Music and Dancing at the "Queen of Resorts"

On this tour, explore the role of music and social dancing during Newport's rebirth and ascent to becoming a premier summer resort destination in the mid-19th-century. Known as Newport's "hotel period," the era between 1840 and 1865 captures Newport's revitalizing economic boom, spurred on by the emergence of luxurious public hotels, before the age of private mansions. Music and dancing were not just routine pastimes, but main attractions of the Newport summer experience as it rose to the first-rate status of the "Queen of Resorts."

During the "hotel period" boom years of the 1850s, an extraordinary group of musicians called the Germania Musical Society were instrumental to Newport's rebirth as a flourishing resort town. The Germania Musical Society was an ensemble of twenty-three elite musicians (plus conductor) from Berlin, Germany, who immigrated to the United States during the Revolutions of 1848.

During their height, the Germania were arguably the best and busiest performing musicians in Newport and throughout America. They were a consistent feature at all of Newport's major hotels, and made appearances at Chateau-sur-Mer (the precursor to the Gilded Age mansions), and Fort Adams. Dix's guidebook, "A Hand-Book of Newport and Rhode Island," details how the group was hired by the three major hotels (Bellevue, Atlantic, and Ocean House), with costs and personnel divided between them. The musicians played in smaller units during the day for listening and again at night for dancing. The Germania also periodically gave full concerts with the complete ensemble that were open to the public.

Known to thoroughly enjoy their time in the "City by the Sea," the Germania's viola player turned clarinetist, Henry Albrecht, recalled in his memoir that the members of the group were so beloved by the resort guests, "especially of the fair sex," that they came back to Newport for two more summers after being officially disbanded. The Germania's impact on American music performance reached far beyond their influence in Newport and extended long after they were actively performing together.

The Atlantic House Hotel

The Newport Mercury announced a "Grand Instrumental Concert" to be given by the full Germania Musical Society ensemble on July 16, 1849 at the grand hall of the Atlantic House. Tickets were fifty cents. Doors opened at 7:30pm. The concert began at…

The Ocean House Hotel

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…

The Bellevue House Hotel

In 1828, the Bellevue House on Catherine Street made a splash as the first genuine resort hotel in Newport, helping to shape a burgeoning culture that would soon propel a new economic boom for the city. During the magical summers of the late 1840s…

Chateau-sur-Mer

In the summer of 1857, preceding the trend-setting Astors and Belmonts, and epitomizing the transition to a more private and exclusive Newport, William Wetmore (former China-trade magnate) threw a big party for his good friend, the financier, George…

Fort Adams

As reported in an 1854 Harper's Monthly piece, the Germania Musical Society was likely the "band" who played at Fort Adams one afternoon when the Fort was "turned into a Hyde Park" with "Horsemen and chariots" parading to the music. The scene…
The background research phase of this tour's development was generously supported by a 2015-2016 Preservation Society of Newport County Fellowship.

The Heritage Harbor Foundation generously supported rights and reproduction costs.