Cliff Walk Trail Marker #12
Chinese Tea House
The Chinese Tea House was built by the firm Hunt and Hunt. It overlooked the Cliff Walk on the Marble House property owned by Alva Vanderbilt, the previous wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt.
The firm Hunt and Hunt was run by the sons of famous architect Richard Morris Hunt, Richard Howland Hunt and Joseph Howland Hunt. Richard was the primary draftsman for the building.
The house serves as a Beaux-Arts tribute to the Ming Dynasty houses studied by the Hunt brothers in southern China. It fuses different styles and elements from both Chinese and Japanese architecture The interior features dark carved wood, colored tiles and murals and the exterior features brightly painted carved wood to resemble a Chinese tea house.
Alva received Marble House on her 39th birthday. After she divorced in 1895, she remarried and moved to a different home on Bellevue Avenue, Belcourt Castle. Upon the death of her new spouse, she reopened Marble House and added the Chinese Tea House.
This house was used under Alva as a meeting space for her women’s suffrage movement activities. Tea has been noted to have been served on saucers inscribed with the words “Votes for Women.” The property was sold to Frederick H. Prince in 1932 who in turn sold Marble House and the Tea House to the Newport Preservation Society.
The teahouse originally stood directly above the Cliff Walk, 75 feet east of its current location. The Preservation Society of Newport County, which acquired the Marble House property in 1963, moved the teahouse back from the seawall for safety in 1977, and undertook a complete restoration of the building a few years later.