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Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A beautifully written history of high society in Newport, Rhode Island, from the acclaimed author of Party of the CenturyNewport is the legendary and beautiful home of American aristocracy and the sheltered super-rich. Many of the country's most famous blueblood families?the closest thing we have to royalty?have lived and summered in Newport since the nineteenth century. T ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Wiley (first published September 18th 2009)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  369 ratings  ·  51 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ll start with a personal story and a trivia question. I grew up about a half-hour away from the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. I grew up in New Bedford Massachusetts and my family lived in a rented wooden tenement, no central heat, no hot water, known locally as a “three-decker” --- basically six people in four rooms. I visited the Breakers mansion when I was a teenager and I remember the tour guide telling us that the entire third floor was closed off to tourists because Mrs. (Gloria) Van ...more
Linda Lipko
May 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is the society that Edith Wharton so exquisitely portrayed in The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth.

This is a well researched accounting of the beginning of Newport, from a checkered past of rum running and slave trading through today and the famous New Port Jazz festival.

Deborah Davis takes us behind the scenes of the snobby Vanderbilt, Astor and Belmont newly rich, back stabbing, social climbing Americans who made Newport Rhode Island their vulgar playground with ostentatious multi-
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A well told story

Of all the Gilded Age books I have read thus far, this is unquestionably the best. It is well written and never boring. It was especially interesting to read about the many people who were part of the town over the years. I am more determined than ever to spend some time in Newport.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book on a Valentine's weekend getaway at Newport's Castle Hill Inn. The Inn itself is the nineteenth century summer home of the naturalist Louis Agassiz, and in later years, it became a vacation spot favored by some Hollywood "royalty," and this book certainly fit the setting.

My first visit to Newport was in July 1988, and I promptly fell in love with this town, and with the man who brought me there and showed me around. (I married him a few years later!) It remains a favorite s
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book! I had been to Newport already, 20 years ago. I enjoyed my time there. But after having been bitten by the Downton Abbey bug, my trip last month took on a whole new feeling. Now, when touring the 'cottages', I could really envision what life was like in these summer homes, the kinds of parties, and how people dressed and entertained. After listening to the audio tours about the people who built these American palaces, I decided I wanted more the fascinating stories and ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
History of Newport from early 1900s to 2008, includes stories of the men and women who built (that is to say, hired others to build) many of the "cottages" on Bellevue Avenue as well as the society that they formed, including subsequent generations of those who summered in Newport. Short chapters focus on various women -- Mrs. Astor, Edith Wharton, Jackie Kennedy...vivid writing helps to make them come alive. A quick read, and an enjoyable one.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
If you know anything about Newport you will love this book. If you have never visited Newport, please do. You will never forget it. Also look up Beatrice by Sheldon Bart and visit the Cliffside Inn.
Christy  Laub
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
What it lacks in academicism, it makes up for in both readability and a well-rendered impression of place. Though it does veer into slight fawning here and there, it is not the gossip sheet described elsewhere in these reviews.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy all of Deborah Davis's books and this was no exception. I was fortunate enough to have taken a trip to Newport last year and reading this book was like being back there!
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort, by Deborah Davis provides a light, but interesting glimpse into how Newport, Rhode Island became the place to vacation. More than a seaside resort, Newport has a mesmerizing history as a Victorian Era getaway for the rich and famous.

The author Deborah Davis is a Rhode Island native who spent three summers conducting research and private interviews for this book. Some of the interesting people and facts covered in the book were:

* The Astors - M
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the history of Newport.
Having been to Newport, reading the history starting with info. on the Native Americans I found fascinating. The cottages are unbelievable. I do not think that one could build something like the cottages today and not because of money. It is almost impossible to find people who do that kind of work today and do it well. That is the real shame. I have found it very difficult to find people to do specific work such as carpentry who do it well. Newport's location is truly lovely, an island surround ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Gilded is a captivating history of socially exclusive and elaborately developed Newport, Rhode Island, which--of course--only matters to those who care. Dating back to A.D. 1000 when Norse sailors visited the area and to the Native Americans who used it long before the ships landed, this non-fiction book reads like a very good novel. Think "Lives of the Richer & Famouser"! Outlandish extravagance well established by the Mrs. Caroline Astor set the mark for all the Vanderbilts, Oelrichs, and ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
As someone who studies the Gilded Age, I was excited to meet some of my favorite characters again in this history of the famed Newport, RI. After a short back ground on the foundation and early years of Newport, author Deborah Davis introduces us to all the usual suspects: Alva Vanderbilt, Caroline Astor, Mamie Fish, ect. However,the book falls short when it moves out of the Gilded Age, past the 1940s when Newport and "high society" is in disrepair. After this point, there is not a Vanderbilt or ...more
Julie Barrett
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gilded, How Newport became America's richest resort by Deborah Davis
Starts out with 1913 and the summer events of Newport. Very high social class and what was expected in the way of events, clothes where nothing was worn more than once, for the summer.
History as far back as the 1600's and the Indians who came to the island to summer in the cool breezes.
Low morals of the summer crowd and battles of the cottages were prevalent. Information about those who frequented the island and how they got the
From a girlhood enchantment with Newport, Davis' preoccupation developed into a book of breadth and range, covering the city from 1884 to the more current Jazz Festival and tourist oriented developments. The pull, of course, is the upper crust, the American Aristocrats and then simply the monied show-offs who wanted to play the game: cottages that were mansions, a simple life that was anything but, a summer rest that was so harried one needed a vacation to restore one's self after it. Still, the ...more
Dan Lalande
Sep 13, 2013 rated it liked it

