Abandoned Rhode Island: The Bells

An abandoned (neglected) and deteriorated carriage barn – referred to as “The Bells” by locals – found at Brenton Point State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. A brief history of the property, from the Rhode Island State Parks:

…a fine house, known as ‘The Reef’ was built in 1885 for Theodore M. Davis by the Boston architectural firm of Sturgis and Brigham. An elegant shingle and stone-clad Queen Anne villa was erected to house Davis’s collection of paintings and Egyptian artifacts, collected during his wanderings between 1903 and 1912. Under official license by the Egyptian government, Davis directed expeditions that uncovered nearly a half dozen major tombs, establishing important holdings for Egypt. The Reef was also famous for its walled gardens and green houses. The entire estate took up some eighteen acres.

After Mr. Davis’ death in 1915 the estate went into the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Budlong of Providence. The property suffered in the ’38 Hurricane, but the members of the Budlong family used it until 1941. During World War II, the site’s position as one of the gateways to Narragansett Bay made it an ideal location for a coastal artillery battery. Footings for these guns can be seen today. Returned to the Budlongs in 1946 the house and grounds remained unoccupied. The house continued deterioration in the 1950s, and a fire destroyed the villa in 1960. Two years later it was demolished. Surviving on the site are a bungalow and carriage house. In 1969 the site came under the control of the State of Rhode Island as an ‘open space’ property in the Green Acres Program. In 1976 it became a state park.

It was a cloudy New England winter day, but still good enough for photographs.

Blending into the winter surroundings.

Blending into the winter surroundings.

The carriage barn.

The carriage barn.

Fenced off and deteriorating.

Fenced off and deteriorating.

A grand entrance between two chimneys, now with a missing roof.

A once-grand entrance between two chimneys, now with a missing roof.

Straight through the roof.

Straight through the roof.

Architectural details.

Architectural details.

Those roof trusses aren't long for this world.

Those roof trusses aren’t looking great.

Horse stalls.

Horse stalls show decades of neglect and vandalism.

Various floor surfaces.

Various floor surfaces.

The view from the watch tower.

The view of the carriage barn from the observation tower.

The observation tower.

The observation tower. Climb up for a great view of the building and the ocean.

A fascinating visit if you’re in the area. Combine a trip to Brenton Point with a tour at The Breakers. It will make for a great Newport day.


14 thoughts on “Abandoned Rhode Island: The Bells

  1. richholschuh says:

    Awesome sight! I’ll put this on my “next R.I. visit” list. My favorite photo is the carriage house from the tower; so evocative of the reclamation of human handiwork by the deeper processes of natural time. Entropy as transformation. Same material, different aspect.

    • Kaitlin says:

      thanks! And good observation. I think the weather aids in the reclamation of the building – since it’s winter and everything is the same color. But I suppose the foliage will hide the building for a similar but different effect.

  2. eric says:

    I went hiking with my uncle there back in 1997. The stable house was in a lot better shape and If I recall correctly, it had a full roof then as well. We hiked further back and found the anti aircraft pits and ruins of walls. There was also no fence back then.

  3. Beth Miller says:

    When I was a kid, you used to be able to go inside the old carriage house. The stairs were still passable. About 15 years ago I climbed over the chain link fence that surrounds the area and at that time the stairs were only rubble. The area had the biggest wild rabbits I have ever seen living in the bushes. It is a very interesting place

  4. Michelle C. says:

    I was a high school student and working for the Youth Conservation Corps the summer of 1976 and this park was the main location of where we worked; cutting down brush and sweeping up inside the old structures. It’s in much worse shape now. I was intrigued by the history of it back then and I always hoped they would somehow restore it. We also worked at Fort Adams before it became a hot concert/event venue. That was really awesome to walk through those old structures!

  5. apolloguide says:

    My wife and I were married in 1969 and traveled through Newport by motorcycle and stayed overnight in the ruins of the Bells carriage house. It looks the same except in 1969 there was no chain link fence. The reef and the ocean waves gently lulled us to sleep. Many thinks to the fellow travelers on the road who suggested we ride into the mansion to camp out. It was magical.

  6. gymtrainerjoey says:

    I have researched and hiked around The Bells Stable and Carriage House many times over the last 30 years. Every few years I drive down from my home in Boston. I always visit the ‘haunted stables’, although each time they are in worse repair, and are now surrounded by a very ‘climbable’ chain-link fence. I also visit Seaview Terrace, a privately owned estate near The Breakers that was used as the exterior facade of ‘Collinwood’ from the 1960’s tv show Dark Shadows. Many a ghostly presence has been seen in the hallowed halls of the great estates. We still can still find the lost memories that lie in wait within the crumbling walls of the past. If you have the opportunity, go and see this amazing area before nature reclaims all.

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