The Many Lives of Seaview Terrace: Newport, RI’s Architectural Marvel

The Historical Tapestry of Seaview Terrace

Nestled in Newport, Rhode Island, Seaview Terrace isn’t just another mansion; it’s a relic of a bygone era. During the Gilded Age, Newport was the summer playground for America’s wealthiest families.

The Vanderbilts, the Astors, and other illustrious names graced the city with their opulent “summer cottages,” which were, in reality, sprawling mansions. Amidst this backdrop of wealth and extravagance, Seaview Terrace made its mark, albeit not initially in Newport.

The mansion’s story begins with Edson Bradley, a whiskey magnate with a penchant for grandeur. In 1907, Bradley constructed a French-Gothic mansion in Washington, D.C., that was nothing short of a spectacle. It occupied more than half a city block and was a marvel of its time. However, in 1923, Bradley decided to disassemble his D.C. mansion and move it to Newport.

The relocation was an arduous task that involved transporting rooms imported from France and reassembling them in Newport. The mansion was reconstructed on Ruggles Avenue, incorporating an existing Elizabethan-Revival estate named “Sea View,” which lent its name to the new chateau.

Architectural Marvel: A French Affair in Newport

Seaview Terrace is an architectural gem designed in the Châteauesque style, which draws inspiration from the French chateaux of the 16th century.

The mansion boasts turrets, stained-glass windows, and high arching doorways, all adding to its grandeur. The shell motifs adorning the mansion pay homage to its seaside location, making it a unique blend of French elegance and coastal charm.

The mansion’s architect, Howard Greenley, was awarded a medal in 1928 by the American League of Architects for this masterpiece. The design intricacies don’t just stop at the exterior; the interior is equally captivating.

Seaview Terrace Newport
Seaview Terrace” by Reading Tom is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The mansion initially featured a Gothic chapel with seating for 150, a large ballroom, and an art gallery, among other luxurious amenities. It was a marvel of its time and is an architectural wonder today.

The Bradley Era: A Family’s Dream and Legacy

Edson Bradley and his wife, Julia Williams Bradley, were the original occupants of Seaview Terrace. The mansion served as their sanctuary for summer getaways, offering a respite from the frenetic pace of urban living.

The couple spent lavishly on the mansion, importing rooms from France and incorporating them into the Newport property. The villa reached its completion in 1925, boasting 17 rooms on the ground level, 25 on the upper floor, and an additional 12 on the topmost level.

Seaview Terrace Newport
Seaview Terrace” by Reading Tom is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Julia Williams Bradley passed away in August 1929, and her funeral was held in the mansion’s chapel. Edson Bradley continued to spend his summers at the estate until he died in 1935. The manor then passed on to their daughter, Julie Bradley Shipman, who lived there until 1941.

During World War II, the mansion served as officers’ quarters for the U.S. Army, marking another chapter in its diverse history.

Transformation and Uses: From Private Estate to Educational Institution

After the war, Seaview Terrace underwent another transformation. 1950, it became an all-girls summer boarding school named “Burnham-by-the-Sea.”

Seaview Terrace Newport
Seaview Terrace” by Paulhaberstroh is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The mansion was owned by Mr. and Mrs. George Waldo Emerson, who also ran the Mary Burnham School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts. During the academic year, the mansion operated as the Newport School for Girls and later housed The New School for grades 2 through 8.

The mansion’s educational stint didn’t end there. In the late 1970s, it was leased to Salve Regina University and renamed the Carey Mansion.

The university used the mansion’s Drawing Room for performances and practice, renaming it Cecilia Hall. However, the lease was terminated in 2009, and the estate reverted to private property.

Cultural Impact: More Than Just Bricks and Mortar

Seaview Terrace isn’t just an architectural marvel; it’s a cultural icon. From 1966 to 1971, the mansion was the exterior set for the Gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows.

Its grandeur and eerie charm made it the perfect backdrop for the show. The mansion has also been featured in paranormal reality shows like Ghost Nation and Stranded, adding another layer to its mystique.

The mansion’s cultural impact extends beyond television. It has inspired the depiction of other fictional settings and has been the subject of various documentaries and articles. Despite its grandeur and cultural significance, Seaview Terrace remains a private property, not open for public tours or visits.

Seaview Terrace, Newport, Rhode Island
Seaview Terrace, Newport, Rhode Island Roman Eugeniusz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Status and Market Value: A Price Tag on History

Currently, Seaview Terrace is on the market for a staggering $29.9 million. It remains Newport’s largest privately owned mansion, boasting 29 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms.

The mansion’s market value is a testament to its historical and architectural significance. It stands as a symbol of Newport’s opulent past and continues to capture the imagination of those who hear its story.

The mansion’s current status raises questions about its future. Will it remain a private residence, or will it transform again, adapting to the needs and whims of a new era? Only time will tell.

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