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Pre-Palatial Newport
by [?]

In this peculiarity the history of Newport has been an epitome of the country, every form of amusement being in turn taken up, run into the ground, and then abandoned. At one time it was the fashion to drive to Fort Adams of an afternoon and circle round and round the little green to the sounds of a military band; then, for no visible reason, people took to driving on the Third Beach, an inaccessible and lonely point which for two or three summers was considered the only correct promenade.

I blush to recall it, but at that time most of the turnouts were hired hacks. Next, Graves Point, on the Ocean Drive, became the popular meeting-place. Then society took to attending polo of an afternoon, a sport just introduced from India. This era corresponded with the opening of the Casino (the old reading-room dating from 1854). For several years every one crowded during hot August mornings onto the airless lawns and piazzas of the new establishment. It seems on looking back as if we must have been more fond of seeing each other in those days than we are now. To ride up and down a beach and bow filled our souls with joy, and the “cake walk” was an essential part of every ball, the guests parading in pairs round and round the room between the dances instead of sitting quietly “out.” The opening promenade at the New York Charity Ball is a survival of this inane custom.

The disappearance of the Ocean House “hops” marked the last stage in hotel life. Since then better-class watering places all over the country have slowly but surely followed Newport’s lead. The closed caravansaries of Bar Harbor and elsewhere bear silent testimony to the fact that refined Americans are at last awakening to the charms of home life during their holidays, and are discarding, as fast as finances will permit, the pernicious herding system. In consequence the hotel has ceased to be, what it undoubtedly was twenty years ago, the focus of our summer life.

Only a few charred rafters remain of the Ocean House. A few talkative old duffers like myself alone survive the day it represents. Changing social conditions have gradually placed both on the retired list. A new and palatial Newport has replaced the simpler city. Let us not waste too much time regretting the past, or be too sure that it was better than the present. It is quite possible, if the old times we are writing so fondly about should return, we might discover that the same thing was true of them as a ragged urchin asserted the other afternoon of the burning building:

“Say, Tom, did ye know there was the biggest room in the world in that hotel?”

“No; what room?”

“Room for improvement, ya!”