Monday, October 2, 2023

Pompeii: Still in Ruins

These words describe the ancient city of Pompeii. It's the largest continually excavated archeological site in the world and an amazing site to see.

We visited these ruins on our recent trip to the Amalfi coast joining several hundred others that day. The site annually draws millions of visitors. It's become one of Italy's most popular attractions to tour.

That's oddly macabre considering the devastation caused by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the city and its residents. Ongoing excavations have uncovered well-preserved buildings. Pompeii provides a backward look of a thriving and, for its time, very sophisticated Roman City—the main reason for its popularity.
Overall map of Pompeii ruins; we did not see everything on our visit
Our group tour, led by Anna, explored a relatively small part of this nearly 165-acre site of which, an estimated 109 acres have been excavated to date. There's some 2 miles of city walls and seven entrance gates to the city as well as main streets that crisscrossed the city. You could sense a solemness tredding on cobblestone streets walked on by Romans long ago. 
Our tour guide Anna, explained the city's history
Some Background
The large port city of Pompeii was located in southern Italy (Campania region) near the coast of the Bay of Naples. While Pompeii is known for its Roman ruins, unlike other towns in Campania, it was founded for the most part by Greek colonists who erected the earliest buildings.

Pompeii was built approximately 130 feet above sea level ironically on a coastal lava plateau created by earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Over time, it passed from Etruscans to Greeks to Samnites and eventually into Roman control. Early settlements date to the Eighth century BC when the Oscans, a people of central Italy, founded five villages in the area. The root of the word Pompeii is thought to be an Oscan word, pompe, for the number five.
There are always a lot of others touring Pompeii
By the turn of the first century AD, Pompeii, five miles from Mount Vesuvius, was a flourishing resort for distinguished Roman citizens. The city was impressive featuring elegant homes and villas filled with exquisite frescoes and sculptures; fountains lined the paved streets. Many structures were built with white ground-marble stucco. The city’s wealth derived from its rich volcanic soil and the region was a growing center for olives, grapes and other crops. Wine from Pompeii was enjoyed in some of Rome’s most fashionable houses.

When Did Mount Vesuvius Erupt?
According to historians, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, destroying a number of ancient Roman cities, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. Well-publicized recent discoveries have suggested that the volcano may have erupted in October.

Archeologists believe that residents of Pompeii didn't know that Mount Vesuvius was a volcano that would cause their eventual demise. The volcano had been dormant for over 800 years. Romans living in the area considered it an ordinary mountain. 
View of Mount Vesuvius from within Pompeii
Regardless of whatever month it erupted, the result was the same, Mount Vesuvius sent a mushroom cloud of ash, dust, and rocks 12 miles into the sky. Winds blew the cloud south toward the city. The ash settled on Pompeii like a heavy snow collapsing roofs and floors, but leaving walls intact. Most of the city's residents fled and sought shelter; some escaped to the South on foot, others fled to the West by sea. Most stayed along the southern Italian coast and resettled in the communities of Cumae, Naples, Ostia and Puteoli 

The next morning a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter buried the city under 30 feet of ash dealing a fatal blow to those who remained. Pompeii was completely submerged by a flow of lava.

More Destruction in WW II
In the fall of 1943, part of Operation Avalanche was to liberate southern Italy. Allied forces sought to dislodge German soldiers and disrupt resupply routes. As a result, important targeted roads, railways, bridges, and overpasses were located near Pompeii. Some of Pompeii's most famous monuments, including its museum, were accidentally damaged by American and British fighters. After the war, many were rebuilt. Ironically, the publicized collapse of some buildings years ago did not involve the original structures, but post-WW II rebuilds.

How Many Died?
Estimates are that between 10 to 12,000 people were living in Pompeii at the time of the eruption. The death toll has been placed at 2,000 (13% of the population). By all accounts, residents who stayed died in one of several ways. Toxic gases issuing from the volcano suffocated those who were downwind. Falling rocks and other debris caused homes to collapse, crushing inhabitants. The cloud of toxic gases and ash sweeping through the city would have killed people with its heat and ferocity alone. Some victims were frozen in suspended action.

After the eruption, people in nearby towns tried to locate Pompeii. Since it was a major port, they searched near the sea. However, the eruption had pushed the coastline out, filling in the harbor and Pompeii was now inland. Its location would remain hidden for over 1,500 years.

