Astor's Beechwood renovationRestoration of Astor's Beechwood underway 12/30/12

on Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI

Yesterday, while cruising down Newport's Bellevue Avenue, I glanced over at Astors' Beechwood and, much to my surprise, it wasn't there!  After a quick double take I realized the big, beige Italiante mansion WAS in fact there, but it was no longer the cream-colored wedding-cake-of-a-house I remembered, but rather a somber red brick edifice with pale quoining along the corners and roof line.

It's a temporary look, as plans call for the reapplication of the stucco, but the mansion's current "nakedness" combined with the wintery, leafless landscape accentuates the dignity of the original architecture.

Astors' Beechwood is undergoing a complete restoration thanks to Oracle co-founder, Larry Ellison who purchased the property in 2010 for $10.5 million and plans to open it as a non-profit museum to display his collection of 18th and 19th century art.  The Atlantic Arts Museum will be a bonus for Newport's residents and visitors and a happy outcome for Astors' Beechwood.

Artist's rendering of Astor's Beechwood RestorationRendering of Astor's Beechwood from Bellevue Ave.

Beechwood is often attributed to architect, Richard Morris Hunt, but Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux designed the original summer cottage for Daniel Parrish in 1851. The original house burned to the ground 1855 and was rebuilt closer to Bellevue Ave.  In 1881 William Blackhouse Astor Jr. purchased this replica, and his wife, Caroline Webster Shermerhorn-Astor, immediately commissioned Hunt to renovate the manse and add a ballroom large enough to entertain the elite members of Newport's famous "400," the most prominent families of the day.  25 years later Beechwood's pale stucco exterior was applied.

The current plan includes renovation of the carriage house, a new slate roof, demolition of a 1980s garage, renovation of the greenhouse and extensive landscaping.

Artist's rendering of Astor's Beechwood RestorationRendering of Astor's Beechwood from Cliff Walk

A dramatic arched loggia destroyed in the hurricane of 1954 will be rebuilt restoring lovely Atlantic Ocean views enjoyed by the homes along Cliff Walk.  Once complete, the 26,000 square foot Italianate mansion will house the a residential style museum similar to New York's Frick Museum on the first floor and private residence above. The first floor museum will be open to the public, and the residential second floor will be open when no one is in residence.

This is one of several big projects going on around here this winter.  

It just keeps getting better and better here in Newport, RI.  Happy New Year!!

Posted by Leslie Hogan on


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I enjoyed reading this Leslie. Thank you for sharing this informative information, on Astors' Beechwood restoration project. It is truly exciting!

Posted by Barbara Segal on Thursday, January 10th, 2013 at 2:49pm

As someone with a background in preservation having worked at the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the National Trust for Historic Preservation this is excellent news.

Posted by Debra Jenkins on Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at 1:17pm

Thank you Debra and Barbara,
It is indeed a wonderful development for Newport and Astor's Beechwood. Can't wait to visit and see both the art work and the renovation / restoration.

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at 2:42pm

I am wicked happy that this home is being restored to a museum. I thought someone was going to tear it down to make another builder box.. This is a beautiful house and a piece of American culture.
Kindest regards! Bravo!!

Posted by Bill on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 at 11:09pm

Thanks for the comment, Bill. I agree, it's an important house, and it's great that someone with the resources to "do it right' has taken it on and decided to share it with the public. Best, Leslie

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 12:28am

I keep looking for recent updates on the progress and can find none. Kudos to Ellison for restoring this magnificent house. I remember touring this house years ago and it was the best of all of the mansions. Unfortunately the other Bellevue mansions are looking a bit faded likely due to funding deficiencies. That won't be a problem with Beechwood and thankfully Rough Point.

Posted by stanhope on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 2:29am

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I had not heard much either though clearly the work continues at Astor's Beechwood. There was an article in one of the local papers recently regarding objections to proposed exterior changes to the Carriage House. Seems that has slowed things down a bit. If I learn more, I will post here.

Posted by Leslie Mathieu Hogan on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 at 8:10pm

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