Design & Décor, Living with Style, The Newport Diary

Private Newport, Home at Seafair

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“Home” has never meant as much as it does now (as we self-quarantine) or carried as much significance as a place of refuge in troubling times. With two coffee table books on the subject...

I’ve found myself reflecting back on Newport’s private homes that I’ve visited and photographed.

 Few would disagree that Newport’s distinguished collection of old residential beauties exists because we (seldom) tear them down. Instead, somewhat singular to our fabled town, they are “recycled”… donated to the Preservation Society of Newport County, willed to Salve Regina University, opened to the public or turned into apartments and condominiums. But most importantly, they still endure, contributing to the architectural heritage of our City by the Sea.

One of the most impressive of these, Seafair, designed in true Louis XIV style, was built to fit the curve of its own peninsula. At the time it was completed, 1936, this expansive jewel was the last of the large pre-World War II summer houses.

In keeping with this distinction, Seafair has additionally had a dramatic and colorful history. Following the horrific hurricane of ’38 (for which she earned the nickname Hurricane Hut), her owners abandoned her, not due to storm damage but from the mental anguish of just barely escaping their home alive. She stood all but empty until the early 1950s, when the house was purchased by the son of the owner of the Hope Diamond and lived in until the 1960s.

Photo Credit: Lila Delman Real Estate

Then began the carving up of her rooms into apartments and ultimately into condominiums. While a seeming indignity, this was a fate that befell many grand homes during that period. In 1997, a Providence businessman, Rick Bready, purchased, and began, an extensive restoration of Seafair to include consolidation of the units of a defunct condominium project; the core rooms of the house were restored to their former use. He also enjoyed his home in the style for which it had been intended, hosting a birthday party where Elton John performed and a fundraiser for President Obama (in attendance) in 2014.

Photo Credit: Lila Delman Real Estate

Seafair had been on and off the market starting in 2013 when in late 2017 Jay Leno arrived on the scene. I’m sure that a large garage and sweeping green lawns for his overflow antique cars added to the allure of this elegant home surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo Credit: Lila Delman Real Estate

And the particulars for this iconic residence: 9 oceanfront acres with its own cove, beach, and sunrise/sunset views.

Carriage house, tennis court…and swimming pool against a backdrop of the superb rubble-stone construction (offering a clue as to how Seafair has survived all these years through hurricanes and storms).

15,851 square feet, including grand dining room, formal entry hall with dramatic spiral staircase, ballroom, chef’s kitchen, paneled library, and sitting room.

Photo Credit: Lila Delman Real Estate

No less than 8 bedrooms and 11 baths 

And my favorite spot…the large curved solarium off the formal living room.

The price paid? $13.5 million.    

Given its impressive assets, and colorful histoire, is it any wonder that I would choose to celebrate this once “white elephant’s” return to a private, single family home? Note, one condominium remains at the northeast corner of the residence occupied by another family.

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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".

13 thoughts on “Private Newport, Home at Seafair

    1. Thank you! Beauty is all around us and I love to share it in some small way. xB

  1. Beautiful as ever. Thank you Bettie for brightening our day with your lovely renderings of Private Newport and all it entails.

    Stay well and stay safe.

    Anna Louise

    1. Thank you, Anna Louise, for your kind words…I feel it’s important that each of us in our own way try to offer a respite from all this chaos going on.

      This is my effort…stay safe, be well xB

  2. Loved seeing Seafair again, so much, and loved this history and magnificent pictures.
    Quick question: Did Jay Leno buy it?

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article about Seafair. I’ve always dreamt of being apart of her history. It was nice to have a few moments of normal today! Thank you, Bettie!

  4. Beautiful home, and what a setting! I love to see old homes revived or preserved as museums. I’m always saddened to come across a once lovely home left to decay upon the landscape. Thanks, Bettie, for another lovely post. Hope you and yours are all well. Michael has been able to work from home, thank goodness, and we’re staying indoors except for our walks and little country drives to stave off the feelings of lock-down. Sounds like this virus will be around for quite some time. My heart is breaking for so many. Sending you happy thoughts.

  5. Such a treat to have you share not only the exquisite pictures but the history of this spectacular home. Thank you.
    Be well.

  6. Seafair was featured in Architectural Digest (more than once?) might you remember the issue month and year? Please email me if you remember,
    James Britten Stokes

    1. Hello James, I don’t know that answer, but I can suggest that you contact AD archives department as they will have that info.
      Happy New Year, Bettie

  7. We stayed in this house in the early Eighties. Unable to line-up anything else, a local Realtor told us that we could rent a couple of rooms at Seafair. The home’s interior was run down and the walls were painted a drag light green, appearing like the original color but faded by time. The chimney(s) was slanted allegedly from hurricane damage. We were told that nobody except a caretaker lived there; that the original owners spent only one season and never returned because of the 1938 hurricane’s devastation. We have some photos of our stay somewhere in our archives. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you for your blog.

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