A Brief History:Rosecliff Mansion is located at 548 Bellevue Avenue in Newport Rhode Island.The Rosecliff Mansion’s history starts with a young woman named Tessie Oelrich. Tessie came from what was called “new money”. Known at birth as Theresa Alice Fair, she was born to an innkeeper’s daughter and an immigrant from Belfast Ireland. At the age of 28, Tessie’s father along with 3 other partners struck the largest deposit of silver in the Comstock Lode. Though the Comstock brought great wealth and notoriety for her family, it also brought about disappointment and despair. Soon after acquiring their wealth, tragedy struck the Fair family. Tessie’s mother Theresa, and her father James were divorced after only a few years of marriage. James Jr, Tessie’s brother committed suicide not long after the divorce. Shortly after getting married, Tessie’s other brother Charles and his wife were killed in an automobile accident while on their honeymoon.As soon as she was old enough, Tessie moved to New York to take her mind off tragedy and focus on elevating her social status. Here she met her husband Herman Oelrichs, a wealthy 40 something who hailed from old money. His family was the direct descendants of one of the founders of the republic. Tessie and Herman married a year after they met. As the wealthy of the day did, they decided to build a “cottage” as mansions here humbly called in the day, in Newport Rhode Island. Tessie having lavish taste in all things decided that she would follow in the footsteps of the Vanderbilt brothers’ “The Breakers” and the “Marble House” which were completed in the mid 1890’s.
Thus, the Rosecliff Mansion was born. The Rosecliff Mansion, named for the many roses that grew there and known to most for Robert Redford’s “The Great Gatsby” and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “True Lies” films, captures all the grand splendor of the Gilded Age. Rosecliff was built between 1899 and 1902 by Hermann and Tessie Oelrichs on 14 acres of oceanfront land and modeled after Jules Hardouin Mansart’s “Grand Trianon at Versailles for about 2.5 million dollars. Tessie began to have parties at the mansion even before it was complete. She entertained many big names, including Houdini. In 1904, she planned and executed her grandest party dubbed “Bal Blanc” or “The White Ball” having her guests not only dress in all white but powder their hair as well. The grounds at Rosecliff were decorated in all white and 3 large white ships were docked in the water behind the mansion.
Unfortunately for Tessie, disappointment struck again when Herman decided to leave her. Though he never divorced her, he also never returned. He died a short time after that leaving Tessie to suffer dementia alone in the great halls of Rosecliff Mansion.
Upon her death, their son Herman Jr inherited Rosecliff where he lived with his wife until 1941. He then sold it for pittance to Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Monroe in 1947. By 1976, the Monroe’s donated it to the Preservation Society of Newport County. Since then it’s been open to the public for weddings and corporate events.
Haunted History:Guests have claimed to see a woman in white roaming the house and she will sometimes wave at the guests to follow her down the hall and when they get there she disappears. Guests have also claimed to feel a sudden cold spot in the first floor hallway.