Forget about rebuilding the city, its damage was too great after it was buried in over 14 feet of ash. That same ash that sealed the city's fate has ensured its preservation. Everything remains where it was at the time of the disaster. Pompeii was stopped in time, preserved for centuries.

Historians and archeologists found more than crumbling buildings in the excavation of Pompeii, unearthing the lives of residents who favored art and color. Mosaics, frescoes and wooden panels found in the ruins decorated homes and many of these can be clearly seen today.
A thermopolium was the Roman equivalent of a snack bar
Amazingly, we learned that Pompeii was a city with fast food places. Back then, it was common for people to eat their midday meal at what were called thermopolia (cook shops). Food was cooked and sold at these commercial establishments, akin to modern snack bars. A counter that opened out onto the street held large openings for hot food and drinks. The shops were believed to have been used by visitors to the city, trades people or residents who did not have kitchens.
Original paved street in Pompeii that's best walked in comfortable shoes
Public drinking fountains are still visible on some of the main streets, which would have been lined with businesses. The town was surrounded by a wall with many gates and arched entrances that separated pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The wide paved streets did not have names or numbers; traffic was one-way on certain ones. Still visible on the streets are the large stepping stones that residents used to avoid walking in debris, rain and mud. 

There was a lot of buildings in Pompeii: homes, shops, temples, taverns, a pottery, baths, arena, public latrines, market hall, schools, water towers, flower nursery, basilica, bars, amphitheater, forum, theaters, temples. There were many bakeries attested to by baked bread excavated from many of theseAs a port city, there were also brothels, restaurants, and entertainment venues.  
Greek mythology figures depicted on an external wall
Stories were told in wall art and paintings so residents could learn about history and mythology. Depictions of everything from the legend of Hercules to Alexander the Great have been found in the ruins. Like other ancient civilizations, the Romans had many myths and legends. Mythology was a popular themes used for aesthetic and decorative purposes. It turned houses into status symbols for the wealthy who would commission grand wall frescoes. 
Members of our travel group and tour guide inside a Pompeii villa
Like other ancient civilizations, the Romans had many myths and legends. Mythology was a popular themes used for aesthetic and decorative purposes. It turned houses into status symbols for the wealthy who would commission grand wall frescoes.
Original floor in another Pompeii villa
The typical entrance of these residences was a small street doorway with a corridor that opened out into a large columned atrium where a rectangular pool of water open to the sky.
Wall frescoes in private homes survived after 2,000+ years
It was amazing to see details remaining in these frescoes after 2,000 years.The red color came from a pigment, cinnabar, commonly used in cities throughout Ancient Rome. Researchers have found the type used in Pompeii was unique in that it was ground finer then mixed with liquid to produce a more brilliant shade of red, a colorful testament to ancient artists.

Brothels Were Popular . . .
According to our guide and other sources, good times were enjoyed by ancient Romans who were known to have enjoyed entertainments and communal pleasures. The city was a popular vacation spot for high-class citizens. During its long-standing excavation, archeologists have uncovered over two dozen brothels.

Extravagances took the form of food, fashion and prostitutes. Prostitution was allowed socially and legally. The ruins of Pompeii revealed many buildings believed to have been brothels due to often erotic artwork on the walls. The imagery is thought to have represented a menu of services or instruction manuals for inexperienced visitors. Visiting brothels was believed to have been a popular activity for ancient Romans.

And Might Have Delayed Discovery
The brothels and related frescoes are thought to be a reason why Pompeii took so long to be fully discovered. In 1599, Domenico Fontana, an Italian architect was designing a new flow path for the Sarno River when he discovered the ruins. Surprisingly, he covered them up again.

