Saturday, October 27, 2012

Miramar, The Mrs. Alexander H. Rice "Cottage", Newport

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 Had Come From The Immensely Wealthy Elkins Family of Philadelphia. You Could Say She "Grew Up With A Silver Spoon In Her Mouth"

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 .
Alexander Hamilton Rice On One Of His Numerous Safari Expeditions, Which Were Paid For By Eleanor's Money

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.

Miramar Was One Of The Largest Homes In Newport, It Was Built In Less Than 3 Years And Only That Long Because Of Eleanor's Mourning Period

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 Service Court, Which Was Normally Filled With Rolls Royce Limousines, Was Cleaned Daily By 5 Workmen

The Garage Unit, Where The 16 Rolls Royce Limousines Were Cleaned Daily, Whether Used Or Not, By 10 Men

The Lavish Rose Gardens Were Maintained By A Staff Of 17 Gardeners, Who Resided In A Large Cottage Near The Entrance

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.

The Living Room, Which Was Basically The Library. It Was Filled With Rice's Collection Of Expedition Volumes
The Reception Room, Where Eleanor Had Tea Every Morning, The Paneling Around The Fireplace Was Imported From Europe

The Dining Room Of Miramar, The Table Could Seat 50 People. The Rice Held Most Of Their Entertainments In Here

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, Her Son George and Miramar's Architect Horace Trumbauer Attending A Lawn Party In Newport

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 Widener And His Wife Jessie Sloane Attending A Party Given By Brooke Astor At Her Residence In New York City

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).

In Their Later Years, The Wideners Retired To Their Large Farming Estate, Giving Miramar To The Rhode Island Episcopal Diocese

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).

                     Miramar Undergoing Renovations, Lead By David Ford and John Tschirch.


  1. Miramar is one of those "forgotten" homes because it has not been open to the public, but its architecture, interior design and immense formal garden which once was located in the front of the house, all combine to make this one of Newports finest homes.

  2. THe second interior picture is of the Stotesbury library in Whitemarsh Hall.

  3. The pic of Eleanor, George Jr and Horace Trumbauer was taken at Harvard.

    1. Horace Trumbauer was the architect of the Harry Elkins Widener Library at Harvard built by Eleanor as a memorial to her 27 year old eldest son, an obsessive bibliophile, who was lost with his father on Titanic.

  4. where did u fine the liberary picture, its not the home but belongs to whtemarsh hall, i like to fine more like it

    1. I have to disagree about the Whitemarsh Hall attribution for the library photo - it really does not match that either. Not sure of a match to Miramar... I'll check some other photo archives I have of this house.

    2. I must retract this previous comment - it appears that this is INDEED a view of Mr. Stotesbury's Library, at Whitemarsh Hall. This view is to the west; the doors seen in the center of this view are false doors; the opening to the left would lead to the Living Room.

  5. very nice post and i like it.Because its a looking like...............good images and information. Thank you for sharing.........................
    Miramar Garage Door

  6. The photo tagged above as the "Reception Room" also appears misidentified to me - this is a photo of Mr. Stotesbury's Sitting Room (also sometimes referred to as Mrs. Stotesbury's Library, but not by the family) at Whitemarsh Hall. It can be confirmed as such by many aspects of the decor, but in particular by the landscape by Cuyp hanging over the fireplace.

  7. Are you sure the limos would be in the service court?


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