Living it Large

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Nick Churton of Lila Delman Real Estate’s London, UK office tastes the Gilded life at a home built for sumptuous living and memorable entertaining in Newport, Rhode Island.

Broker: Lila Delman Real Estate

Agent: Melanie Delman

For the past 150 years or so Newport, Rhode Island has been the summer home of families with wealth beyond normal imagination. Also it has been and still is the epicenter of US sailing. And this Gilded Age haven has lost none of its luster. Today it is drawing another generation of uber-affluent people who enjoy large houses and yachts.

Large is a relative term in Newport. What is very big to most people is more modest to some of this town’s mega-rich. A merely large yacht can seem small against some of the sleek leviathans that annually arrive in Newport’s sheltered, deep-water harbor. And grand and spacious homes seem mere cottages when sized up against one or two of the Vanderbilts’ Newport mansions.

But times and styles change, even for the super-wealthy. Fewer staff, more desire to reside and interact closely with family, greater lock-and-leave capabilities are all important factors in a Newport mansion today. But one thing never changes in Newport: location. And still, without doubt, the most highly regarded place to live is along the legendary Cliff Walk with views to the Atlantic Ocean. Think Philadelphia Story or High Society. Think Great Gatsby. Think the Kennedys. That’s the Cliff Walk.

Every now and then one of these prized historic homes comes to the market. Most have both sound pedigree and good provenance. The latest to come available is Ocean Lawn, once owned by Harvey S Firestone Jn and his wife, Bette. The Firestones lived it large in Newport. Harvey Jn. (1898 –1973) was the son of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company founder. Bette was one of America’s best-dressed women and perfected the art of living very well indeed. Her cedar lined ball gown closet is enormous. It is still there waiting now for a modern couture enthused fashionista to fill its yards and yards of rails.

Bette also had a great eye for decoration and much of her grand but tasteful influence is still to be seen in the English style library, the fabulous antique fireplaces and the elegant paneling. The yellow guest bedroom was a favorite of actor and entertainer, Bob Hope, who frequently visited the mansion.

Securely and privately situated behind a high-gated entrance, the house, built in about 1889, sits in 6.5 acres of magnificent grounds with 515 ft. of spectacular ocean frontage.

In any one year just a handful of truly landmark trophy homes come onto the market in the US. This is one of those homes.

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