Design & Décor, Living with Style, The Newport Diary

Newport’s Clarendon Court

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Clarendon Court (1904) represents everything the words elegant, classical and sublime bring to mind. In this important Newport residence, there is the added distinction of a noted Gilded Age architect, Horace Trumbauer, interpreting a renowned 18th century Scottish architect’s (Colen Campbell) drawings that would otherwise have been relegated to the history books.

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

Other than removing the cupolas over the wings either side of the central block, Trumbauer reproduced a perfect copy. Interestingly, this excellent example of English neo-classicism in smooth sandstone was actually closer in style to a late 17th century mansion with its “urn-embellished balustrade.” The home is encompassed by a high stone wall with beautiful gilded iron gates that open to a cobblestone courtyard and entry to the residence.

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

Fortuitously, neither the interiors or handsome facade have been altered. Its loggia, and matching rear wings at the back of the house (feature image at top) were all later additions, bringing the house size to 11,579 square feet and twenty rooms.

As well, the 7.5 acres and landscape are still as the property was created in 1904, with sweeping views overlooking the ocean and Cliff Walk.

As a neighbor, I’m still trying to catch my breath at the news of Clarendon Court’s selling price — $30 million — paid last week. Yet another record-breaking number in this current real estate market. So I’m compelled to cross my fingers that Newport’s history and architectural heritage will bring out the inner preservationist in our town’s new homeowners. We must not underestimate the role of stewardship in owning one of these significant historic properties. As was demonstrated by its history of over 8 owners, Clarendon Court (center), along with its neighbors, Miramar and Champ Soleil, are among the very few Gilded Age mansions in Newport to have remained as private homes (Miramar is two homes away in the far left edge of the image).

While Clarendon Court’s histoire included a sad chapter, the majority of the names-of-their-day society figures who owned the home reflect the Newport captured in High Society (1956). Filmed in Newport and starring Grace Kelly (her last film), Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby, Clarendon Court’s interiors served as one of the movie’s sets. Entered via mahogany doors into a marble foyer with a graceful sweeping staircase…

the principal interior features of the house survive intact: 18th century fireplaces, marble floors and arched French windows that open onto the loggia.

But the room in the house that I truly covet is this trellis-embellished beauty overlooking the pool.

The outbuildings include the 10,000 square foot brick carriage house (with ample garage space for a car collection) and three separate guest quarters.

A charming brick-walled garden, with English sensibilities, is at the end of the carriage house.

And when one is talking about this grand home, I can’t resist showing it’s romantic side, in the snow…

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

and at night. Aaaah, Newport, how I love it.

All images (unless otherwise noted) courtesy of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Reality

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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".

20 thoughts on “Newport’s Clarendon Court

  1. Betty, I enjoyed these photos immensely. Thank you. We do live in an extraordinary place. Jane Berriman

    1. Yes, Jane, I’m made aware of that every day…and I’ve lived here for 33 years…we are blessed. B

  2. I thought due to the beauty and house preservation in the home town you buy it in NO changes are to be made Those homes are my favorites. I belong to a couple of societies to preserve such rare gems. Such elegance and this country doesn’t want to preserve anything anymore. So sad

    1. This part of Newport is under the jurisdiction of the “Historic District Commission,” but I was referring more to a spirit of place and honoring Newport’s architectural heritage. xB

    1. Yes, but I was choosing not to mention that “sad chapter,” rather focus on the architecture. B

  3. Thank you for sharing the extraordinary history and beauty of this architectural masterpiece.

  4. My favorite. Rock Cliff – another favorite – is slightly less imposing than the four houses you mentioned but not far behind in character. The dining chairs at Clarendon Court are unfortunate – they show no knowledge of antiques or the history of architecture.

  5. So many similarities between this house and the home I curate. Fascinating how the wealthy “borrowed” ideas from each other for their estates!

  6. There is one error in the article, Bettie. The only parts of Clarendon Court that was used in the filming of “High Society” were the entrance gates and the wall along Bellevue Avenue. There has been a myth about the filming of the movie at the actual house that has circulated around Newport for decades and it won’t let go. All the interior shots of the three Newport houses in the film were shot on the MGM backlot – on lacation interior filming had not yet been perfected in 1956. If you watch the film you will see that Grace Kelly’s house in the film is brick Georgian on the outside (the entrance facade was actually a house in the Los Angeles area; the garden facade and terrace were built on the studio backlot). The inteior shots of the house were very different than the rooms in Clarendon Court – the staircase and balustrade in the film were of wood and the fireplaces were more restrained. “Uncle Willie’s” house exterior was Beechwood but the ballroom that MGM built for the interior would never have fit in the real house. And the exterior of Bing Crosby’s house – by far the grandest of the three houses in the film – was, strangely enough, the Beverly Hillbillies mansion topped with a chateauesque faux third floor and tower added by the MGM special effects department. Besides the shots of Beechwood and the Clarendon Court wall / gates, the only scenes of “High Society” filmed on location in Newport were a spectacuar aerial shot of the Cliff Walk from Rough Point to Beaulieu, two driving scenes down Bellevue Ave., a spin along the Ocean Drive and a shot of High Tide boarded up. However, I must admit that the MGM set designers did a phonomenal job – they actually came to Newport in person to study the great houses before the sets were created. The results speak for themselves.

  7. Sunny and Claus were excellent care takers of the home that helped preserve the integrity of the property. And for those of us who knew Claus, there is far more to the story than was ever reported. Claus was not the villain he was portrayed to be in the press. Just being fair minded to give credit where it’s due.

  8. “As well, the 7.5 acres and landscape are still as the property was created in 1904, with sweeping views overlooking the ocean and Cliff Walk.” Um, no. Respectful correction/clarification/fact check. ‘Clarendon Court’ was originally built on an exceptionally small lot, the property line at the edge of the present swimming pool. Between it and the ocean was the Yznaga estate, ‘Reef Point.’ Mrs. Yznaga died in 1908, and in 1910 her heirs sold the property to the Knights, who demolished the house and combined the properties. But wait! there’s more. Not only is the property not as
    ‘originally created in 1904,’ it isn’t even as recreated in 1910-11. After the von Bulows purchased ‘Clarendon Court,’ they completely reconfigured the rear grounds, bulldozers and front end loaders hard at work completely regrading and changing the contours of the ground, moving trees, etc.

  9. PS, An idea of how extensive the von Bulow changes to the landscape were, a 17 foot bluff was removed to create an improved view with lawn sloping down to the sea.

  10. Hello Bettie
    The photographs you present of the grounds and interior are excellent. Only once, maybe 10 years ago I had a project on-site.
    Seeing all Clarendon Court has to offer is Special.
    Edward T King

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