When Jaap first contacted me about his proposal idea at the Chinese Tea House, I was excited because this would be a new proposal spot for me. However, it would entail a 3-mile out and back walk from the parking area at Narragansett Avenue–not a big deal in itself, but I would be carrying a bunch of heavy camera gear.

Most photoshoots on the Cliff Walk occur between the 40 Steps and the Ochre Point overlook–directly in front of The Breakers mansion. This was the first time my client wanted to walk further, but who could blame him? It is stunning!

Behind the incredible Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, stands a little treasure: the Chinese Tea House. Built in 1892 as part of a hilltop estate belonging to Alva Vanderbilt and her husband William K. Vanderbilt, it cost approximately 11 million dollars to build–and it was given to Alva by her husband on her 39th birthday.

. An ardent crusader for women’s equality, she gave thousands of dollars to the National Women’s Party to advance women’s rights. After her second husband’s death in 1908, she re-opened Marble House and had the Chinese Tea House built on the cliffs. It was here that she held her rallies for women’s right to vote.

With this rich history in women’s rights, it was pretty cool that Jaap proposed to Amanda, at this location, on International Womens’ Day, 2023.

The Chinese Tea House ( a detailed history) on Newport’s Cliff Walk was built in 1908 by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, a wealthy socialite and women’s rights activist. The tea house is located on the grounds of Marble House, her former summer home.

Belmont commissioned the tea house from the architectural firm of Hunt & Hunt, which was led by her cousin, Richard Morris Hunt. The Hunts designed the tea house in the style of a 12th-century Song Dynasty temple, with upswept eave ends and guardian animal figures. The interior is decorated with dark wooden panels painted in a Ming Dynasty style.

Belmont used the tea house as a gathering place for her friends and family, as well as for political meetings. She also hosted suffragist rallies at the tea house, and it is said that she once gave a speech there from the roof.

The Chinese Tea House is now owned by the Newport Preservation Society and is open to the public for tours. It is a popular spot for weddings and other special events.

Here are some additional details about the history of the Chinese Tea House:

  • The tea house was built at a cost of $10,000, which was a significant sum of money at the time.
  • The tea house is made of wood and stucco, and it is about 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
  • The tea house has a small garden in front of it, and there is a waterfall cascading down the cliff behind it.
  • The tea house is located on the Cliff Walk, which is a National Historic Landmark.

The Chinese Tea House is a beautiful and unique building that is a reminder of the Gilded Age and the history of Newport. It is a popular tourist destination, and it is a special place to learn about the history of women’s rights in the United States.