The penultimate episode of “The Gilded Age” HBO took a little trip to Newport, Rhode Island, and had the characters socialising at the Newport Casino.
The Newport Casino opened in 1880 (only two years before the show is set!) and was designed as a new model of social club.
The entrance on Bellevue Avenue (just a stone’s throw from many of the Newport mansions) also housed shopfronts and a restaurant, and then if you went upstairs, you’d find reading rooms, billiards and club rooms.
Inside, there were facilities for lawn tennis and court tennis, where we saw the younger characters play, whilst the old and new money look on, mingling and play out their social strategy.
There was never an actual gambling casino there – “casino” has its origins in the Italian “casa”, and means a small summer house or social club.
It was commissioned by James Gordon Bennett Jr., publisher of the “New York Herald” – the land was opposite his home Stone Villa – and designed by McKim, Mead and White in the American Shingle style.
On August 31st 1881 (great date, it’s my birthday, though I’m obviously not quite that old), the Casino hosted the first US National Men’s Singles Championship. It hosted this until 1914, when the event had become too big, and went to Forest Hills, New York. This event became what we know today as the US Open.
Today the Casino is a tennis club and home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame – I love tennis so much, so I went wild over the tennis museum!