The Intrigue and Mystery of Venice at Preservation Society's Masked Ball

The entrance to the Elms

"Every night here should be like this," one masked young woman
remarked. We understood the sentiment; now in its fifth season, Newport Seen has been to just about every fundraiser gala held in the
City-by-the-Sea. Having seen so many lovely parties, it's rare that we
are surprised anymore -- but the Preservation Society's Summer
Venetian Masked Ball
was truly exceptional -- and operatic, reminding us of  Verdi's divine opera "Un Ballo en Maschera".


Although the society has held its annual summer gala at The Elms before, 2013 differed in that arriving guests entered the party through the front doors of the mansion, walking through the house to reach the gardens behind; prior years had guests entering at the back. It was a minor change, but it had a mystical effect; it made one feel as if they were truly stepping back in time to the Gilded Age for a fete hosted by the Berwind family.


A saucy actor in period garb

The weather graciously complied as well. The Elms is one of the only
Bellevue Avenue mansion that faces West, giving it the the light of sunset that most of the others miss (though they get to have ocean vistas). From the elevated view of the porch, the rose-gold light on the clouds framed the huge white tent down below, illuminating the colors of the gowns, tuxes, and exquisite masks worn by more than 500 of Newport's finest. It easily could have been a painting.


And paintings were, in fact, the focal point of the event: the last
two Venetian paintings in an original collection of ten had finally
been returned to the mansion, fifty years after they were auctioned
off as the house was being prepared for demolition. Now, The Elms can
once more boast the largest collection of Venetian Art in the country.
But artwork aside, to think that The Elms itself could have been
demolished to make space for commercial developments truly brings into
perspective the efforts of the Preservation Society and its role not
just within the Newport community, but in helping to keep American
history intact for future generations.


Living statue

Noteworthy attendees were far too numerous to list, but we did spot
Sheldon Whitehouse, Jane Grace, Ala Isham, Peter and Eaddo Kiernan, Vivan Spencer and Michael Fleuette, Dayton Carr, Bill and Nancy Wilson, Eugene and Lynne Roberts, Pierre and Kathy Irving, David Ford, Esmond Harmsworth, and Bill and Elizabeth Leatherman, among many others.


The masks were the proverbial icing on the cake in terms of
aesthetics, although we did hear a humorous story about one
gentleman's long "beak" getting momentarily stuck in the decolletage
of a tall woman as he went to greet her. And occasionally a car alarm
would start blaring as a curious guest tried to open the door to one
of the brand new Maseratis which were placed near the tent as part of
a sponsor display for the brand.


Inside the grand ballroom at the Elms

Overall, however, the gala proceeded seemingly effortlessly (though we know how much time and energy actually goes into orchestrating such an affair!), with visual adornments like elaborately costumed actors
posing as trees, statues, and Venetian nobility; we snapped their
photos alongside beloved New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham,
who we've heard never misses this event. The lighting inside the
dinner tent was spectacular shades of color, and even the table
settings evoked a feeling of Renaissance-era opulence.


Board President Don Ross and Executive Director Trudy Coxe both spoke after the appetizer course, acknowledging event chair Barbara Chapman (who thought of the theme), and mentioning that the Preservation Society is "full of perseverance and never gives up." We are grateful for that!


Patrick Noonan & Courtenay Eversole


Before dinner was even finished, the dance floor became crowded with
happy patrons swirling their gowns and dipping their companions to the
contagious sounds of the Bob Hardwick Orchestra. To the Preservation
we say "Bravo!"

                                                              -- Amanda M. Grosvenor


Lucy, Rosie, and Siena Kissel


Robin Hubbard & son Will Hubbard

Newport Seen's Amanda Grosvenor

The grounds of the Elms

A Greco-Roman column-style living statue

Katie DeConti & Louisa Ryan

Garden view of the Elms

Taking a walk

Sheldon Whitehouse, Olivia Ahern

Alan & Joy Marks

Piggybacking on Bill Cunningham's shot

Kimberly Renk Dryer & Greg Dryer

Max Mortimer, Christopher Von Ratten, Henrik Kielland

Anne Roberts, David Parker, Annie Fulton

Trudy Coxe & Ala Isham

Stuart & Karen Bevan

Elijah Duckworth-Schachter, Anne Roberts, Katie DeConti

Maserati sponsor display

Gorgeous colors inside the tent

Set for dinner

One of the recently restored paintings

One of the recently restored paintings

Trudy Coxe speaks onstage with Barbara Chapman and Don Ross

Vivian Spencer & Michael Fleuette cut a rug

Having a great time!

Alison Devenny & Edward Stautberg

Fraser Ross Maloney & Rob Maloney

Elizabeth & Bill Leatherman

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