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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ocean View: How the Millses Summered in Style in Newport

There is something extraordinary about the sea and the summer season is a great time to enjoy the salty tides and coastal views far away from the bustle of the city.  Staatsburgh was generally quiet during the summer because the Mills family was usually headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island.  Newport was the center of the summer season for wealthy Gilded Age families. The elite flocked to the ocean breezes and built grand mansions along the shore.  The young Ruth Livingston spent summers as a young lady in Newport at her parent's cottage on Bellevue Court and even served as a bridesmaid at her twin sister's wedding to Englishman George Cavendish-Bentinck at the Episcopal Chapel of All Saints, which was one of the most anticipated events of the 1880 season.  Once Ruth married Ogden Mills, they visited Newport each summer and rented a home where they would reside during their time there until they purchased Ocean View in 1888.

As a port city on the Atlantic Ocean, Newport was the center for the New England slave trade during the Colonial era until the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1807.  Soon wealthy Southern plantation owners began to build summer homes in Newport to escape the heat and by the middle of the nineteenth century wealthy Yankee families began to do the same.  Most of the homes built during this era were shingle style cottages.  By the 1880's, the Newport season began to get longer, beginning in May and ending in October for some families, and the number of cottages occupied each summer continued to increase through the decade.  By this time, the style of the homes had changed, and most of the large mansions were built with marble and resembled prodigious European palaces (see Marble House).

On Right: Ocean View, the Ogden Mills Newport Mansion
located on Bellevue Avenue, circa 1932-34
Source: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University