Julia Boron

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard

Second Advisor

Eric Wolf


The Gilded Age in America was a time of swift and extreme economic expansion which caused America’s leading industrial families to become extraordinarily wealthy. Because the introduction of personal income tax had not yet been established, people pocketed every dollar they earned, and the people of the Gilded Age lived and spent lavishly. Having multiple homes was a status symbol, and the wealthy elite flocked to Newport, Rhode Island during the summers building elaborate mansions and sparing no expense. A myriad of economic factors around 1913 greatly changed the general view on wealth and spending. The majority of the summer homes would eventually become abandoned and at risk of demolition with their interiors and decorations being stripped and put up at auction. As a result, preservation organizations were formed as stewards of cultural heritage. While many properties have been saved as a result of preservation efforts, in some cases the interiors have become lost over time. By researching the homes and objects that went to auction to better understand the surrounding factors of certain objects selected to be put for sale, it lends insight into what it means when a home’s collections are broken up and no longer displayed as one collection. An examination of three Newport mansions: The Elms, Ochre Court, and Belcourt Castle can help understand the ways in which preservation practices operate across varying institutions and levels of ownership to study how the mansions have evolved from their time spent as homes in the Gilded Age.