The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

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Rhode Island

The Casino (theatre)

Saturday, July 15, 1882

The Decorative Arts


Newspaper report

The Sun (New York, NY), July 16, 1882, 5

Wilde gave this talk at the start of a Summer vacation and he did not lecture again for two weeks.


The Casino

186-202 Bellevue Av., Newport, RI* (now 194 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840)

* Address of the Casino Club complex.Ā 

The theatre was a separate building to the rear of the site. It survives, and is now located at 10 Freebody St., Newport, RI 02840.

Built: 1879-81 (James Gordon Bennett, Jr.)

Architect: McKim, Mead & White (New York)

Theatre architect: Stanford White

Club opened: July 26, 1880

Theatre opened: 1881

Seating: 500 (removable for dancing)

Theatre closed: 1980s

Restored: 2009 (see DBVW Architects for image)

Seating: 300

Reopened: 2010

Today: the Newport Casino is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The building where Wilde lectured is reserved for special events but it is still used regularly as a theatre by Salve Regina University Department of Performing Arts.

Not a Casino

The Newport Casino is not a 'casino' in the modern senseā€”indeed, it has never been used as a public gambling establishment.

The Italian loan word 'caseina' with its sense of a farmstead or 'little house' was used to describe a small villa built for leisure. In its Gilded Age heyday the Newport Casino offered a wide array of social diversions to the summer colony including archery, billiards, bowling, concerts, dancing, dining, horse shows, lawn bowling, reading, lawn tennis, tea parties, and theatricals.

The grounds and club became a center for American lawn tennis, and from 1881ā€“1914 hosted the National Championships (later the U.S. Open). Today, it is still an active grass-court tennis and croquet club, and home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Designed by the famous New York architect, Stanford White, it still stands as a fine example of the Victorian Shingle Style.


Wilde spent six days in Newport, and stayed at least one night (July 14) at ā€˜Oak Glenā€™, the Summer home of Julia Ward Howe, who had earlier received Wilde at her Boston home that year.Ā 

Julia Ward Howe was the sister of Sam Ward, the lobbyist and socialite, who taken Wilde under his wing in New York. There was also much unfounded talk of a pending engagement between Wilde and her daughter Maud Howe (later Elliott).

At other times Wilde stayed at Ocean House, a large hotel adjacent to the Casino, from where he wrote to Charles Eliot Norton c. July 15 (Letters, 176).

"Oak Glen"

Union Street, Portsmouth, RI (Summer home of Julia Ward Howe), now 745 Union Street, Portsmouth, RI, 02871

Original structure: c. 1850

Main house built: 1870 (Extant)

Ocean House*

202 1/7 Bellevue Av., Newport, RI (NE corner of Bellevue Av. and Bowery Street)

Built: 1845-46 (Russell Warren, architect)

Opened: 1846 (John G. Weaver Sr., owner)

Destroyed (fire): September 9, 1898

* The second hotel of this name in Newport. The first (1841-45) was destroyed by fire. Neither hotel to be confused with the extant 1868 Ocean House at Bluff Ave, Westerly, RI 02891.

Ocean House on the right along Bellevue Avenue.

The adjacent Newport Casino and Ocean House.


Memoir : Grandmotherā€™s Blue Coach, unpublished manuscript of Henry Marion Hall (grandson of Julia Ward Howe)

Being a small boy at the time my presence at the tea was not requested, but later I was allowed to accompany the guests down into the valley. The party included Tom Appleton, the famous Boston wit, Adamowski, leader of the Boston Symphony orchestra, Mrs. Paran Stevens, Lilla Eliott, Grandmotherā€™s nephew F. Marion Crawford, and Oscar Wilde, then at the peak of his popularity.

Knowing nothing about a fad then known as ā€œdress reformā€ I was bewildered at Wildeā€™s costume when I walked into the vale beside him. He wore a black velvet jacket, knickerbockers to match, dark silk stockings, and low shoes with glittering buckles. A salmon-colored scarf and slouch hat completed his get-up. It struck me as rather queer, but not half so startling as his hair ā€“ long, black, and curling to his shouldersā€¦ He held a red rose in one hand and sniffed it as he chatted.

Source: Newport Historical Society.

Oscar Wilde In America | Ā© John Cooper, 2024