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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Maxwell

The Magic of Mystery

Ever since I started writing my Gilded Newport series, fun things have begun happening when my husband and I visit the city. Magical things. Things that don't typically happen to ordinary tourists. Specifically, places normally closed to the public have been graciously opened to us, providing me with invaluable research material for my stories. Once such opportunity has made it much easier for me to write my current work in progress, MURDER AT OCHRE COURT. Ochre Court was owned by Ogden and Mary Goelet, and remained in the family for only another generation, when son, Robert, gave the house to the Sisters of Mercy in 1947. Ochre Court is currently the administrative building for Salve Regina University and not open to the public for tours.

Unless, of course... 1) you're writing murder mysteries set in the Newport mansions and 2) your husband is a Newport native whose brother is a good friend of the secretary at the front desk. As soon as this very kind woman realized who we were, voila! While other tourists were turned away and encouraged to visit the nearby Breakers instead, we embarked on a tour of Ochre Court from top to bottom, including a ride in the elevator that was installed when the house was built in 1892. Yes, we rode in a one hundred and twenty-odd year old elevator! Jeannie turned out to be exceptionally knowledgeable about the house, so we were privy to some of its secrets, as well as a few secrets about the family. It is a spectacular house, and I'm excited to be spending my time there, at least in my imagination, during the next months as I write the book.

Richard Morris Hunt, who also designed The Breakers and Marble House, based the design of Ochre Court on the chateaux of the Loire Valley in France. Only The Breakers is larger than Ochre Court.

Grand staircase with its beautiful stained glass windows at the half landing.

The center hall soars three stories high, with open galleries that look down on the first floor.

The ballroom. The gilded decorations here reminded me very much of the ballroom at Beechwood.

The back of the house faces the ocean, of course, and is a majestic sight from the Cliff Walk.

The elevator door looks like an ordinary door, doesn't it, opening out rather than sliding open.

Inside, however, looks more like a normal, if outdated, elevator.

During the same trip, we also toured the gardens of a private residence on Bellevue Avenue and were given a personal tour of Whitehorn House on Lower Thames St. Ordinarily, that tour is self-guided, but again, when the docent learned about my books, she was only too happy to walk us through the house. I'll need to include it in a future book! My husband and I can hardly wait to see what adventures await us the next time we visit our favorite city!

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