Attendees Time Travel in These Historic Rhode Island Event Venues
Rosecliff mansion, Newport, Rhode Island. Credit: Corey Favino.
Rhode Island is a small state with a supersized serving of history. Meetings and events groups can take a fascinating journey into the past at its many historic venues, from grand mansions that epitomize the Gilded Age to museums and libraries that present a slice of life as it was many years ago.
The state’s major meetings destinations, Providence and Newport, each boast a wealth—and in Newport’s case, “extreme wealth”—of historic event options, with the following venues standing out in particular.
Providence Historic Meeting Venues
Rhode Island’s largest city is one of its most historic, showcasing a blend of Victorian and Colonial architecture that translates into a storybook setting for gatherings.
“Providence combines the best of both worlds: the convenience and accessibility of modern meeting spaces and all the charm of a quintessential New England city,” said Tom Riel, senior vice president of the Providence Warwick CVB. “Planners gravitate toward the city’s various historic and well-preserved venues for offsite dinners, parties and roundtables where attendees can take a step back in time and really soak up the historical significance of the destination.
“Attendees will find inspiration in the architecture, historic landmarks and cobblestone streets along Providence’s Mile of History,” he added. “Some of the most important events in American history happened right here in Providence—and yours can, too.”
The following are four offsite meeting venues that are popular with Providence groups tapping into history.
This National Historic Landmark property was built in the early 1800s by mercantile trader Edward Carrington and remained in his family for three generations before being gifted to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 1935. Highlights of this stately brick mansion include a location on one acre in the heart of Providence near Brown University, antique iron stables, wraparound gardens and three third-floor bedrooms with period furniture at the top of a spiral staircase.
The capacity for an indoor, seated event in Carriage House is 80 guests; outdoors in the gardens and courtyard area is 150.
Providence Art Club
The Art Club’s collection of four historic buildings is available for events that are sponsored by a member and include the 1790 Club House, a three-story home that may be the first brick-veneer structure in Providence; the whimsical 1885 Fleur de Lys Building, with a Norman-style half-timbered facade; The Seril Dodge House, built in 1786 and described as typical of a middle-class home of the time; and The Deacon Edward Taylor House, built in 1784 and the oldest house on historic Thomas Street.
Event capacities are as follows:
- Maxwell Mays Gallery (second floor with bar): 100 seated; 175 reception
- Founders Room (main level): 50 seated; 75 reception
- Founders Room and Dodge House Gallery (main level): 75 seated; 100 reception
- Skylight Room (classroom space on third floor with patio deck): 75 seated; 100 reception
Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum
Described as Providence’s premier Victorian house museum, this 1865 National Historic Landmark was built by one of the state’s leading textile manufacturing families and occupied by four generations of Lippitts before being turned into a museum in 1993. This East Side historic house near Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design provides an opulent environment for meetings, with period furnishings and lush gardens.
Standing reception capacity is 75; seated meal capacity is 60; and the capacity for a seated ceremony, concert or meeting is 50.
This stately library, with towering stacks of historically significant books and nearly 150 painting and sculpture art objects, was built in 1753 and founded and incorporated as the Providence Athenaeum in 1836. The library partners with Easy Entertaining as its exclusive event caterer and offers full-building and reading room rentals.
A full-building rental can accommodate up to 100 and a reading room rental, which includes courtyard access, also has a capacity for 100.
Newport Historic Meeting Venues
Planners organizing meetings and events in Newport are sure to be tempted by this storied destination’s Gilded Age mansions straight out of The Great Gatsby.
“Newport and U.S. history go hand in hand, as the city has played an integral role during the Gilded Age and Colonial era,” said Tim Walsh, VP of sales for Discover Newport. “Attendees can immerse themselves in these time periods, as groups have a choice of hosting meetings and events in several historic venues such as Gilded Age mansions, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Fort Adams, to name a few.
“Groups can create their own history and memories with Gilded Age actors mingling with attendees during a reception, having members of the country’s oldest militia dressed in Colonial uniform greeting the group, or being entertained by tennis players in straw hats and wooden rackets,” Walsh continued. “It’s the ideal destination to break away from the ordinary but still have all the convenience of modern-day accommodations, dining and entertainment.”
