City by the Sea Syllabus

As the sun sets earlier and the winds begin to blow in a chillier aspect, perhaps it puts you in the mood to settle down with a good book. For those longer nights, we have put together a list of good reads pertaining to the City by the Sea that we thought a traveler to the Castle Hill Inn might want to peruse before, during, or after their stay with us. Most are available through the Newport Mansions Stores, online at, or through other online retailers.

Newport: A Lively Experiment Rockwell Stensrud 2007

A comprehensive examination of Newport from its founding in 1639 until 1969. Learn about the Golden Age, the Gilded Age, in-between and beyond, in this wonderfully illustrated history of the City by the Sea.

Castle Hill Lighthouse (1890)

Newport Through Its Architecture James L. Yarnall 2005

The unfolding of the great story of American architecture can be found right here in Newport from the colonial to the commodious.

Redwood Library (1747)

A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York Greg King 2008

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor was the undisputed Queen of New York and Newport Society during the Fifth Avenue mansion-boom and Bellevue Avenue cottage-boom in the latter part of the 19th century and the earliest part of the 20th century. This book illustrates the lavish Gilded Age lifestyle that she developed and many emulated.

Portrait of Caroline Astor 1890 by Carolus-Duran

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt Amanda Mackenzie Stuart 2007

Possibly the most indomitable spirit in New York and Newport Society (and one of the first female members of the American Institute of Architects), Alva designed Marble House along with Richard Morris Hunt, divorced her husband Willie K. Vanderbilt and married his friend, fellow million-heir O.H.P. Belmont. She wed her daughter, Consuelo, to the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895 and later became a suffragette. Consuelo became a social activist as well, across the pond, and was a lifelong friend of Winston Churchill – her cousin by marriage. She finally married for love in 1921 to Jacques Balsan, a dashing French aviator.

Marble House (1892) on Bellevue Avenue in Newport

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty Anderson Cooper 2021

Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria, was the only child and heir of Reginald Vanderbilt, the youngest son of Cornelius II and Alice Vanderbilt, who built the Breakers – the grandest mansion in Newport.

The Breakers (1895) as seen from Cliff Walk

Theophilus North Thornton Wilder 1973

A semi-autobiographical tale set in Newport in the 1920s, providing an interesting take on the “Nine Cities of Newport”. Thornton Wilder was a frequent early guest of the Castle Hill Inn when it opened for operations in the 1940s. In the novel, the protagonist describes the view from what is now our premiere turret suite.

The Turret Suite sits atop it all on the third and fourth floor of the Inn.

Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 2004

This surprising fast-moving storm destroyed nearly everything that was directly on the southern shore of Rhode Island. At Castle Hill, the waters of the ocean rose up and met those of the cove on the east side of the property transforming the peninsula temporarily into an island. This frightened the chatelaine of the house so thoroughly that once she was able to vacate the premises, she vowed never to return.

Further Reading:

Gilded Deborah Davis 2009

Private Newport Betty Bearden Pardee 2004

Living Newport Betty Bearden Pardee 2014

The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton 1920

Newport: The Artful City John Tschirch 2021

– Shea C Nelson