In her last chapter, author Deborah Davis likens her immersion into the history of Newport, Rhode Island to Dorothy's tenure in the Land of Oz - and indeed, Davis maintains the simple, wide-eyed tone of an agog adolescent throughout, whether she is reflecting on Newport's strategic role in the Revolutionary War, its years as the seat of American high society (the bulk of the book,) its cameo in the Camelot of the Kennedys, its on-off identity as a concert venue or its current role of tourist mec
Lisa Mcbroom
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Davis never fails at at making one feel that they are with her on a ptio gossiping over a glass of wine. Here she takes on Newport America's Richest Resort. What a cast of characters! There is the Dowager that wears so much jewelry she has perfect posture. Then there is Tessie the high soceity matron that cleans her own house. Edith Jones who later becomes Edith Wharton and writes about Newport, From dog parties to the filming of The Great Gatsby in 1974 this book is a treasure!
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent history of Newport and how it became the playground of the wealthy. The most fascinating time period was the Vanderbilt's and Astor's era - fabulously wealthy, yet a strict societal code, particularly for women. The evolution of Newport after the Gilded Age, it's fall and rise again, is also noteworthy. The author gives a fascinating insight into Newport's major players in all eras - a must read for folks interested in the lifestyles of prominent Americans.
Claire Rosplock
May 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed learning about history of Newport, and esp. the mini segments on prominent Newport women (I wish there had been more of them!). While the book started out strong, the closer it got to modern day, the less I enjoyed it. Guess I'm a stickler for wanting books written about the history of a place to remain in the past.
Bojana Duke
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Interesting place, but this book doesn't do it justice. The book reads in a very disjointed way, never fully engaging you in any character, place or topic. It just jumps around from wealthy person to wealthy person and 'cottage' to 'cottage'. Perhaps it's a side effect of the author wanting to be completely factual and not having that much information. Regardless, it's not a satisfying read.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this in preparation for visiting the Breakers and am glad I did! It offered an interesting look at the private lives of the wealthy Newport residence. I liked how it gave an overview of the most prominent residents rather than getting too deep into any one person. I wish the book would have had a few family trees to keep all those Vanderbilts and Astors straight.
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I liked the overview this book gave, mentioning all of the major players and some minor ones as well. Its funny how so much familial strife occurred because of the lack of all in one inheritance as the assets got divided further and further. I have to say that sometimes the author would mention something happening and I would have liked a direct source note, but this book had none.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
An enormously entertaining social history of Newport, Rhode Island, filled with interesting, gossipy tidbits. Despite the inevitable changes to 50 room “cottages” that once required staffs of 30 and housed Astors & Vanderbilts, Newport still is inhabited not only by tourists but by the super rich. Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose.
Pam Johnson
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book is the complete opposite of the biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt I am currently reading. It is very shallow and only deals with high "society." I have to admit that I found it very entertaining, if light.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a fun book to read. After spending some time in Newport, the only place where I have actually enjoyed driving around and looking at beautiful homes, it was interesting to learn the history of the town.
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a nice overview of the posh Newport, Rhode Island estates and 'cottages'. The reading is easy and if you're looking for something light to take on vacation or read through on a weekend, this is it. I'm going to look for 'Strapless' now, one of Deborah Davis' other books.
Chris Karr
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
A somewhat short and flitty history on the town of Newport and it's history mainly over the last 150 years. As someone who recently visited the town and was unaware of what it was famous for, this was a perfect read for me to wrap my head around the entire Gilded Age phenomenon.
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book! Which I stumbled across in the delightful Spring Street Bookshop in Newport without realizing it was by an author I've previously enjoyed. This history of Newport is gossipy and smart and made me even more excited to go back for my next visit.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked being brought back to the atmosphere of the 'old' days from Newport: the rich and their 'summer cottages', the parties they threw... Enjoyable read and yes, I want to go back to Newport and actually visit some of those houses in stead of gawping at them from the Cliff Walk Path!
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very interesting gossipy book about the rich and famous who made Newport rich and famous. If you are a fan of Newport you may have run into most of this material before. The book is a great summer read.
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