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Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Belcourt Castle – chateau status in Rhode Island

Whoever said America has no history or culture has obviously not been around enough. Admittedly Rhode Island is both one of the most historical and sophisticated parts of the US, but the elegant Belcourt Castle is an estate that would not be out of place among the finer chateaux of France.

Located in one of the most prestigious parts of Newport, within grounds that straddle the water, this 19th century masterpiece is clearly inspired by the styles of la belle France. Constructed under the supervision of Richard Morris Hunt, Belcourt is indeed styled on the original hunting lodge of Louis XIII at Versailles, and the three hundred skilled workmen who laboured on it have left architectural and decorative detailing to rival that of the original palace in France.

One of the most emblematic estates in the star-studded history of America’s smallest state, Belcourt has been home to and played host to some of the greatest names in the country’s history, including among them Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, his wife Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, who oversaw a series of embellishments to the property, and most of New England’s high society.

Classical European elegance pervades the estate, from its beautifully laid out grounds and exterior detailing to the rich interior styling, which features a gorgeous ‘neo-Gothic’ ballroom with massive French fireplace, vaulted ceilings and Gothic windows inlaid with original medieval stained glass, and solid stone floors. The private chapel has all the decorative adornment and gravitas you would expect to find in a French country chateau, while the stucco work, solid wooden beams and tall ceilings create a sense of impressive opulence that is softened by wonderful views of the garden through French doors. The piece de resistance of the property is a private apartment that measures over 200m2 and includes such features as a formal dining room inspired by Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

These salons and drawing rooms are particularly impressive, though the perfect balance of proportion somehow makes them intimate and inviting as well, while the bedrooms at the top of the sweeping staircase are spacious and luxuriant. Again, the main suite is influenced by the styles of the Louis XV era, with opulent soft furnishings and a sunken bath that defies you not to indulge yourself in pampering luxury. The top floor once housed the staff quarters but these are nowadays used as family rooms sporting magnificent views over the estate and surrounding area.

Like a precious private ‘Neuschwanstein’ inspired by the grace of 18th century France, Belcourt Castle is a personal dream domain featuring stunning architecture and workmanship, not to mention grounds to rival a European estate, complete with shaded areas, stylish courtyards and stables.

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