Unproven theories are that Fontana found some of the erotic frescoes, which would have been shocking at the time, and performed a form of archaeological censorship. This view is supported by excavators who suspected that sites they were working on had been discovered earlier. 
Ruins in the large open Forum area; WW II caused more damage here
The archeological process of digging up the city began in 1748. Official excavations began to uncover the city began in 1784. The name of the town was found written on an inscription, Rei Publicae Pompeianoru, translated to the State of the Pompeians.
Archeologists unearthed perfectly formed shapes of human bodies, which indicated where they had died. In 1860, Pompeii’s director of excavations Giuseppe Fiorelli developed a way to bring them back to life by creating plaster casts out of the voids left by the decay of organic materials in the hardened ash and pumice. Fiorelli found voids in the volcanic ash layers that contained human remains and filled them with plaster to create body forms (death casts) of Pompeii citizens during their final moments, a technique still in use. Pompeii is still being excavated, but new casts are not being made as the plaster damages the fragile remains of the corpses. (Several existing casts were on display, but I opted not to take photos.)
Our tour group and guide
The site itself offers little by way of information about what you’re seeing. We received a site map and it was helpful that we had a knowledgeable guide. These ruins are so widespread that it can take several hours to a full day just to see highlights. The main sights are a distance away from one another.

Given the site's popularity, there's never a best time to go; there's always crowds. Exploring the city involves walking on uneven stone roads. There's limited shade on sunny days, and rainy days can turn the site very muddy.
Us in Pompeii on a very warm day

Unfortunately, Pompeii wasn’t the only city destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Also destroyed in 79 AD were the cities of Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabia.

Herculaneum, a vibrant city at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius, was an economic rival of Pompeii. Excavations have revealed the town had villas, luxurious baths and marble work; many wealthy Romans had second homes here. 

Because of its smaller size, Herculaneum is considered easier to explore than Pompeii and usually has fewer crowds. It's definitely on our to see list if we return to this part of Italy. There's so much more to explore.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Funnies

Nature can present some unusual images; as proof, here's a few of my sightings.

Does this look like a devil tree or Batman? (thanks, Rita). It was seen on a snowshoe trail in North Conway, NH, this past winter.
Not quite sure about this plant face, which almost looked like a duck. It was seen in the garden near the mill apartments
This massive tree looked as if it had very large feet. It was seen on our recent visit to Newport, RI. 
And, since this is the month of all things mysterious and creepy, how about this root hand?
Keep looking around. You never know what you might see.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
A rainy and cool forecast in Nashua, NH

Tropical Storm Ophelia is spreading heavy rain, strong wind gusts, high surf, and coastal flooding along the Eastern Seaboard this weekend, including our home state of NJ and along the Virginia Eastern Shore our former home. We hope everyone will be safe.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Medically Speaking

My blog posts usually are confined to posts about road adventures, family, occasional recipes, and a lot of funny sights, avoiding hot topics like politics, religion, current events.

Since we returned home from our recent travels abroad, there's been a fair amount of catching up to do — unpacking, household chores and some purging and drop-offs to local thrift stores.

That said, some of the most important things we've been doing involve healthcare.

Most fellow bloggers reading this post will already much about topics mentioned here, so there won't be a lot of medical info. Much more extensive information is available online. 

Also, the purpose of this post is not to persuade anyone to participate in any of the procedures or vaccinations mentioned herein. 

Those decisions are strictly your ownas they should be. Everyone should do what he/she feels most comfortable with for their own well being.

These medical procedures are what we've done in the past couple of weeks.

Screening mammogram: As any female can attest, this procedure can be uncomfortable 😟, but at least brief. After telling myself I was done with it since reaching age 74 this year, I reversed that decision. Many sources recommend screening mammograms every other year from ages 40 to 74. New guidelines do not include recommendations for women after age 74, as there is limited data on whether mammograms save lives in that age group. 

My re-thinking that previous decision was the result of losing two female friends, Linda and April, within the past four months. Both had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer, which returned and was especially aggressive for both. 

Prostate Exam: This is the male equivalent of an uncomfortable procedure (no details here). Grenville went for an exam this week. The American Cancer Society recommends men start cancer screenings at age 50. Screening is generally not recommended in men over 75 as potential benefits are outweighed by the risks in this population.
2023 is the first fall and winter virus season where vaccines are available for 3 viruses deemed responsible for most hospitalizations – COVID-19, RSV, flu.
RSV Vaccine: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that can cause mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover in a week or two, RSV can be serious especially for infants and older adults, more likely to develop severe symptoms that need hospitalization. 

There's no maximum age for getting an RSV vaccination. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults 60 and older can receive a single dose of the vaccine. This will provide protection against RSV disease in adults 60 years and older for at least two winter seasons, when RSV normally circulates.

