Bounded approximately by Spring Street and Coggeshall Avenue on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, this historic district is formed around a two-mile stretch of Bellevue Avenue that runs from Memorial Boulevard in the north to Bailey’s Beach in the south. With magnificent residences and resorts on large lots—most originally surrounded by gardens, greenhouses, stables, and other outbuildings—the northern section developed in the 1830s. With but a handful of commercial blocks (including the Newport Casino), the properties are predominantly residential, and represent a diverse assemblage by illustrious architects such as Richard Morris Hunt, Horace Trumbauer, and McKim, Mead & White and landscape architects including Ernest Bowditch and Olmsted Brothers. Many of the former estates are open to the public and eight properties within the district—The Breakers, Marble House, and Chateau-sur-Mer, for example—are themselves National Historic Landmarks.
It was entrepreneur Alfred Smith, who in 1852 spearheaded the southern extension of Bellevue Avenue through 140 acres of his own farmland, which he then subdivided and sold, with the lots on the eastern (cliffs) side selling first, and the construction of houses—most in the Italianate style—underway even before the road was finished one year later. Along much of its length to the southern end of the island, Bellevue Avenue today is bordered by wide, brick-paved sidewalks interspersed with trees and lampposts, and variously lined by stone walls, hedges, and iron and wooden fences furnished with elaborate gateways. The Bellevue Avenue National Historic Landmark District was so designated in 1976.