Beach Cliffe

Memorial Boulevard, Newport, Rhode Island

Built in 1852, for Oliver DeLancey Kane (1816-1894) and his wife, Louisa Dorothea Langdon (1821-1894). It was situated on Bath Road (today's Memorial Boulevard) between Annandale and Cliff Street. It was the first major commission of Detlef Linau, the French-educated German architect credited for bringing the Second Empire style to America, and it was regarded as decades ahead of its time. Along with Château-sur-Mer and Malbone, the three mansions were acknowledge to be the most opulent of Newport's pre-Civil War cottages. All but one of its owners were from Philadelphia and from about 1896 it became known as "Bushy Park" before being demolished in 1939....

This house is best associated with...

Oliver DeLancey Kane

(Oliver) DeLancey Kane, of "Beach Cliffe" Newport, Rhode Island


Louisa (Langdon) Kane

Mrs Louisa Dorothea (Langdon) Kane


Charles Jacobs Peterson

Charles J. Peterson, Editor & Publisher, of Philadelphia


Sarah (Howard) Peterson

Mrs Sarah Powel (Howard) Peterson


Charlemagne Tower Jr.

Professor "Charlie" Tower, of Philadelphia; U.S. Ambassador to Russia & Germany


Helen (Smith) Tower

Mrs "Nellie" (Smith) Tower


Richard Van Zeelust Mattison

Dr Richard V. Mattison, the "Asbestos King" of Ambler, Pennsylvania


Esther (Dafter) Mattison

Mrs Esther (Dafter) Mattison


DeLancey Kane's grandfather, John Kane, arrived in New York from Northern Ireland in 1752 where he became one of the principal importers of Irish linen and married a stepdaughter of the sister of Thomas Fitch, Governor of Connecticut. But John was a "treacherous Tory" and lost his fortune when his property was confiscated and he retired to Nova Scotia. Kane's father and brothers returned to New York, successfully operating Kane Brothers & Co., from Albany. In 1841, Kane eloped with and married Louisa Langdon, a grand-daughter of John Jacob Astor. She was at first disinherited, but her grandfather eventually softened and allowed her mother to restore her considerable legacy. Kane is not to be confused with his son, Col. DeLancey Astor Kane, 'Father of American Coaching'.

A French Manor Ahead of Its Time

The Kanes began buying up land on the cliff above Easton's Beach from 1849. To build their new home, they gave the French-educated Detlef Linau his first major commission, and only his third commission since arriving in the States. Linau was teamed up with Léon Marcotte, another graduate of the École des Beaux Arts who although is better remembered today as an interior/furniture designer who specialized in the Louis XVI-style, had then only recently finished training as an architect in Paris under Henri Labrouste - one of the first in the world to pioneer the use of iron-frame structures.

Lienau's early Second Empire exterior was paired with Marcotte's Louis XVI interior. For its overall design, Lienau is generally said to have copied a 19th-century manor house in France that had in turn adopted the style of an 18th-century French manor house that blended the Baroque and Rococo styles. This may be true, but the front facade of the Newport house is a very close replica of that in New York City, 32 Fifth Avenue, for which Linau is credited for introducing the Second Empire style to America.

Beach Cliffe remains one of the very early examples of the chateauesque style which made it not only ahead of its time in Newport, but in all America too; and, it almost certainly partly inspired Spring Lawn in Lenox, Massachusetts. George Champlin Mason Sr. remarked: "It is built of brownstone and brick, after a French design, and reminds one of some of the best specimens of French domestic architecture. The string courses, corbels, quoins, and other prominent features, all show careful treatment". 

The Philadelphian Fraternity

In 1867, the Kanes sold Beach Cliffe to Charles J. Peterson, a well-known publisher in Philadelphia. He outlived all his children and when his widow died in 1896 it was sold for $42,500 to William Franklin of New York and Samuel Shipley of Philadelphia, who flipped it on immediately for $58,500 to the erudite, but notoriously snobby Charlemagne Tower, Jr., of Philadelphia, who then announced he would spend a further $20,000 improving it.

Becoming Bushy Park

Both Charlemagne Tower and his father took a deep interest in their genealogy and it was perhaps the very well travelled Mr Tower who renamed Beach Cliffe "Bushy Park" that being the name of an estate in Ireland's County Tipperary associated with the Towers family. In 1897, only months after acquiring the house, Tower was posted to Vienna to serve as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria-Hungary. He sold Bushy Park that year to yet another Pennsylvanian, Dr Richard V. Mattison, of Ambler, who made his fortune manufacturing chemicals, most notably asbestos-related products.

Asbestos and End

Just as he famously built the magnificent Lindenwold Castle using asbestos, so too did he build the carriage house here - overlooking Annandale Road - of asbestos shingles. Dr Mattison outlived both his wives and died in 1936. Three years later, Bushy Park (the name he had retained since buying the estate from Charlemagne Tower) was bought up for just $12,000 by Eugene O'Reilly and James T. O'Connell who demolished the mansion and, subdividing the property into smaller residential lots, developed it. 

Today, all that remains of this pioneering property is the gatehouse facing Memorial Boulevard (designed by Seth Bradford of Newport in circa 1897) and the carriage house.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 17/09/2021 and last updated on 03/10/2021.


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