Updated Covid: Here we go again. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against potentially serious outbreaks this fall and winter. Updated vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are available now in many retail pharmacies. In most cases there is no charge.

Returning from our recent trip abroad, several group members posted on a messaging app that they'd been infected with COVID symptoms, some more severe than others. Since we're traveling out of the country (again) in a few weeks having as much protection as possible is never a bad thing.

Flu Shot:  All persons aged 6 months of age and older, with rare exception, are recommended to get the annual influenza (flu) vaccination every season appropriate for their age and health status. September and October are the recommended best times for most to get vaccinated. More information can be found online at the CDC and other websites.

This week, I completed the RSV and COVID vaccinations and will get the flu shot within a couple of weeks. We have Medicare and supplemental medical insurance. There was no cost for any of these procedures or/vaccinations.

As stated earlier, every medical decision is a personal one to make yourself or with input from your medical professional. Personally, we hope that everyone stays healthy and takes advantage of all preventative measures available. (Our screening results were thankfully negative. The vaccines may produce soreness at the injection site, usually upper arm.)

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Funnies

This post is a follow-up to my previous one as it concerns travel.
(Thanks for all your comments on that post.)

I'm currently researching carry-on backpacks as one will be needed for our next big (another far-away) adventure. While, I wasn't expecting to increase my luggage, one of the pieces bought for the Amalfi, Italy, trip won't work the next time. These 2 pieces of bright-colored, lightweight American Tourister luggage were my checked and carry-on bag. The smaller bag wasn't convenient to carry up and down stairs and aisles of the air bus.

Wy won't the carryon work? For this upcoming trip, a smaller, portable carry-on is required as there's a lot of motor coach travel (details later). Measurements given by the tour company are similar to a carry-on backpack.

Of course, Amazon has endless choices and I've been checking online travel articles for suggestions. I came across this May 2023 article, The 15 Most Stylish Travel Backpacks for Women in 2023, on the Woman's Day website. Since my price range is $50 and under, imagine my surprise at the cost shown for the No. 4 best selling choice 😲.
At the very least it seemed that a trip should be included with this purchase! Of course, an error was made somewhere along the line. Amazingly, there's been no corection in the months since.
A clicking on the link to the company's website showed the correct price.
But, even at a savings of $9,702, this backpack will not be included in my purchase decision.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Hope that you will be safe and dry from any effects of Hurricane Lee
A chance of some rain expected in Nashua, NH

Thursday, September 14, 2023

We're Back Home

And, it's good to be here in Nashua, NH.

Yes, we've been away, but definitely not on the road this time as ← this was our primary mode of transport.

Future posts will contain more details. This one has some trip highlights.

The Aer Lingus flights were wonderful with no delays or weather issues. This is a Dublin-based airline, but Ireland was not our destination. Instead, we went to the Amalfi Coast of Italy by way of Dublin and Naples.

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in southern Italy overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Salerno. It's located south of the Sorrentine Peninsula and north of the Cilentan Coast and consists of 13 villages often called the 13 Pearls of the Amalfi and most centered on tourism. The most popular are Amalfi, Positano and Ravello, all of which we visited on this trip. 

Our trip was a belated anniversary gift to us, replacing one scheduled 3 years ago, not by plane, but a train ride across the Canadian Rockies. When the pandemic caused cancellation, the Rocky Mountaineer rail company balked at returning the deposit and offered a 10% premium for a future trip. We declined, filed a complaint with the credit card company used for the booking, and received the refund. We will never re-book that trip. There's plenty more world to explore.

Svetlana Yanushkevich
Our group included 20 fellow travelers mostly from around NH as well as several from other states, FL, NJ and VT as the group included family members.  Called the Amalfi Coast Wine and Gastronomy Tour, the trip was organized by Svetlana Yanushkevich, owner of WineNot in downtown Nashua. She's a wine expert with an MS degree in viticulture and a PhD in agriculture. Over the past 12 years, Svetlana has planned similar tours to Portugal, Spain and France focusing on wine and foods of the countries. We may take one in September 2024 to Tuscany, Italy, to celebrate our 25th anniversary🥂.

