Yesterday we saw Hammersmith, childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis -- albeit from a distance, from the water. What we didn't realize was that Hammersmith was on the . . . well, not exactly on the poor side of town, but not on Bellevue Ave., where the biggest, fanciest, most ornate "cottages" were located.
Jacqueline's father, "Black Jack" Bouvier made a lot of money on Wall Street. But he didn't make anywhere near the kind of money that the Vanderbilts had. Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) made his fortune in steamships and railroads (and donated $1 million to found Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.), but it was his grandson Cornelius Vanderbilt II who purchased the property in Newport, RI, in 1885 and built The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo. A number of Vanderbilts (Cornelius Vanderbilt II had seven children) along with many other Who's Who of the 19th century Robber Barons summered on Bellevue Ave., in huge mansions facing out to the sea, the bay and the sound.
By the way, CNN's Anderson Cooper is one of Gloria Vanderbilt's four sons, and a great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
Some of the mansions along Belleview Ave. are still privately owned (and I noticed a couple for sale, if you're interested), and some including The Breakers are owned by the Preservation Society of Newport and are open to the public.
We didn't go in any of the mansions. Instead, we walked the three mile cliff path along the back of the properties, which offers great views of the water and occasional sightings of the mansions. Here's The Breakers, the weekend "cottage" of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
And here's the truly belle view he enjoyed.