Elberon, NJ—“the nouveau riche alternative to Newport” in the 1870s
The Gilded Age in the United States generally referred to the post-Civil War period from the 1870s to the turn of the 20th century, when vast industrial fortunes led to a lavish lifestyles for those relatively few families. Newport, Rhode Island came to be seen as the most fashionable resort for many wealthy industrialists, with such “summer cottages” as the Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, the Elms, and others. Eventually, as Henry Flagler extended the railroad down the Atlantic coast of Florida, St. Augustine became a winter destination with the opening in
1888 of the Ponce de Leon Hotel, before the winter resorts farther south at Palm Beach, Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys became popular.
But in the 1870s, what may have been the earliest Gilded Age resort was developed at what had already been a beach destination by the late 18th century on the New Jersey coast. While Newport was already a summer home for some of the older wealth in the US—for example, Kingscote was constructed on what became the resort’s famed Bellevue Avenue in 1839 for a wealthy Georgia planter—the newly wealthy industrialists in New York chose Elberon as their new resort and a starting place for what became one of the country’s most storied architectural firms. (The 1902 photo of Elberon is in the public domain).
By Robert Khederian
July 13, 2017