This was our first trip abroad — together in over 50 years. My earlier one was a group trip; Grenville traveled courtesy of his Uncle Sam.
Grenville &myself on board Aer Lingus awaiting takeoff from Logan Airport, Boston
Our journey started at Logan Airport in Boston with a 6+hour plane flight that ended in Dublin.
From there, we boarded an airbus. This smaller aircraft is used to transport passengers shorter distances and usually holds about 180 people. We were shuttled out to the airport tarmac and walked up stairs to board the aircraft, not enjoyable when transporting a carry-on bag. The 3-hour flight ended in Naples from here we had a 90-minute ride to our Amalfi hotel. 
Exterior and interior (lobby) views of Hotel Bellevue, Amalfi, Italy
Amalfi is a town in a dramatic natural setting below steep cliffs on Italy’s southwest coast. It was the center of a powerful maritime republic between the 9th and 11th centuries. Our family-operated accommodation, Hotel Bellevue, was located 0.62 mi (1km) from the center of historic Amalfi town. It's a 3-minute walk to a beach area. However, to get there, you had to descend some 400 steps and then back up again. (We did not go, but group members shared these figures.) We quickly learned that getting anywhere in Amalfi always involved walking uphill, downhill and by way of many steps. 
Sunrise view from our hotel balcony
Our room had a balcony from which we could see panoramic sea views of the Amalfi Coast. The morning sunrise very quickly became my favorite view. We had a week of rain-free days and mid-80 temperatures, thus escaping the 90-degree heat wave in Nashua🥵.
Views of Amalfi Town from our hotel balcony; lemons along the coast
The Amalfi Coast is renowned for its production of limoncello liqueur, made from Amalfi lemons (sfusato amalfitano in Italian). The lemons are known for their elongated, tapered shape, much larger than those in our local supermarkets. They are grown in terraced gardens all along the coastline as the coast has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The only land route to the Amalfi Coast is the 25-mile (40 km) long Amalfi Drive (Strada Statale 163) which runs along the coast from Vietri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west.
The Piazza del Duomo is the main square in Amalfi Town, many gelaterias here
It's an understatement to say that the town of Amalfi is a very popular destination. It started attracting upper-class Europeans in the 18th century, when it was a frequent stopover on Grand Tours. Since then, the Amalfi Coast's natural beauty, picturesque landscapes, colorful villages and cuisine have made it  a popular destination with the nickname the Divina Costiera (Divine Coast). Amalfi's streets ooze lemon: scented soaps, embroidered aprons, bottles of limoncello are in everywhere. Gelaterias are all around and Nutella is a featured flavor. This brand of sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread, manufactured by the Italian company Ferrero, was first introduced in 1964. 
Amalfi Cathedral, interior and exterior views  
It was well worth the effort to contend with the ever-present crowds for a close-up look at the Amalfi Cathedral (Duomo di Amalfi; Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea). It's in the main square, the Piazza del Duomo, and 62 steps, wide and steep, lead to the main doors. This medieval Roman Catholic cathedral is dedicated to the Apostle St Andrew whose relics are kept in the cathedral's crypt. (A future post will include more photos and details on this magnificent structure which dominates the town center.)
In no particular order, here's a few collages of the activities and events we participated in during the week-long trip. These included several winery visits, outdoor dining on restaurant terraces, a walk through the ruins of Pompeii, a boat ride to Marina di Praia, and a group meal prepared by everyone and then shared. 
Future posts will include more about the trip which was a wonderful experience, aside from all the uphills and downhills. Within the course of 1 week, we had so many fun times with people met for the first time; perhaps we will reunite on a future trip. This was certainly one of the best anniversary gifts we've ever given ourselves! For those who may wonder about souvenir buying, I bought nothing; Grenville purchased two t-shirts. The trip and photo memories are souvenirs.

We returned home last weekend and have spent time this week recovering from colds and catching up on household chores, not to mention downloading images from both my cell phone and camera. Rather than order (many) prints to insert in a photo album, I plan to upload images to an online photo site and order a photo book. If anyone has any recommendations or suggestions on a preferred site, please share in a comment.

Blog reading has fallen behind as no tablet or computer came on the trip. I'm hoping to catch up on your recent blog posts within the next few days as we wait out any effects from Hurricane Lee. A mostly rain event is anticipated here in the city of Nashua, NH.

