court" to the Salve Regina University, who continue to occupy it today.


  1. WOW........What great interior photos. Have toured the ground floor as the college allows visitors to wander the rooms freely, but never saw them in all their glory.

  2. This is lovely!!!. My daughter attended Salve Regina and graduated last year. I attend wonderful concerts in this beautiful place I have always wanted to see interior photos of Ochre Court when it was a home. Do you have any others?

    1. I do have a few other photos, and I will get around to posting them. I am also currently working on a post about the house with some modern day photos. I hope you enjoy it!

    2. I work at Ochre Court - my office was the butler's sitting room.
      It's a beautiful place to go to every day.
      I'm having trouble seeing your floor plans.

  3. Thank you so very much for your photos. I was very curious about the interior. This house haunts my imagination.

  4. This was really interesting, I would love to see larger pictures of the second and third floor's floor plans. Is there any way to update or link to higher quility files?

  5. I spent many nights in Ochre Court singing when Inattended Salve Regina. It's such a beautiful place and I always felt so lucky to be able to be there, look around and take it all in.

  6. I worked on the 3rd floor of this beautiful building for many years. Had grand views of the ocean. Thanks for the memories!

  7. Hi Tyler, great post. Out of curiosity--where did you get your images?

  8. Tyler gets his blueprints from copywritten sources such as many which were drawn for
    Acanthus Press and the Newport villas by me
    and does not wonder about their ownership


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