Vinland Estate (McAuley Hall)

Newport, Rhode Island
Vinland Estate, now known as McAuley Hall, in Newport, Rhode Island stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Gilded Age.
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About This Location

Nestled on the breathtaking Ochre Point in Newport, Rhode Island, Vinland Estate, now known as McAuley Hall, stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Gilded Age. This magnificent estate was built in 1882 for tobacco heiress Catharine Lorillard Wolfe and designed by the prominent architectural firm Peabody & Stearns. Vinland Estate’s unique architectural style combines elements of Romanesque Revival and Aesthetic Movement, making it a remarkable historical and artistic landmark.

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: A Woman of Wealth and Vision

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, the daughter of John David Wolfe and Dorothea Ann Lorillard, was born into a wealthy and influential family. Her father, a New York merchant and real estate developer, played a significant role in founding the American Museum of Natural History. Catherine’s mother was a partial inheritor of the Lorillard tobacco fortune, making her one of the richest unmarried women in the world.

The Birth of Vinland Estate:

During the Gilded Age, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe decided to create a summer residence in Newport, the epitome of high society’s summer retreats. She sought the most coveted location in Newport, eventually finding a 13-acre property that included the former homestead of William B. Lawrence. In 1881, Ms. Wolfe acquired the property for $192,000.

Inspired by Newport’s Old Stone Mill and its legend of Viking origins, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe embarked on a unique project. She decided to build a new cottage with a Viking theme, influenced by the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Wolfe enlisted the services of the esteemed architects Peabody & Stearns of Boston, along with builder O.E. Clarke. She was reportedly inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Skeleton in Armor.” Vinland Estate, named after the believed landing spot of the Norsemen during their historic voyage, was constructed with a Viking settlement theme. The exterior boasted intricate window casing carvings, depicting fruit and vines. The mansion was completed in 1882.

The architecture of Vinland Estate, characterized by rugged ashlar walls, round arches, and blocky columns, exudes a Scandinavian “Viking” aesthetic. The Viking theme extended to the exterior’s window surrounds and string courses, featuring carvings inspired by Celtic manuscript borders. The interiors were decorated by Richard Codman in the Aesthetic Movement style.

The Twombly Era:

The property’s ownership changed hands when railroad tycoon Hamilton McKown Twombly and his wife, Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly, sister of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, acquired it. Under Florence Twombly’s supervision, the mansion underwent significant renovations. A new section was added, and much of the original paneling and fixtures were replaced with elements representing a heavier French Baroque style.

From Estate to University:

In 1955, Salve Regina University acquired the Vinland estate from Mrs. William A. Burden, the daughter of Florence Twombly. The university renamed the estate McAuley Hall in honor of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Today, McAuley Hall serves as a hub for academic activities, housing classrooms, faculty offices, and administrative spaces for the Office of Academic Affairs. The expansive lawn overlooking the Atlantic Ocean hosts Salve Regina’s Commencement events in the spring.

A Must-See on Newport’s Cliff Walk:

Vinland Estate remains a beloved structure along Newport’s iconic Cliff Walk. Visitors walking along the public path adjacent to the ocean can admire its grandeur. The estate is particularly renowned for its breathtaking daffodil patches in the spring, presenting a vivid sea of yellow flowers in front of this historic mansion.

For those interested in exploring Vinland Estate, street parking options are available near the mansion. Two recommended parking areas include Webster Street just north of the estate and Shepard Avenue just south, both offering free parking. The mansion is merely a short stroll away from both of these parking locations down Cliff Walk.

Historical Significance:

On December 8, 1972, Vinland Estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Bellevue Avenue Historic District. This designation recognizes its immense historical and architectural importance, preserving its legacy for future generations. The number code for the historic district is 72000023, symbolizing its significance in safeguarding America’s architectural heritage.


Address: 100 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.472144, -71.298949
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.472144, -71.298949
Parking Notes: Many street parking options are available near the Vinland Estate. Two of the best options are to park along Webster Street just north of the estate or Shepard Avenue just south. Parking is free. From both these parking areas, the mansion is just a minute or two walk away down Cliff Walk.

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