Design & Décor, Living with Style, People, Places & Spaces, The Newport Diary


Champ Soleil, a 17th Century-Style French Chateau

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By any measure, 1929 was not an auspicious year…except, perhaps, in Newport. For that was the year that an exquisite version of the hunting lodge at Versailles, La Lanterne, was designed by the New York firm, Polhemus & Coffin. Champ Soleil, a neighbor just down Bellevue Avenue from Parterre, is one of my favorite houses in our town.

I find so many of its architectural details enchanting, from the high pitched roofs…

to the charming side view framed by two old trees…

to the intimate terrace overlooking the grounds.

Champ Soleil has enjoyed a succession of noteworthy owners, from the first…Lucy Drexel Dahlgren, the granddaughter of Joseph W. Drexel…to the second owners, Roberta & Robert Goelet, who both enlarged Champ Soleil and chose the famed French firm Maison Jansen to contribute their decorating talents (the firm which decorated the White House under the Kennedy presidency), per my dear friend Gary Lawrance, Mansions of the Gilded Age. The estate was later owned by Russell B. Aitken and his wife, heiress Annie Laurie Aitken (mother of Sunny Von Bulow). It is the current owners of 18 years, Joshua McKinney-Zarrilli and his husband, real estate developer Kenneth Zarrilli, who now have this mansion on the market. They, too, have applied their stewardship skills to Champ Soleil, spending nearly $10 million renovating and restoring this property that is also distinguished as one of only nine intact Newport estates.

The venerable Long Island landscaping firm of its day, Innocenti and Webel, designed the 5.35 acre grounds, with Newport’s signature beech trees, fragrant rose gardens, a generously scaled swimming pool and one of the finest croquet courts in the country.

The grounds also include the original gate and carriage houses, each a smaller reference to the main house’s charming details.

Sharing the southern end of Bellevue Avenue with Larry Ellison’s Beechwood, the Preservation Society’s Marble House, and Beaulieu, Clarendon Court, Miramar and Belcourt Castle, Champ Soleil (like many of its neighbors) is set behind elegant wrought iron gates.

The 22 room main house has  a total of 11 bedrooms and 8.5+ bathrooms within 13,428 square feet with many gracious touches and details, starting with the entry and continuing through the halls.

Other rooms throughout the large square footage include a ball room and large living rooms…

the formal dining room adorned with a spectacular Neo-Baroque chandelier…

a library built of Louis XV pine panels imported from France…

and a large kitchen, a chef’s kitchen, and butler’s pantry.

Plus, a 3,000 square foot home theatre and a massage room. The current owners also updated Champ Soleil with the latest in green design and technology including 26 internet-controlled zones for heating and cooling efficiency, state-of-the-art security, fire protection and an audio/visual system.

So happy you could join me…this seemed the perfect mid-summer post (pool and all) on a topic near and dear to my heart (other than gardens), Newport’s exceptional architecture.


Images courtesy of Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

14 thoughts on “Champ Soleil, a 17th Century-Style French Chateau

  1. Seeing Champ Soleil at dusk when it is framed by the early evening sky, colored by the setting sun, is a singular Newport experience and a perennial favorite of mine. Among the many remarkable properties in Newport, Champ Soleil is in a league of its own. I have always admired this beautiful house, in passing, with its stunning gate, and very much enjoyed your post. Thank you for letting us see beyond the exquisite ironwork.

    1. Yes, Sky, aren’t we lucky to live where we do! Truly, seeing the remarkable architecture with a sunset capture per that image is a special treat.
      I almost considered adding my picture of that gate in the snow this winter, but thought it might be too confusing. B

    1. Wouldn’t that be an adventure (right up my alley) to re-landscape that property from the original drawings?! xB

  2. Zillow has 48 photos- you picked the best of the best! It also says the property at 601 Bellevue Avenue is off market. The Judy Chace page was a dead link and did not open up to a current listing:(

    1. Our link in the blog did work, but we’ve taken it down because the owners have chosen to remain in the house for the summer and have taken it off the market temporarily. But if you’re interested, I have the proper contact number.

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