This was my third trip to Newport and although we had driven by the mansions many times, I never had a desire to see them. I am a second generation American, whose Irish immigrant grandparents met while working as a cook and a gardener for a family as wealthy as those who built the Newport mansions. I have always felt that that type of wealth was made from the sweat and labor of generations of people like my grandparents and I felt offended by the flaunting of such wealth. However, we received tickets to view three of the mansions as a part of our hotel package, so I decided to put my predisposed notions aside and give it a try. We started with the Breakers. The tour was self guided, with headphones. I was impressed with the technology and at how informational it was. I was, however, somewhat sickened by the surroundings, as I had suspected I would be. In those days, servants were not to be seen or heard and would perform their services using secret doors. The ornateness of the decor was overpowering. Historically speaking, it served its purpose and made it quite evident how that type of wealth and rash spending could and would be lost when the stock market crashed. I am assuming that the docents are members of the historical society. However, I think some of them have been working in the mansions for so long that they actually feel as though they are of a higher social class, and merely tolerate the peons that are there for a glimpse of a life they could never be a part of. I inquired as to why the servants quarters were not included as part of the tour, and a very snooty tour guide looked at me as though I had said something out of turn! Needless to say, we didn't visit the other two mansions. I wouldn't recommend this aspect of Newport unless you are one for self torture.
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