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Blithewold Mansion In Rhode Island

Feb 16, 2008
Blithewold Mansion in Rhode Island is and American Architectural treasure, and a can't miss for New England history buffs.

The Blithewold Mansion in Rhode Island is a popular spot for weddings, events and visitors who just want to tour one of the most impressive Rhode Island mansions.

Mining baron Augustus Van Wickle was born in 1856 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1876 he went to work in his father's coal mining business, "Van Wickle and Stout". He moved up in the company rapidly. He and Bessie Pardee, daughter of Hazleton's wealthiest coal baron, were married in 1882. Their daughter Marjorie was born in 1883. Bessie's older daughter, Marjorie Van Wickle, became an accomplished watercolorist; many of her paintings are displayed in the mansion. But her true love was Blithewold, where she spent the rest of her life developing this beautiful property.

Van Wickles 1st family home was ready for occupancy in the summer of 1896. The original was a 45-room Queen Anne style mansion furnished with antiques and reproduction furniture. This 1st Blithewold house was destroyed by a fire in 1906.

In 1907 the 2nd, grander mansion was ready for the family. The 2nd Blithewold was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Kilham and Hopkins, and was a grander affair altogether. The new mansion had electricity and coal-fired central heating, taking advantage of modern technology, though it emulated the English Country Manor style, which was embraced as desirable for the wealthy classes of America.

The loggia of Blithewold faces Narragansett Bay, and is carved into crests and gargoyles, copying of the loggia at Cranborne Manor in Dorset, England. The house itself is long and narrow, built on a north-south axis, so that all the main rooms face west to the water. It features French doors leading out to terraces, porches, loggias and sleeping-porches. The large windows frame the glorious sunsets that this mansion is famous for.

The center hall and staircase of this Mansion are designed in the Colonial Revival style in the Georgian style. Also typical of the Colonial Revival style are the fluted columns, dentil moldings and volutes in the Entrance Hall, as well as the 3 different patterns of balusters on the stairway.

The furniture in each room remains as former owner Bessie McKee arranged it before 1910. The fine yet quasi-eclectic decor emphasizes elegance, comfort and informality. Custom, handmade furniture abounds.

The Dining Room furniture is made of oak, made for the Van Wickle family in the 1890s in a Baroque style. Several of the chairs were made of oak cut from the Blithewold gardens and were emblazoned with a Blithewold family crest.

With the exception of 2 bedrooms all the rooms in the mansion are decorated with the original wallpaper. The walls in the Master Bedroom show a hand-painted Dutch village scene. The fascinating Dining Room Collection includes more than 30 sets of fine china, which are displayed in the Butler's Pantry.

This breathtaking American home is among the most incredible architectural attractions in the state of Rhode Island. Anyone interested in gilded age architecture cannot afford to skip a trip to this New England treasure.
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