The Reef Estate – Brenton Point State Park

September‎ ‎25, ‎2018 – Newport, Rhode Island

Difficulty: Easy

Address: Ocean Drive, Newport, RI 02840

 

Occupying the former grounds of one of Newport’s grandest estates, Brenton Point State Park affords its visitors one of the most commanding and spectacular views on the East Coast. The park is located at the point of land where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic, midway along renowned Ocean Drive. The state took possession in 1969 as part of Governor John Chafee’s Green Acres program; it was then dedicated as a state park in 1974. The park opened to the public in 1976.

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Theodore M. Davis, copper magnate, author, collector, and renowned Egyptologist, built “The Reef” (later “The Bells”) at the southernmost tip of Aquidneck Island. The Boston architectural firm of Sturgis & Brigham created an elegant shingle and stone clad Queen Anne villa destined to house Davis’ collection of Old Master paintings, largely bought through the art consultant Bernard Berenson, and later bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Bells - Brenton Point State Park

The Bells – Brenton Point State Park

Following Mr. Davis’ death in 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Milton J. Budlong of Providence purchased the eighteen-acre estate. The Budlongs divorced in 1928 and the property was placed in contention. The house, never again lived in by the family, passed to Miss Frances Budlong. During World War II, anti-aircraft gun emplacements were set up around the house, which housed gunnery personnel. Vandalized throughout the 1950’s, the villa was set on fire in 1961 and demolished on May 25, 1963.

The Reef circa 1920

The Reef circa 1920

The former laundry/servants’ quarters building serves as the park’s visitor center and rangers office.

visitor center - Brenton Point State Park

visitor center – Brenton Point State Park

The mansion’s now-derelict carriage house and stables still stand, though they have been fenced off and are routinely patrolled by park rangers.

carriage house - Brenton Point State Park

carriage house – Brenton Point State Park

carriage house - Brenton Point State Park

carriage house – Brenton Point State Park

The carriage house/stable was built by the architect Theodore Davis Boal of Washington.

carriage house - Brenton Point State Park

carriage house – Brenton Point State Park

carriage house - Brenton Point State Park

carriage house – Brenton Point State Park

carriage house - Brenton Point State Park

carriage house – Brenton Point State Park

A stone observation tower is used by park rangers and tourists to view the forest and ocean. At one point in time a stone staircase wound itself around the tower to the top, but many of the lower stairs were broken off over time.

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

A newer staircase was constructed beside the tower so that visitors might still have a chance to experience the view from the top.

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

At the top, on a clear day, one can see far over the trees, out over the Atlantic Ocean.

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

From the tower, the Carriage house is visible over the tops of the trees surrounding it. Stretching all around is a dense forest of lush green trees.

view of carriage house from observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

view of carriage house from observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

observation tower - Brenton Point State Park

observation tower – Brenton Point State Park

Stone walls, in varying degrees of ruin, that once you to surround the estate.

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point State Park is open year round from Sunrise to Sunset (Restrooms Open May 1st Through October 31st). Visitors can enjoy picnicking, hiking, fishing, or just relaxing with the cool breezes and majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

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