Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, wealthy southern planters seeking to escape the heat began to build summer cottages on Bellevue Avenue, such as Kingscote (1839). Around the middle of the century, wealthy Yankees, such as the Wetmore family, also began constructing larger mansions, such as Chateau-sur-Mer (1852) nearby. Most of these early families made a substantial part of their fortunes in the Old China Trade.
By the turn of the 20th century, many of the nation's wealthiest families were summering in Newport, including the Vanderbilts, Astors, and the Widener family, who constructed the largest "cottages", such as The Breakers (1895) and Miramar. They resided for a brief summer social season in grand, gilded mansions with elaborate receiving rooms, dining rooms, music rooms, and ballrooms—but with few bedrooms, since the guests were expected to have "cottages" of their own. Many of the homes were designed by New York architect Richard Morris Hunt.