On April 15 1912, the brand new luxury liner, Titanic, sank to the bottom of the ocean. It was her maiden voyage. There were over 1,500 people still onboard. One of them was George D Widener and his son Harry. In one of the 20 lifeboats sprawled around the wreckage was Eleanor Elkins Widener, mother of Harry and wife of George. That night Eleanor became a widow.
Eleanor returned home without her husband and her son and was met by the Widener Family's private train. For months she mourned at the Widener estate, Lynnewood Hall, alongside her other son and daughter. Finally three years after the sinking, she married Alexander Hamilton Rice, a famous explorer .
As a memorial to Widener, Eleanor had their Newport cottage, Miramar, completed, which had been started before the Titanic. She lived there for most of her mourning period and continued to live there with Rice.
The most sumptuous part of the estate was it lavish gardens and grounds. On the property were a large garage unit, rose gardens, green houses, ice house, gardener's cottage and a small house toward the front of the property.
The Ground Floor contained a large vestibule, stair hall, reception room, living room, ballroom, dining room, service pantries and two loggias. The second floor held the master suites, guest bedrooms, guest suites, bathrooms, boudoirs, guest sitting rooms and the stair hall. The remaining floors held several servant rooms, two bathrooms, the servant's sitting room and a storage room.
Miramar was officially opened with a large ball in August, with 500 guests in attendance. Eleanor greeted the guests with her daughter, (Eleanor) Mrs. Fritz Eugene Dixon, who also lived at Miramar. The guest danced in the ballroom and on the terrace, right next to the sea. The trees of the estate were adorned with electrical illuminations and the music was provided by the three orchestras.
Eleanor died in Paris in 1937. He $14 million and her three homes passed to Alexander. After his death, the homes passed to Eleanor and George.
George and Jessie continued to reside at Miramar, giving several large and lavish parties. Eleanor sold her mother's New York City and Palm beach residences and moved to her estate, Ronaele (Eleanor spelled backwards).
Miramar passed through many hands, eventually ending up in David B Ford's. He is now immersed in a restoration renovation with John Tschirch (architectural historian at the Preservation Society of Newport).