These Newport mansions and museums serve up history in abundance for offsite meetings and other functions.
This collection of three spectacular Gilded Age mansions includes The Elms, Rosecliff and Marble House, each offering jaw-dropping ocean views, lush gardens and stunning architecture. Events held at any of these three masterpiece mansions facilitated by Newport Mansions bring to life the outrageous and elegant era of the Gilded Age and the lifestyle of its powerful elite.
International Tennis Hall of Fame
Harkening back to the grandeur of the Gilded Age, the National Historic Landmark Tennis Hall of Fame offers several event space options throughout its seven-acre grounds. Fun activities and teambuilding options include lawn tennis; lawn games such as Giant Jenga and cornhole; museum scavenger hunts; and crowd-pleasing croquet matches on the venue’s pristinely manicured lawn. Event spaces include the Horseshoe Piazza & Court, a picture-perfect example of Gilded Age recreational pursuits; the USTA Wing & Porch, overlooking the horseshoe court; the East Porches, overlooking the lawn tennis courts; a boardroom; and an executive lounge with a fireplace.
Having guarded Narragansett Bay in one form or another against various foes since 1700, this National Historic Landmark boasts spectacular sunset views and several indoor and outdoor venues for gatherings large and small. Popular event options here include traditional clambakes and teambuilding programs. The fort can accommodate groups from 30 to 350 and private group tours are available. Water shuttle service is available from downtown Newport.
Linden Place Mansion
Located in Bristol, Rhode Island, just north of Newport, this Federal-style mansion was built in 1810 and is now home to a historic event venue. The two-acre estate can accommodate meetings ranging from eight to 208 guests and includes a museum and conference rooms. The turn-of-the-century ballroom can accommodate up to 150, and its outdoor spaces feature a tented courtyard as well as sculpture and rose gardens.
Also located in Bristol, this was once the home of the Van Wickle family, who purchased it in 1894. The venue can host cocktail receptions, buffet service or formal sit-down meals, and also recently began offering two-hour private teas for parties of 15-40.
The mansion has a maximum capacity of 225 for a banquet or reception and an events tent that can hold an equal number. The venue’s 33 acres also feature an expansive great lawn and gardens and arboretum for larger, outdoor events.
Providence: The United Nations of Pizza
When it comes to pizza, everyone has a favorite style, and usually a strong opinion that goes with it!
With a longstanding Italian-American community, Providence, Rhode Island, is perhaps surprisingly near the top of the list when it comes to great pizza destinations, and also uniquely positioned to quell any pizza style arguments as well.
“Providence is really the place you can find a variety of styles—Neapolitan, New York-style, Chicago-style. We love pizza so much we recently launched Pizza Week,” said Alana O’Hare, senior director of communications and special projects for Providence Warwick CVB, who noted one of her favorite pizzerias is Pizza Marvin, a newer addition with a James Beard-nominated chef turning out creative pizzas like the only-in-Rhode-Island ‘Chowdah Pie.’ “Many residents will have their favorites and they never stray, like the thicker crust Sicilian style of Caserta Pizzeria, maybe a thinner crust traditional round pizza like Providence Coal Fired or Fellini’s, or the top-rated grilled pizza at Al Forno, or—the most Rhode Island of them all—bakery pizza.”
And what exactly is bakery pizza?
“Picture this: a rectangle or square pizza with a focaccia-style crust, layer of red sauce, maybe a dusting of grated cheese—or maybe not—eaten cold, never warmed,” O’Hare said. “It’s sliced into long, thin rectangles and served in a plastic wrap. You find it at every party, cookout and soccer game across Rhode Island. Sometimes called party pizza, or pizza strips, bakery pizza is a Rhode Island staple.”
O’Hare said many groups will arrange for delivery for meetings and events, and directs pie-hungry planners to www.goprovidence.com/restaurants to find the best fit for their group.
Better yet, if you order some of each style, everyone will be happy!