Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island

It's Wednesday, September 15th and it has been an absolutely beautiful day.
Yesterday, we got up and headed to see the Cape Cod area.We were able to make it all the way to the tip, which is Provincetown.  The Cape was very pretty but we both were a little surprised by the "feel" of the area. We had been to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket several years ago and assumed Cape Cod would have that same quaintness and appearance.

We started off in Sandwich and saw the Wing Fort House which was built in 1641.  It is the oldest house in New England owned and operated continuously by the same family over three centuries.

The Wing Fort House

We were interested in trying to get a view of the Kennedy compound but learned that the only way to get a glimpse was by a boat ride and that didn't show much, we were told.  We did, however, go to the JFK Museum in Hyannis.  While there, we saw  a layout of the compound and learned that there were actually three huge homes on the compound.  The one closest to the point was the home of the father, Joseph, and where all of his children grew up.  They are all now dead with the exception of the youngest daughter, who we were told was around 85 years old.  The next closest house to the point was Robert's house and the furtherest back was JFK's. 

The JFK Museum

We had lunch in Provincetown at a restaurant on the water.  This town, while commercialized with t-shirt shops, still had beautiful water views and a quaintness to it.

 Our view from the deck at the restaurant

 This morning we got up and headed to Newport, Rhode Island.  We were reminded that Newport is the home of the America's Cup Yacht Race, as is shown by the street sign. We had no idea that they were having a huge boat show today which made navigating around the city difficult.   The primary tourist attractions for the area are the mansions of the super wealthy during the Gilded Age.  We set out to see five of the grandest mansions but only accomplished seeing three of them because we ran out of time. 

The First house that we saw was Kingscote, which  means "Kings Cottage."  We were surprised to learn that it was built in 1841 for George Noble Jones, a wealthy plantation owner from Savannah, Georgia, Van's home town.  We also learned that prior to the Civil War, it was not uncommon for wealthy southern families to spend their summers in the cool climates by the sea.  In fact, apparently they were the ones who started the "cottage" practice in this area.   Even though it is a fine wood mansion, it actually is a cottage compared to the opulent , over the top mansions built by others.  When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Jones left the area returning to Savannah, never to return.  In 1863, the property was sold to William Henry King, a bachelor who had made a fortune in the china trade. 

The second house that we saw is called "The Elms" which was completed 1901.  The house was built for a Pennsylvania coal magnate, Edward Julius Burwind.  At the age of 17, Mr. Burwind was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, which was in Newport during that time, after which he began a 10 year career as a Naval Officer.  After resigning his Commission an 1875, he joined his brothers in the coal business and soon took over the New York office.  Obviously, he became very wealthy and married the former Herminie Torry, daughter of the U.S. Consul to Italy. The picture here is of the back of the house as it faces the ocean.

The third house that we saw was the most fabulous and ornate of the three that we saw.  This place was the summer home  of Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and his family. He actually worked as a bank clerk and continued to do so even after accumulating so much wealth.   Apparently he and his wife were actually down to earth people and met while teaching sunday school. He  was a kind man and very philanthropic, most of the time giving away his fortune annonymously.  He first wanted a two story villa to replace the original Breakers, which he bought from Pierre Lorillard in 1885, and which burned to the ground in 1892.  Because of his fear of fire, no wood was used in the construction of the current home. The core of the home was stone and brick, with steel beams for support.  The kitchen was isolated in a ground floor wing as further precaution.  The home had so much gold and marble that it truly is hard to imagine.  The wallpaper in one of the rooms had plantinum and therefore will never tarnish.  Many of the interior carvings and ornate columns and fixtures were designed and made in Europe, and some of the rooms were even constructed in Europe and then disassembled and brought to America and reassembled by the original artisans.

 It was obvious that these mansions were built for the primary purpose of just showing off and basically saying "look how rich I am."  These cottages were only used 8-12 weeks out of the year.   Our recollection is that both of  the last two cottages required  in excess of 40 servants. The Vanderbilts called their servants "staff."  Both homes had bell intercoms so they could summon a sevantthier clothing and so forth.  The men servants did all of the cooking and serving of the meals.  Obviously,  the women servants participated greatly in the preparation of the food.  The butler was basically the captain of the servants and supervised all of the servants both male and female.  Not only did they cook for all of the guests but also had to feed the servants. 

 Tomorrow we head for Boston on the train.  The station that is closest to us is closed for repairs so we have to go to another location, catch  a shuttle and then catch the train.  Who knows where we'll end up or if we'll ever get back here.

By the way, we should be home by next weekend.  Mom found out today that the  thyroid is where the cancer is and it  has to be removed, so I want to be home for that surgery.  Also. David (my brother)   has a doctor consultation on the 27th about his kidney transplant and, since it appears  he's going to get stuck having to get my kidney, I'm going to try to go with him to it.

Will talk with you  soon .

1 comment:

Ron said...

Hi Guys,

Really bring home memories with this New England trip. Even though I consider myself a New Yorker since all of my adult life was spent in NY, my youth and heritage are from New England. That said, can't wait for your return to hear first hand about this experience. You certainly did a lot and saw a lot. See you soon,