Doris Duke, the reclusive tobacco heiress and philanthropist, loved Newport and summered here for many years. Rough Point, the 39,000 square foot mansion with 105 rooms, was one of her many beautiful homes.
Duke passed away in 1993, and after some legal issues were sorted out, the property was opened to the public in 2000. I was lucky enough to see it at that time when I worked a small event that was held there for the opening.
Located at the southeastern end of Bellevue Avenue, Rough Point overlooks Newport's beautiful rocky coastline and can be seen from the scenic Newport Cliff Walk.
Click the play button to load the interactive panoramic image
Image above courtesy of Chris Blake of Aerial Vr
This Newport Rhode Island mansion was commissioned in 1887 for Frederick W. Vanderbilt, the sixth son of William H. Vanderbilt. Frederick's older brothers, Cornelius (who built The Breakers) and William K. (built Marble House) had "summer cottages" of their own just up the street.
Vanderbilt sold the property to William B. Leeds in 1906, and Leeds' widow sold it to James B. Duke (benefactor of Duke University) in 1922.
Just one year after completing renovations in 1924, Duke passed away. He left the home and his fortune ($100 million) to his 12 year old daughter Doris Duke. Doris continued to use the home up until her death in 1993 at the age of 80.
This property is very different from the other Newport mansions. There are guided tours here, but it was actually dedicated as a museum, which Duke required in her will.
Painting of a young Doris Duke
The home really is amazing. Doris Duke collected many unique things on her worldwide travels. Some of the most interesting:
***UPDATE - SEPTEMBER 2009***
This is a very detailed tour that lasts about an hour. Tickets are a little more costly than the other Newport RI mansions at $25, but children under 12 enter free. You may buy tickets online or at the door depending on availability. If you really want to see this property, make your reservation in advance.
The group consists of only 12-14 people, so it's more intimate and personalized. You'll visit the entire first floor and then go upstairs to see Duke's bedroom.
Aerial view of Rough Point and the rugged coastline
Rough Point is located at 680 Bellevue Avenue (the last house on the left). There is parking available, and the house is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. You can contact them at 401-847-8344.
Check out From The Vault #3 to see more old photos of Rough Point from my grandfather's collection.
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