Our thoughts and prayers for safety go to those in the projected path of this latest hurricane.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Falling for Autumn

It's the first of September today, which meant that it was time for the autumn decorations to re-appear outside our apartment entry. (I was tired of looking at summer ones about now.)
All of these decos were purchased over the past several years from the local Dollar Tree store back when they actually cost $1. Today, of course, these would cost a bit more at $1.25. The scarecrows, pumpkins wall hangings will stay around with the permanent penguin and frog until holiday and snowman decos appear in future months.

At the rate this year seems to be rushing by, that won't be too long. Here's an eye-opener: 
From today, Sept 1 to Dec 31— there's 122  days or 17 weeks, 3 days left in 2023.

We're thankful that several blogger FL friends and family were safe during the recent storm; but sad to read about those who did fare as well, especially in GA. Also, our condolences to the family of a friend who passed away from that sinister disease beginning with the letter "C."

This weekend, we're off on a new adventure that is not a road trip. Accordingly, blog reading and posting will be on hiatus for  a short time.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Hug those close to you  &  ♥️ them; life is short

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Not the Trees

Instead, The Elms, is the name of the last mansion toured during our Newport, RI, road trip. This grand mansion was once the summer home for a U.S. coal magnate and his wife. (This is the final long-ish post about some very over-the-top and quite ostentatious mansions.)
The Elms, Newport, RI, mansion of Sarah and Edward Julius Berwind
This post differs from two previous ones about summer Newport cottages (mansions)
The Breakers and Marble House (mansions) in several ways — This one wasn't built by a member of the Vanderbilt family. Celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt wasn't involved in its design. This house had fewer rooms (48 total) and it cost less to construct. Also, it doesn't have an ocean view like many other Newport mansions. Last, but not least, its owners remained happily married to one another until their deaths.

While these are certainly some major differences, The Elms is definitely a grand house in what was a time of a very opulent life style. It houses an outstanding collection of paintings, statuary and tapestries. The landscaping features formal gardens, terraces, pavilions and fountains. 

Edward and Sarah Berwind
The Elms was the summer residence of Sarah and Edward Julius Berwind, founder of the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company, which he headed from 1886 until 1930. Berwind was hailed as one of the 58 men who rule America, making him one of Newport's most important summer residents. 

Berwind's company was the largest owner of coal properties in the country and traded prominently throughout the U.S. and Europe. He was a member of an influential circle of industrialists, sharing newspaper mentions with the likes of J.P. Morgan. 

Unlike the Vanderbilts, Astors and others, Berwind was new money (his parents were middle-class German immigrants). Sarah Berwind grew up in Italy; her father was the American counsel to Livorno, Italy. She spoke several languages and was a patron of art and music.

The Berwinds began summering in Newport in the 1880s and in 1888 paid $50,000 for an Italianate-style house, The Elms, on Bellevue Avenue, the summer home of George W. Merritt.  Starting in 1890, Berwind spent up to $100,000 buying land and soon his summer estate was 14-acres. By 1898, the house was too small for grand parties they were hosting, so they had it torn down to build a new mansion in its place, keeping the original name. (The original American elms on the grounds succumbed to Dutch elm disease.)

Horace Trumbauer
Berwind commissioned Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to create a French-inspired cottage better fitting his status and very French. Like Richard Morris Hunt, who designed the Vanderbilt mansions, Trumbauer was a prominent American architect of the Gilded Age, known for designing residential manors for the wealthy. In keeping with the request, Trumbauer modeled it after the 18th-century French Château d'Asnières outside Paris, France. While there are some similarities, it is not a replication; there are significant architectural differences as the photo shows. (The château was well-known to the Berwinds who had considered buying it in 1898. Instead they purchased its sculptures and statues, and others from the historic Château de Menars that Trumbauer integrated into the garden at Newport.)

Trumbauer also had Jules Allard & Sons of Paris design and furnish the interior. (The same French firm responsible for furnishing the Vanderbilt mansions.) The Elms also housed 18th century French and Venetian paintings, Renaissance ceramics and Oriental jades that the Berwinds had amassed in their travels.

