The Ocean House Hotel

Morning, Noon, and Night, the Whirl Went On…

In his memoir, the Germania Musical Society's Henry Albrecht painted an interesting picture of the ensemble's relationship to Newport during the "hotel period," stating: "the magical effect of the sounds of the orchestra aroused not very solemn thoughts in the breasts of art-loving ladies, affections more than on the level of Platonic friendship." He added that their concerts "brought to the fore the reality of the words that 'Music is the language of the heart.'" Such memories included pleasurable and cozy evenings at the Ocean House.

When the original Ocean House opened on Bellevue and East Bowery in 1844, it instantly rivaled the most luxurious European hotels. The Ocean House offered summer visitors topnotch accommodations, fine-dining, and a variety of attractions. A Newport Mercury article in 1884 reminisced about "Old Time Newport" highlighting the new Ocean House and the hundreds of people assembling daily and nightly to the music of the "celebrated Germania Band."

Although the original Ocean House burned down one year after its opening, a larger and grander replacement was ready for the summer season of 1846 to host masquerade balls, cotillions, and Saturday night dances known as "hops." At the time, fashionable dances like the polka, redowa, and cotillion were all the rage: "morning noon and night the whirl went on."

In 1850, following their very successful first summer in Newport, the Germania helped close out the season with a "Fancy Ball" at the Ocean House. The Germania opened the ball with a late-evening march, dinner was served at midnight, and dancing continued through sunrise the next morning. Germania conductor Carl Bergmann's composition "Fancy Ball Polka Redowa" was published the following year. The mazurka-like redowa, featuring a Czech dance rhythm, was new to the States at that time.

To be sure, the scene at the Ocean House on dance nights was effervescent as mellifluous music drifted through the hotel's alcoves and corridors while guests promenaded around the grounds with glee. Despite a number of other hotels opening in Newport over the following two decades, the highest praise was usually reserved for John G. Weaver's Ocean House. Summer visitors considered it the embodiment of the elegance, beauty, and style of American summer society.

Images

Audio

"Fancy Ball Polka Redowa"
Composed by the Germania conductor Carl Bergmann, "Fancy Ball Polka Redowa" was published in 1851. Performed by the Newport String Project in the historic surrounds of the courtroom at Old Colony House in Newport, RI. ~ Date: April 2017
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"Ocean House Polka"
Germania conductor Carl Bergmann's composition, "Ocean House Polka" was published in 1856. The piece was performed by the Newport String Project in the historic surrounds of the courtroom at Old Colony House in Newport, RI. ~ Date:...
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Map

Bellevue Ave. & E. Bowery St., Newport, RI 02840 ~ Bellevue Ave. & E. Bowery St., Newport, RI 02840