Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island

Built from 1852, for John Paine (1794-1885), of New York City, who lent the house between 1874 and 1875 to his friend Anna Leonowens, the English governess who taught at the Court in Siam (Thailand) and whose story was fictionaliszd in the popular musical The King & I. Sea Verge, as it was then known, was significantly enlarged from 1883 by Peabody & Stearns for the Manhattan real estate speculator Henry H. Cook. It sat overlooking the ocean between Rockhurst (also known as Aspen Hall and Lowlands) and the more famous Rough Point. In 1897, Cook sold the 26-room villa and its land of just over 4-acres to Elbridge T. Gerry, former Commodore of the New York Yacht Club....

This house is best associated with...

John Paine

Merchant, of New York City & Newport, Rhode Island


Caroline (Paine) Paine

Mrs Caroline (Paine) Paine


Henry Harvey Cook

Henry H. Cook, of Fifth Avenue, New York City and "Wheatleigh" Massachusetts


Mary (McCay) Cook

Mrs Mary (McCay) Cook


Elbridge Thomas Gerry

"Commodore" Elbridge T. Gerry, Founder of New York SPCC etc.


Louisa (Livingston) Gerry

Mrs Louisa Matilda (Livingston) Gerry


Henrietta (Pollitzer) Pignatelli

Princess Henrietta Guerard (Pollitzer) Hartford, Pignatelli


Guido Pignatelli

Prince Guido Pignatelli di Monticalvo


Lillian (Newlin) Van Rensselaer

Mrs Lillian Washburn (Newlin) Van Rensselaer


Donald Harold Tinney

Donald H. Tinney, of Newport, Rhode Island


In 1906, The New York Times reported that, "the Gerry villa... although not as large as some other houses at Newport (notably the likes of Ochre Court built by Gerry's first cousin, Ogden Goelet) is ample for entertaining on a small scale... Here Mr Gerry raises his famous melons and tropical fruits and all sorts of vegetables under glass. With a staff of gardeners, presided over by an expert man who commands a good salary, this fad alone costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a year". After 1914, Mrs Gerry - previously one of New York's leading hostesses - preferred being here rather than at the Gerry Mansion.

Keeping Young at Hart

When Gerry died in 1927 he left the home to his younger daughter, Mrs Mabel Drury who - preferring to take a smaller house - sold the property to Mrs Henrietta (Pollitzer) Hartford who had previously rented Lorillard Spencer's "Chastellux" and Frederic Rhinelander King's "King Cottage". Henrietta was the socially prominent and very wealthy widow of Edward V. Hartford, inventor of the shock absorber and co-heir to the A&P grocery store fortune that combined to give him a fortune of some $200-million.

In 1929, Henrietta gave a memorable ball here for 400-guests in honor of the Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale tennis teams; and, in the following year she converted the stables on the Ledge Road making Seaverge the first estate in Newport to boast an indoor tennis court, squash court and gymnasium. The conversion cost $35,000 and Henrietta had all the old original stalls and stable equipment taken to her home in South Carolina.

In 1937, Henrietta married an Italian prince, Guido Pignatelli, just two years older than her own daughter and who'd only divorced his previous wife 24-hours before - although he neglected to tell her! After she died in 1948 (the same year her fast-moving prince married his third wife) her children sold the estate to another widow, Mrs Lillian (Newlin) Van Rensselaer, whose husband Peyton J. Van Rensselaer - 22-years older than herself - dropped dead on board the ship that was bringing them home from their honeymoon.

The Approach of the Incoming Tide

Lillian had been resident in Newport since her widowhood from 1931. However, she did not live here but was, "active with her sister (Edith) in developing Seaverge". In 1952, just four years after the purchase, she was in the process of selling the house to a developer to be subdivided into, "an apartment hotel with dining privileges" when the Review Board rejected the proposal: she'd been given permission to create four apartments, but she insisted on there being six. Lillian was also the same person who made national headlines in 1950 when she sought court action against Timmy 'The Wood-Hooker' Sullivan and his sister for leaving wood piles that she claimed blocked access to her home, "The Hedges".

In 1955, as a 21st birthday present, the parents and aunt (Nellie Fuller) of Donald H. Tinney clubbed together to purchase Seaverge but flipped it the following year in order to finance their purchase of Belcourt. In 1957, Seaverge was demolished for subdivision.

You May Also Like...

Contributed by Mark Meredith on 24/05/2022 and last updated on 31/05/2022.


Be the first to connect to this house. Connect to record your link to this house. or just to show you love it! Connect to Seaverge →