Built of white limestone, The Elms was constructed from 1899 to 1901 with 50 rooms. It took two years to finish and cost about 1.4 million dollars, now 49.9 million dollars. Like most Newport Gilded Age houses, it house was built with non-combustible materials and around a structural steel frame. The interior partitions, plaster over terra cotta blocks, sit on reinforced concrete floor slabs; the exterior walls are made of brick masonry and clad with limestone.
Back views of The Elms: top (1916) and bottom (2023)
Over the next 20 years, Sarah Berwind would spend the summers in Newport, the season being from the July 4 to the end of August. Berwind visited on weekends as his coal-mining interests kept him in New York during the week. Although the Berwinds had no children, their nephews and nieces would visit regularly.

Thanks to Berwind's interest in technology, The Elms was a very sophisticated house of the time. It was one of the first houses in the U.S. to be wired for electricity with no backup system, it also included one of the first electrical ice makers. When The Elms was done, the Berwinds held a huge party. It wasn’t unusual for their summer entertainment bill to top $300,000.

Nearly all Newport mansion owners hosted grand parties to showcase their new digs, but The Elms opening was very spectacular. There was 400 guests, roses adorned every corner of the mansion's interior and vines reached to the second floor, lights were spread throughout the estate, two orchestras provided music in the ballroom and the Newport Band played in the grounds. But, the evening's highlight was monkeys brought in to play in the palm trees. Many were found swinging in trees around Newport days later. Two orchestras provided music in the ballroom and the Newport Band played in the grounds. 
Entrance Foyer at The Elms
Entered via large mahogany doors, the grand Entrance Foyer with Ionic columns made of Italian breccia marble is where the first of the day's more than 1,000 visitors enter to get a first look at the mansion. This entrance hall forms one large gallery that runs along the entire length of the house, north to south. The marble double staircase with wrought iron bannister curves up 41-feet to the second floor bedrooms. 

On the main floor, the principal axis leads from the eastern entrance porch, into an entrance hall with a grand staircase and a marble floor, then into the ballroom, and then out to the garden beyond. The wing to the South contains a dining room, breakfast room, and serving pantry (the kitchens were in the basement), while the wing to the North contains a drawing room, library, and conservatory. 
The Elms Conservatory
The Conservatory was inspired by orangeries (greenhouses) popular in 18th century France, but the Berwinds filled it with palms and exotic plants. The conservatory is decorated with four marble statues representing the seasons of the year. The fountain continued the theme of bringing the garden inside. The room's tall windows provide natural light.
The Ballroom hosted the mansion's 1901 grand house party
The Ballroom done in the Louis XV style was decked out with rose trees, palms, orchids and lotus flowers for The Elms housewarming party in August 1901. The ballroom is has carved wood painted in cream and white and is considered to be one of the finest in Newport. A single elaborate crystal chandelier helps anchor the space in this room along with a 1900 Steinway gold-leaf grand piano. The portrait of Elizabeth Drexel Lehr, a leader of Newport society, was painted in 1905 by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. Her house once was across the street from The Elms. 

While nearly all Newport mansion owners hosted grand parties to showcase their new digs, The Elms opening was over-the-top with 400 guests. Roses adorned the mansion's interior and vines reached to the second floor, lights were spread throughout the estate, two orchestras provided music in the ballroom and the Newport Band played in the grounds. The evenings highlight was monkeys brought in to play in the palm trees. Days after, many were found swinging in trees around Newport. 
The Dining Room is full of Venetian murals
The Dining Room of carved walnut and oak with Venetian murals is lit by four chandeliers and the antique fireplace's mantel of green marble, onyx and bronze nearly reaches the ceiling. Breaking with the French design of other rooms, this room displays the largest collection of 18th-century Venetian murals in America. Jules Allard designed the room around the cycle of paintings depicting Roman generals. The oak paneling is reflected in the ceiling (not captured), which is painted to look like oak. The ornate doors are of Santo Domingo mahogany adding to the room's richness.
Breakfast Room features black and gold Chinese lacquer panels
The Breakfast Room features black and gold Chinese lacquer panels and is an example of Chinoiserie, a western interpretation of Chinese decoration.Three of the wall panels in this room are 18th century Chinese; one is a 20th century copy created by decorator Allard. The room is one of the few surviving lacquer rooms in the world and it would have been destroyed when The Elms was threatened with demolition in the 1960s (more on that later).
Butler's Pantry and knife cleaner
The Butler's Pantry was the final stop for meals before being plated, warmed and delivered to the dining or breakfast rooms. The round wooden object is a knife cleaner. Before stainless steel, knives needed to be polished. Knives were inserted into one of the slots and the hand crank was turned as brushes scrubbed off any rust.

