Paradise found - Fairholme, a dazzling historic oceanfront estate, superbly sited on 4.3 acres of Newport's legendary Gilded Age coastline with 425' of ocean frontage. The main house, a Frank Furness designed Tudor revival masterpiece, built circa 1875 and considerably enlarged upon since, lies at the heart of this impressive compound, which also contains a picturesque six bedroom carriage house, three interconnected greenhouses, and an exquisitely tiled swimming pool, complete with a luxurious cabana pavilion and an outdoor living area overlooking the Atlantic.
Graceful gates and a park-like setting introduce the impressive facade of the 20,000+ square foot main house which, with its elaborate half-timbering, richly textured surfaces and gothic tripartite entrance porch, gives few hints as to the bright relaxed elegance of the interior. Silk covered walls, delicately molded plasterwork and an immense limestone fireplace blend together in the entrance hall in soft harmonies of color and light. Directly opposite the front door, extending along the south-facing rear of the house, brilliant flashes of sun, sky and sea pour in through leaded glass windows and doors. That great hall space is the organizing principal of the house, immediately establishing the main axis lines and underscoring the immense clarity of the floor plan. On the west side of the hall is the grand salon, with its immense floor to ceiling windows and show-stopping fireplace, as well as a receiving room with marble fireplace, and a paneled library, with a stately carved wood fireplace. A long colonnaded terrace runs parallel to the salon, overlooking a wide clean expanse of lawn that sweeps down towards the sea. Beyond the salon lies a graceful barrel-vaulted Horace Trumbauer ballroom, which can comfortably seat up to 120 people for dinner – the only private house in Newport capable of accommodating an indoor dinner party of that size. A bar and kitchenette are conveniently hidden at the far end of the ballroom, facilitating service.
On the east side of the main hall is a delicately tinted dining room. With magnificent ocean views, diamond-paned windows, and an elaborate marble fireplace, the stately proportions of the room are generous enough for formal dinners, yet light enough in scale for intimate gatherings. An extensive service wing lies just beyond. The professional-grade, waterfront kitchen wing - with commercial refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, stoves & safety features - is the equivalent of what one might expect to find in a small luxury hotel. Adjacent service areas include a butler’s pantry, a large staff dining room, complete with kitchen and dishwasher, and a sizeable laundry. Two guest powder rooms are discreetly located off the main hall. First floor ceiling height is 12’, with the exception of the kitchen wing (10’) and the ballroom, which rises to an impressive 14’.
Upstairs on the second and third levels, the same attention to detail, comfort and aesthetic coherence is everywhere to be seen in the 2 master bedroom suites and the 9 family/guest bedrooms. An additional 7 staff bedrooms and 5 bedroom-sized storage rooms are located within the second and third level staff wing. The second floor is divided into two generous oceanfront master suites, both with private, substantially sized ocean-facing stone terraces, bedrooms, baths, fireplaces, dressing rooms, and custom designed walk-in closets; both suites are thoughtfully appointed with bespoke amenities of every conceivable kind. The larger of the two suites consists of 3 bedroom sized rooms, a dressing room, 3 baths, a walk-in closet, and a 37’ X 15’ private oceanfront terrace. A kitchenette and breakfast area are thoughtfully situated off the large second-floor landing. The second master suite consists of bedroom, dressing room, bath and a private oceanfront balcony. One other ensuite guest room is located directly opposite the breakfast area. Above on the third floor are 6 more family/guest bedrooms and 6 full baths. The existing utilization of space is such that the number of bedrooms could easily be increased. Bedroom ceiling heights are 10’ on the second floor and 9’ on the third.
An elevator serves all three floors and the basement level. The house is heated with natural gas; the furnace is new. A natural gas powered generator is capable of running all systems in the main house, as well as providing power to the 3 bedroom carriage house apartment. The natural-gas hot water heating system with holding tank is of hotel-level quality, as are the water filtration and softening systems. Fairholme’s electrical systems are of course completely up-to-date, as is the commercial grade, state of the art fire-safety/fire-suppression system. An antique wine safe ensures that costly vintages are properly secured. There are 8 working fireplaces in the main house.
Outside on the grounds, the more seasonal pleasures of Fairholme are on vivid display. On the western side of the house, a stunning 38’ x 70’, infinity edge swimming pool and wonderfully decorative cabana pavilion lie sheltered from breezes within a brick enclosure. The pool is fully tiled – an extravagant rarity in this day and age – and the tiles impart an incomparably vibrant hue to the water. On the shore side, a retractable glass wall allows for unobstructed appreciation of the oceanfront setting. Two heated marble cabanas, both with full baths and heated floors, a covered veranda, a bar, and an extensive sound system round out the visible pool amenities; other, less visible features include 2 furnaces to meet the various heating demands within the pool complex and a large equipment room. Beyond the pool area, the grounds themselves are meticulously landscaped and professional outdoor lighting systems have been installed throughout the property.
Three interconnected heated greenhouses are located to the east of the main house. These are currently in year-round operation providing flowers, plants and topiaries for the house and grounds. A staff restroom for the groundskeepers is located in one of the greenhouses. To the north of the greenhouses is a 4000+ square foot carriage house with three staff apartments, which combined contain a total of 6 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, 1 kitchenette and 4 full baths. The garage area itself measures 40’ X 40’ and can accommodate up to 10 cars; additional features of the building include a gym, an estate office, a staff restroom, a maintenance shop, 2 additional storage rooms, laundry facilities and separate tractor and garden equipment sheds.
The social history of the property is equally rich in detail. Fairholme was first created as a "summer cottage" for Fairman Rogers of Philadelphia, a wealthy arts patron and engineer; Rogers, also a noted coaching authority, is the subject of Thomas Eakins' iconic tour du force of late 19th century American painting, "Fairman Rogers' Four-in-Hand". Twenty years later, the Drexel family - also of Philadelphia - purchased the property and promptly enlarged and updated it, adding the Trumbauer ballroom and tower and otherwise modernizing the interior. The Drexels were very much a part of the Newport summer colony's social scene, and Fairholme was the setting for any number of lavish entertainments attended by friends and neighbors such as the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Van Beurens, and the Belmonts. Slightly later, the estate was acquired by the Count and Countess Alphonso Villa, followed by industrialist railroad magnate Robert Young, whose wife Anita was the sister of artist Georgia O'Keefe. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were close friends of the Youngs and were frequent guests at the estate during their tenure there, as was Jack Kennedy, who often made use of the swimming pool.