Historic Architecture, Lectures & Pizza: the Iconic Victorian Society Summer School



Richard Guy Wilson, the "Dean" of America's Castles, (over 140 appearances on the popular A&E program) and head of the school of architecture at the University of Virginia, plays Pied Piper to the architectural and social historians of the world, drawing them to Newport each June for the Victorian Society Summer Course.


This year, there were historic house managers, architects, students, designers from countries as diverse as England, Australia, and Uruguay, all taking a learned, fast-paced tour of Newport and nearby cities' treasures. Two new Newport destination on this year's tour, given by Dr. Wilson since 1979, were The Channing Memorial Chapel, with its wealth of stained glass windows, one by John LaFarge, and Miramar, the mysterious Bellevue Avenue mansion being carefully restored by David B. Ford.


Professor Richard Guy Wilson

In addition, there was an impressive awards ceremony at The Elms, in which the highly-regarded Dr. Wilson accepted accolades with becoming modesty. gave an opening slide lecture, and was extravagantly praised by Preservation Society President of the Board Donald Ross for his compendious knowledge and unflagging championing of Newport's architectural heritage.


Making the Preservation Award to The Preservation Society of Newport County for its recently completed restoration of Chateau-sur-Mer (1852) were Tina Strauss and John Simonelli, President and Vice President of the Board of the Victorian Society of America.  In its citation, the  Victorian Society called the  project “an example of the highest standards of historic preservation.”

Detail of the apse of Channing Memorial Chapel

Touring some of the finest extant works of architects Richard Munday, McKim, Mead & White, Dudley Newton, Richard Morris Hunt, Ogden Codman, and other luminaries of the great eras of design, the avid students went by foot, and by bus, taking copious notes. The days began with learned lectures (with suggested reading that might take a half century to complete), and ended with festivedinners.


The Victorian Society of America course employs the knowledge and talents of a distinguished panel of local experts and members, as well as the hospitality of current owners of fine old houses including Richard Nelson, William Vareika Eve Clulow, and others, A guiding light is social historian and author Pauline Metcalf, abetted by the Preservation Society’s Paul Miller and John Tschirch, and 19th-century painting specialist William Vareika, who annually honors with participants with an evening reception in his Bellevue Avenue gallery, where he spoke about his early intereset in the painter William Trost Richards.

Lectures on art in the mornings

Properties covered included Preservation Society mansions, The Colony House, Trinity Curch, The Newport Historical Society, The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard house, as well as private houses such as Villa Marina on Washington Street, the C. H. Baldwin house, 1877-78, on Bellevue Ave. by William A. Potter and Robert H. Robinson, architects, the the Commodore William Edgar house on Old Beach Rd. by McKim, Mead & White, which delighted the students. Out of town tours included treasures in Watch Hill, Rhode Island and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In the dim light of the Channing Memorial Church, (1881), architects: E. Boyden and Son, Sanford-Covell the stained glass windows shone bright: the Sower by Donald MacDonald of McPherson of Boston, (1883); transept windows by S. P. Belcher of Newark; Samuel West who did the smaller windows and the vestibule glass; and John La Farge created the Baker [Christ leading the Soul], 1882, and the Bates [St. Barnabas and the Virgin] 1881, windows; Augustus St. Gaudens did the arresting bas relief.


Pointing to the La Farge windows


Miramar (1914), a Bellevue Avenue mansion under renovation for many years, was described by owner and restorer David B. Ford. The mansion, which recently shed its exterior scaffolding, is a house by Horace Trumbauer, , that was for years a school. It is being carefully redone by Mr. Ford, who described the painstaking work of replacing drainage systems and roof flaws in the exquisitely detailed mansion.


On the final evening, a buffet pizza party was held, and Dr. Wilson was gently "roasted", as is the course's custom.


                                                               -- L.P.



The detail and process described on the La Farge windows

Some painted windows are by Samuel West

Plaque by Augustus St. Gaudens

Altar detail

VSA Course students discuss the architecture

Dr. Wilson with William Vareika at his gallery reception

Gareth Sundham of England's National Trust

Emily Morris of Virginia

Dr. Wilson  Jean Arrington, teacher

Irene from Venezuela & Michael Ellis, Head of Conservation

for Australian National Trust in Sydney

Mr. Vareika talking about his interest in American Art

Wine, cheese, music and art


Happy students

Angela Voulargas, designer & Shannon Schaefer, graduate student

Admiring the architecture of Harbour Court, the New York

Yacht Club Building in Newport

The paneled Library of Harbour Court


Gazing out at Newport Harbor


Must get a picture!


Fred Casteel Dell & Catherine Olasby Dell, Interior Designer


The group in the entry hall of Harbour Court


A painted detail


Entrance to Harbour Court


David Blackburn & Jennifer Adams in the garden


Admiring the landscaping


Lovely gardens


A statue under a pergola



At the Elms, a screen of Newport architecture


The audience for Dr. Wilson's talk & the VSA Award presentation


Tina Strouss & John Simonelli of the Victorian Society of America


Reading the award for Chateau-sur-Mer's restoration


Donald Ross, CEO of the Preservation Society Board,

accepts the citation



Thanking the Victorian Society


Nancy Cushing & Richard Guy Wilson


Diane Wulff & Marcie Manfredi at The Elms reception


Linda Gordon and LInda Phillips, of Newport Seen


Eugene Roberts & author & historian Pauline Metcalf


Richard Guy Wilson with Mary Shepard


Joe Sveh Lak, Brooklyn archivist


Ms. Shols, Meggie Johnston & Gareth Sundham


Opening the door to Miramar

Ceiling detail in the foyer

The original garden layout for Miramar

Gwen Koch, a founder of the VSA, at Miramar

Richard Guy Wilson listens to David Ford

Mr. Ford describing the upgrading of the systems at Miramar

The furnishing, paint & wallpapers

The tile in the Horace Trumbauer mansion was restored

Magnificent ocean view from the living room, which underwent

the most change

Students listen with interest

The Library: faux painted door on the left matches

A bas relief in the garden room wall

Traditional suit of armor


Floor inlay in the garden room



Intent listeners


Any questions?


The magnificent dining room


A magnificent tapestry made for Louis XIV on the wall.


Pauline Metcalf studying the tapestry


Ms. Metcalf confers with interior deign consultant Richard Nelson


A passageway from the kitchen to the pantry


The kitchen has been updated


Gina in the silver safe


The wine cellar is kept at 50 degrees


State of the art wine facilities


Dr. Wilson thanks David Ford


The cornices and roof took 3 years to repair












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