The second floor houses bedrooms for family and guests as well as a private sitting room. The third floor contains bedrooms for the indoor servants.
Bedroom & bath of Sarah Berwind
Sarah Berwind's Bedroom also served as her office since as lady of the house, she was responsible for managing the estate and its social functions. She organized both the lavish entertainments and the inner workings of The Elms and its household staff of 42. This room was featured on HBO's The Gilded Age series. The bathroom was modern white tile like all the other bathrooms, the high point of luxury in that time. White tile was a relatively new hygienic material, popular for its easy upkeep.
Bedroom & bath of Edward Berwind
Edward Berwind's Bedroom is smaller than his wife's. Gentlemen of Newport's summer colony worked primarily in New York during the week, traveling to Newport on weekends to rejoin their families. They required less change of clothing and preparations. In his bathroom, the sink is white onyx. A caned chair placed over the commode would have been moveable.
Sitting room used by family and guests
The Sitting Room was a private gathering place for the Berwinds and their guests. Tables in this room held photos of the couple's four nieces who often summered at The Elms with their aunt and uncle. 
Main kitchen
The Main Kitchen was heated by wood and coal and would have been operational non-stop during a party. A chef brought in from France was the star of kitchen, hired to create lavish meals served during Gilded Age society dinners hosted by the Berwinds.

The Garden Showcase
The 14-acres of French and Italian landscaped gardens of The Elms are among the most spectacular in Newport, RI. Architect Trumbauer was helped in their design by Ernest William Bowditch known for his work at The Breakers (another Vanderbilt connection)
Vintage postcard showing The Elms garden
The Elms garden as it looked during our visit
The elaborate gardens were developed between 1907 and 1914 and include terraces displaying marble and bronze sculpture, a sunken garden, numerous split level terraces, gravel walkways, balustrades, boxwood hedges, sweeping lawns, sculptured fountains, statues, busts and two octagonal gazebos with domed roofs serving as teahouses. These gardens were recently restored.
1910 garage replaced carriage house & stables
After the Berwinds replaced coaches with automobiles, the original carriage house and stables were replaced in 1910 by an enormous two story garage. It was clad in limestone, 125-foot long by 70-foot deep and one of the largest private garages in America, with an indoor track, and two gas tanks. (The Berwind's head coachman became the chauffeur, but couldn't learn to back out of the garage, so an automobile turntable was installed.)

After his wife died in 1922, Berwind invited his sister, Julia, to become the hostess of The Elms. The Berwinds were very close to Julia. Berwind worked at his office until age 85 and died in August 1936, aged 88. He willed the house and its contents to Julia. 

While high society members tended to reduce extravagant lifestyles due to the depression and WW II, Julia maintained a full staff of 40 servants; her social season remained at six weeks. She was noted for driving herself, unusual for women generally and for women of her class especially. She was also known to invite local children to the estate for cookies and milk.

When Julia died in 1961, aged 96, the house and most of its contents were sold at public auction. Childless, like the Berwinds, she willed the estate to a nephew, Charles Dunlap, who couldn't maintain it with little attachment to the mansion. An auction was held and furnishings were sold with several of the more valuable paintings going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
Auction program for The Elms

After the contents of the estate were auctioned off, it almost fell victim to the wrecking ball as a syndicate of New York developers wanted to demolish it. But that plan went awry as did the money when the stock market tumbled in 1962. This enabled the Preservation Society of Newport County to buy The Elms for $116,000 with help from a few others. Within weeks, the house was ready for a gala ball attended by 800 people celebrating its survival. 

Almost all of the original art hangs in the house and much of the furniture has returned. It took five years, but the entire home was rewired, allowing the Society to finally install hardwired fire and burglar alarms. 

Since it was opened as a house museum in 1962, The Elms has remained one of Newport's most popular attractions. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

This post ends our visits to three Newport, RI, mansions — The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms. All three were spectacular in terms of money spent and furnishings. Marble House was as beautiful as The Breakers was massive; but, The Elms was my favorite. Its interiors and owners' lifestyle were just as opulent and extravagant as the others, but the fact that it was saved from possible demolition made it a bit more special.