Dreams of Yesterday, Dreams for Today
Unique among the mansions of Newport, “Belcourt”, a Louis XIII
style hunting lodge,
designed by Richard Morris Hunt, “the Dean of American architects”.
The sixty-room summer cottage cost 3 million dollars in 1894, a
figure of approximately seventy-five million dollars in 2007. Three
hundred skilled European craftsmen were employed in Belcourt’s
creation between 1891 and 1894.
In the original plan the mansion had one bedroom with bathroom, no
guest rooms and no kitchen. There were sleeping quarters for thirty
full-time servants. The entire first floor was devoted to a fine
carriage collection and a stable with 30 luxurious stalls
accommodating prized coaching horses.
Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont
Belcourt’s first owner was the elegant bachelor Oliver Hazard Perry
Belmont, youngest son of August Belmont, the Rothschild Banking
representative in America. Oliver graduated from the Naval Academy
at Annapolis, following in the footsteps of his illustrious forbears
Commodores Matthew Calbraith Perry and Oliver Hazard Perry. He was
an accomplished whip, a collector of medieval manuscripts, stained
glass and armor. He belonged to the most prestigious clubs in New
York and Newport, was Grand Master of St. John Lodge of Masons and
served one term as a U.S. Congressman from New York In 1890 Oliver
Belmont inherited 60 million dollars.
Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt Belmont
hostess for Belcourt’s opening ball in 1895 was Alva Erskine Smith
Vanderbilt, wife of Oliver’s best friend and business partner,
William Kissam Vanderbilt. In that same year, Alva organized the
marriage of her daughter Consuelo Vanderbilt to the ninth Duke of
Marlborough, and divorced Vanderbilt. In January 1896 Alva
Vanderbilt became Mrs. Oliver Belmont, taking up summer residence as
lady of the castle, favoring Belcourt over Marble House, her
11-million-dollar thirty-ninth birthday gift from Mr. Vanderbilt.
After Oliver Belmont died in 1908, Mrs. Belmont became a generous
of the arts, and donated large sums to hospitals. She
organized the Political Equality Association and the National
Women's Party convention in 1915. Her long and vigorous personal
involvement- and monetary support - in the women's suffrage
movement, both in England and America, was instrumental in getting
the Federal statutes changed to allow women equal rights with men in
government and business.
During her lifetime she built, designed and owned many mansions - at
one point she owned nine. She retired to France, with a house in
Paris, and her favorite chateau, a historic Castle given by King
Charles VII of France to Jacques Coeur ca. 1425, where she died on
January 26, 1933, age 80.
Alva Belmont is buried with Oliver in the Mausoleum at Woodlawn in
the Bronx. Belcourt was bequeathed in her will to Oliver's grand
Nephew, August Belmont IV, age 19. The Honorable Perry Belmont ,the
last surviving of Oliver’s brothers, soon took ownership. At the age
of 90 in 1940 he sold Belcourt out of the Belmont Family.
The Tinney Family
As Newport's Gilded Age Society waned the new generation tore down
many great estates. Belcourt exchanged hands several times between
1940 and 1956 when the Tinney family discovered the grand home.
After a year living on the ocean and having restored the 1899 former
Gerry Estate, the Tinney
family purchased the derelict property in November, 1956.
In 1956 the Tinney Family included Harold B. Tinney (1901-1989) ,
his wife Ruth Emily Betzer Tinney (1906 -1995), Nellie Ruth Fuller
(1881 – 1972) and Donald Harold Tinney (1934 – 2006). The Tinney
Family renamed “Belcourt” as Belcourt Castle and opened a museum in
Donald Harold Tinney
Inspired by Donald Tinney’s
dream as a child to own a castle, the
Tinney Family personally restored Belcourt Castle, furnished their
mansion with a collection of arts and antiques from over 30
countries, including 13th century European stained glass, 10th to
20th century furniture from around the world, 17th to 20th century
paintings, Renaissance armor, and a gold coronation coach. Donald’s
view of preservation was visionary at a time when important historic
structures were being torn down.
His work reveals the vision of a true Renaissance man living in
modern times, who looked to the past to see the future. Some of
these “Dreams” were realized; some were not; and some may be
completed by future artists.
Harle Hope Hanson Tinney
Harle Hope Tinney, née Harle Hope Hanson, was born on April 15,
1941 in Providence, Rhode Island. Her father was Frederick
Charles Hanson, a prominent eye surgeon and a decorated U.S.
Navy Reserve medical officer, whose military service included a
tour of duty on Guadalcanal in World War II. Her mother, Grace
Alma Williamson, was a talented violinist.
a child, she summered with her parents and sister in Middletown,
an affluent community adjoining Newport. An accomplished
cellist, she made her performance debut with her mother and
sister, an accomplished pianist, in 1959 in Newport.
While a student at Brown University, Mrs. Tinney worked as a
summer tour guide at Belcourt Castle where she met Donald Tinney.
They wed at Belcourt in 1960.
Since Mr. Tinney died in 2006, Mrs. Tinney continues to devote
herself to see that Belcourt Castle stands not frozen in time,
but living and growing as interactive inspiration to present and
Today, celebrating more
than 50 years in the Tinney Family, Belcourt Castle is home to
an extensive collection of art and antiques from over 30
countries spanning diverse cultures and centuries. The
collection includes 13th century European stained glass, 10th to
20th century furniture from around the world, 17th to 20th
century paintings, Renaissance armor, and a gold coronation