Newport, Rhode Island

Nestled within Brenton Point State Park in Newport, Rhode Island, The Bells Mansion Stables and Carriage House are fascinating historic sites.

Location Added By:

Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

Nestled within Brenton Point State Park in Newport, Rhode Island, The Bells Mansion Stables and Carriage House, originally part of the Reef Estate, now stand as intriguing relics of a bygone era. These abandoned stables and the abandoned carriage house, hold a rich history that has weathered time and changing ownership.

The Establishment of the Reef Estate:

The Reef Estate was conceived as the brainchild of Theodore M. Davis, an American lawyer and businessman who had amassed considerable wealth in the cooper industry. After retiring, Davis acquired 18 acres along Ocean Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. This picturesque location offered sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, creating the perfect canvas for his dream home.

But the Reef Estate was not just a grand residence; it was designed to serve as a display space for the priceless Egyptian artifacts collected during Davis's extensive excavations in Egypt. Between 1902 and 1913, Davis conducted excavations in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, gaining recognition as a prominent Egyptologist. To accommodate his treasured artifacts, he required ample space within the estate.

The mansion was an elegant Queen Anne villa, characterized by shingle and stone cladding. It featured multiple gallery spaces, a carriage house with horse stables, a servant's house, beautiful gardens, and much more. It quickly became one of the finest properties in Newport, blending luxury with Davis's passion for Egyptian antiquities.

New Owners and a New Name:

After Theodore M. Davis's passing in 1915, The Reef Estate changed hands when it was purchased by Milton J. Budlong and his wife. They rebranded the estate as "The Bells" and enjoyed it as their summer residence for several years. However, a contentious divorce between the Budlongs in 1928 ultimately led to the property being abandoned and left unused by the family.

World War II and Coastal Defenses:

During World War II, as the United States bolstered its coastal defenses in the Narragansett Bay, The Bells served a new purpose. Anti-aircraft gun emplacements were installed on the estate, with the guns aimed toward the ocean. The mansion itself housed gunnery personnel who worked tirelessly during the war.

Abandonment and the State Park:

Following the end of World War II, the guns were removed, and the estate was vacated by military personnel. It was returned to the heirs of the Budlong family, who opted not to use the property. The 1950s saw the mansion subjected to vandalism, and a devastating fire in 1961 further added to its decline. Finally, in 1963, The Bells Mansion was demolished.

In 1969, the state of Rhode Island acquired the waterfront property, and by 1976, it was converted into Brenton Point State Park. The park, with its monuments, charcoal grills, fields, restrooms, benches, and breathtaking ocean views, continues to draw visitors. The park offers ample free parking, providing access to this historical site.

Remnants of a Bygone Era:

While the main mansion is lost to history, some structures from the original estate still stand. The carriage house and stables, although in a state of disrepair, remain as tangible reminders of the past. For those who venture inside, glimpses of the old horse stables, living rooms, and a vintage stairway provide insights into the estate's former glory. Today, the walls are adorned with graffiti, and the second floor has been inaccessible in recent years.

Additionally, a stone water tower within the property, once functional, now serves as an observation tower for visitors. Modern stairways allow for safe access to the top, offering splendid views of the surrounding landscape.

The Bells Mansion Stables and Carriage House are truly fascinating remnants of Rhode Island's history and serve as a unique attraction for those interested in exploring the past.

2023 Roof Collapse and the Future:

In 2023, The Bells Mansion garnered significant attention when part of its roof collapsed under the weight of young explorers. The incident prompted the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to reconsider the ruins' status.

A press release from the DEM indicated that a section of the roof had collapsed, resulting in injuries to several teenagers who were exploring the structure. Sadly, due to this incident, the DEM announced that the ruins would be demolished in the near future.

Explorers and visitors to such sites should always exercise caution and respect any "No Trespassing" signs, as these abandoned structures can be precarious and pose safety risks.

Location Features

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Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island

GPS Coordinates:
41.453361, -71.354250
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
There are hundreds of free parking spots at Brenton Point State Park. To get to The Reef Estate Stables and Carriage House, there is one main path which starts at the park ranger station. It is only a short walk. Additionally, visitors can walk across the large field on the west side of the park to the abandoned building.


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