207 Ruggles Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island
Completed in 1929, for Edson J. Bradley (1852-1935) and his wife Julia Wentworth Williams (1852-1929). The châteauesque Seaview Terrace contains 54-rooms and covers 39,648 square feet of living space, making it today the largest privately-owned mansion put up during the Gilded Age at Newport. Fractionally larger than Rough Point, Seaview Terrace is the 4th largest of the Newport Cottages, behind only The Breakers, Ochre Court and Belcourt. Owned by the Carey family of New York since 1974, it is sometimes also referred to as the "Carey Mansion"....
Edson Bradley was educated at Phillips Academy and afterwards at Heidelberg University in Germany. He came to New York in 1880 as a clerk in a wine store and within seven years he had become the President of the W.A. Gaines Company; the largest producer of sour mash whiskey in the world, that since then has become part of Jim Bean. Mrs Bradley was well-known as a prominent figure in society; and, a direct descendant of Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of Rhode Island. The Bradleys were serious art collectors and their homes reflected their passion.
In 1907, Bradley purchased an impressive mansion on DuPont Circle in Washington D.C., for $166,500 from Mabel Gardiner Hubbard (1857-1923), the wife of the famous inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922). Spending a further $100,000, he doubled the size of this mansion under the direction of Howard Greenley (1874-1963), who would later serve as the President of the Architectural League of New York. Giving it a French-Gothic appearance, their 'new' 40-room townhouse was referred to by the public as Aladdin's Palace.
In anticipation of their 50th wedding anniversary that they would celebrate in 1925, Bradley proposed a fitting gift for his beloved wife and as Maud Howe (1854-1948) put it: "No trouble, no expense, was too great to make a home for the wife who had been the perfect helpmate". In 1922, Bradley purchased Seaview from the estate of James Powell Kernochan (1831-1897). By the following year he had instructed Greenley to incorporate the existing mansion (that would form the east wing) into a new one, inspired by the 16th century Château de Chenonceau.
The château created by Greenley is built of limestone and except for the trim it is covered in chalk-white stucco in the Norman style, giving it an aged appearance. The Bradleys named their new home Seaview Terrace and it was completed at an estimated cost of $2 million. In 1925, the three-story château contained 17 rooms on the first floor, 25 on the second, and 12 on the third - spread over 39,648 square feet of living space. The extensive gardens feature wide balustraded terraces on varying levels.
The high-pitched roofline of their sprawling French Renaissance château took some architectural features from the Château de Chambord, but in fact it is more English in design, marked by gables and a profusion of chimneys. The conical tower was transported from their home in Washington and refitted, dividing the old house from the new. Within the roof are three separate attics that have spy holes leading on to one another, supposedly from which the servants could reprimand overly-amorous house guests or thieves! In a similar manner, the pipe organ was contained in a hidden room next to the chapel, accessed only by a trap door on the second floor.
Even with Greenley still working on the house, the Bradleys were able to hold a house-warming/wedding anniversary party at the mansion in 1925. Soon afterwards, Greenley began the monumental task of dismantling period rooms from France and Aladdin's Palace to have them transported and retrofitted into Seaview Terrace. According to Ripleys 'Believe it or Not', theirs was one of the largest house relocations recorded in America and included bringing over the 500-seat theater, 150-seat Gothic chapel - not to mention the ballroom!
Other notable architectural features within Seaview Terrace - for which Greenley won an award in 1928 - include the Whispering Gallery, reminiscent of that found at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where a person standing at one end can hear the slightest whisper made by another at the other end. 16th century stained-glass windows came from Holland, the Carmelite Church at Boppard, and one named The Flagellation from the early-Renaissance period was originally designed for Milan Cathedral. This last piece is thought to have been made by Corrado Mochis of Colonia and was part of a series portraying the Passion of Christ.
Period rooms within the mansion featured English panelling, Italian ceilings and stained glass windows - all from the 16th century. The Bradley's collection of antiques featured European art and objets d'art dating from the Middle Ages, as well as contemporary American pieces. Statues, Chippendale chairs, paintings, Chinese porcelain and Gothic tapestries - including one series depicting "The Great History of Troy" famously sold in 1934 at Christie's in London - all featured heavily at Seaview Terrace. The décor of it's vaulted flag-stoned halls followed a distinctly medieval theme with bearskin rugs, hunting trophies, great chests from the Renaissance period, wrought-iron torch holders, elaborate hanging lamps, Medieval Italian lanterns, Persian tiles, and an array of arms and armor.
Bradley had collected so many antiques that he was unable to fit them all into Seaview Terrace and sold part of his collection to fund other parts of the house at an auction in New York in 1927. The mansion was finally completed in 1929, only for Bradley to be struck by tragedy when he lost his wife that same year. Her funeral was held at the mansion's chapel and only a matter of months later, his fortune was severely affected by the Wall Street Crash. Nonetheless, Bradley remained at Seaview Terrace until his own death in 1935. His estate was left to his only daughter, Julie Fay Bradley (1880-1948), who was then the widow of the Rt. Rev. Herbert Shipman (1869-1930), Episcopal Bishop of New York. She lived at Seaview Terrace until 1941, and two years later married Naval Captain John Charles Fremont III (1880-1957). Julie was the last of the Bradley line.
In 1941, the valuable furnishings at Seaview Terrace were auctioned off achieving high prices, but due to the economic times then prevalent across the United States, the mansion itself was harder to shift. Julie received an offer of $25,000 from a Rhode Islander, but she turned this down on account of his well-known gambling habits. For three years, Julie had failed to pay her taxes on the mansion and when her fiscal debts reached $9,945, Seaview was seized by the government. Newport became a naval base during World War Two and Seaview served as an officer's mess, but the mansion continued to fall into disrepair and became a burden to the city.
In 1949, Seaview was sold for a mere $8,000 to Edward J. Dunn, who had also recently acquired Belcourt Castle. That same year, for a small profit he transferred title of the estate to Susan Mabel Hood (1876-1965), the widow of George Waldo Emerson, Sr. (1861-1947). Mrs Emerson was the headmistress of what is today known as the Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Massachusetts, and in 1950 Seaview became it's sister summer boarding school, renamed Burnham-by-the-Sea. During the winter it was run as the Newport School for Girls. From 1966 to 1971, the mansion became a familiar sight as it portrayed the fictional Collinwood Mansion in ABC's hugely successful 'vampire soap-opera,' Dark Shadows. However, the mansion was still expensive to retain and by the 1970s, the Emerson family placed it back on the market.
In 1974, Seaview was purchased by Martin and Millicent Carey. Mr Carey is the owner of Winfield Hall and the brother of Hugh Leo Carey (1919-2011), 51st Governor of New York. The Careys began renovating the old place and commissioned Donald Harold Tinney (1934-2006) - past owner of Belcourt Castle - to restore the stained glass windows in the Solarium, Chapel and Great Hall. Realizing the enormity of the project, soon afterwards the Careys leased the mansion, stables and gate lodge to Salve Regina University, who renamed the main house Carey Mansion.
From 1977 and through to the 1980s, the mansion was annually used to accommodate the American team for The Americas Cup. In 2009, the university terminated it's lease with the Careys and today Seaview Terrace is once again a private residence, occupied by the Carey's daughter, Denise Anne Carey. As a private home, it is strictly off-limits to the public, but in 2013 it was featured in the reality show, Stranded, aired on Syfy.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 10/10/2018 and last updated on 25/03/2020.
Main Image Courtesy of Reading Tom on Flickr.com
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