Entrance to The Elms
This Mansion was owned by Edward Berwind, a coal magnate from Philadelphia, and was occupied by his family from 1901-1961. It was built in 1901, at a cost of $1.4 million, which in today’s standards is in the $40 million range. Berwind owned coal mines in Kentucky, and West Virginia selling coal to the NY Subway system as well as the US Navy. Berwind Corporation remains functional today and is involved in other enterprises. Their coal mines are leased to others.
Berwind, his wife, and his office at The Elms
Mr. Berwind was President of his company for 43 years, from 1936-1988. He and his wife occupied the home with 43 servants in this 60,000 square foot space annually from July 4th weekend till the end of the summer. An engineering graduate of the US Naval Academy the couple had no children, however, were the wards of his deceased brothers 4 daughters.
At the time of his wife’s premature death his sister Julia came to live with him caring for the home and residing here till 1961.
Entrance Hall and Stairwell
The Conservatory and Drawing Room
Julia Berwind’s Room, Mr. Berwind’s sister
Miss Julia Berwind resided at the home beyond the summer season and loved the area. She was a fixture in society and well liked by all.
This is the fireplace in Miss Julia’s bedroom decorated for the holidays. Every room of the Newport Mansions are decorated gaily with Christmas decorations. Such beauty. What a wonderful season to visit.
Elms Servant Tour
There are several additional tours available for the Mansions. Recommend visiting the Preservation Society web site, newportmansions.org, to select a tour which fits your individual interests. We selected the Elms Servant Tour which was a fascinating small group tour with a docent lasting approximately one hour. It gives a great glimpse behind the scenes and fills in the gaps, and answers those Gilded Age questions.
The Annuciator – call bell area for the servants
There were 2500 servants in total during the summer season of Newport. Many were Irish and English as the owners wished to have English speaking servants. In the Elms there were 16 bedrooms and 3 baths on this co-ed floor with mostly 1 person per room, 23 lived on site with most living off site. Guests of the Berwind’s did not stay in the mansion as nearby guest houses were provided for their accommodations.
Often the servants stayed 7 to 10 years then became American citizens and left for other positions. Some traveled with the Berwind’s from their New York City home on 2 East 64th St.
The Berwind’s acquired staff through an Intelligence Office, similar to an employment office. A questionnaire was completed and potential staff were interviewed. The staff worked 12-14 hour days having one morning and one evening off per week.
Beds were changed twice daily, and up to 7 clothing changes occurred daily during the season.
At one point servants had decided to strike due to working conditions. The Butler in charge of the home fired all and replacements acquired.
Picture of the Butler and his wife- she was 20 years younger. They had one daughter.
And as part of this tour a unique look at the basement was received.
Coal for the home was delivered from the street into a basement tunnel then placed into generators. As technology progressed Mr. Berwind implemented and upgraded.
If you have time take the servant tour, but book early as these tours fill quickly. Admissions are reasonable, however, the Newport area is quite pricey.
And before departure stop by the stables, and tour the grounds.
And let us say farewell to our tour – the back of the Mansion.
Tomorrow: The Breakers