1851, 1857, 1881
Architects: Andrew Jackson Downing, Richard Morris Hunt
Newport, Rhode Island
One of Newport's oldest summer cottages, Astors' Beechwood was originally built in 1851 for Daniel Parrish. It was destroyed by fire in 1855, and a 26,000-square-foot replica was built two years later. Real estate mogul William Backhouse Astor, Jr., purchased and restored the mansion in 1881. William and his wife, Caroline, better known as The Mrs. Astor, hired architect Richard Morris Hunt and spent two million dollars renovating Astors' Beechwood into a place worthy of America's finest citizens.
Although Caroline Astor only spent eight weeks a year at Astors' Beechwood, she packed them full of social activities, including her renowned Summer Ball. For 25 years during the Gilded Age, Astors' Mansion was Society's center, and The Mrs. Astor was its Queen. She created The 400, the first American social register of 213 families and individuals whose lineage could be traced back at least three generations.
Noted for its fine Italianate architecture, Beechwood was well-known for guided living-history tours with actors in period dress. The mansion was also an ideal site for murder mystery theater—some visitors claim that the grand summer home is haunted, and have reported strange noises, cold spots, and candles blowing out by themselves.
In 2010, billionaire Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Corp., bought Beechwood Mansion to house and display his art collection. Restorations are underway led by John Grosvenor of Northeast Collaborative Architects.