An Emblem of Newport History
Preserving Old World Elegance for New World Guests
Imbued with a visceral sense of history and gilded with architectural reminders of decades past, The Chanler at Cliff Walk is one of the most historic mansions in Newport, Rhode Island and one of the top landmarks in Rhode Island. The story of The Chanler begins in 1870, when New York Congressman, John Winthrop Chanler started construction on the "cottage" that would one day become The Chanler at Cliff Walk. Completed in 1873 for the steep sum of $30,000, the mansion was built as a summertime retreat for Chanler and his wife Margaret Astor Ward, great granddaughter of the distinguished businessman and millionaire John Jacob Astor.
As similarly grand Newport "cottages" sprung up along Cliff Walk, the Chanler mansion remained a summertime retreat for the family for over five decades. Prominent visitors of the time included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and President Theodore Roosevelt. During this period, the mansion became an emblem of Newport history and was known as Cliff Lawn.
A Period of Many Changes
From the time it left ownership of the Chanler family until the 1940s, the building went through many incarnations yet was still primarily referred to as Cliff Lawn. For a brief period, it functioned as the Tolethorpe School for Girls, served as a summer home to Bishop Francis Patrick Keough, operated as an apartment building to house Naval officers, and was even used for a short time as a historical museum, among others. Some of the artifacts from its days as a museum have actually been integrated into the current décor.
A Hotel Rises from the Ashes
On October 28, 1944, while the structure was operating as an apartment building for Naval officers, a fire broke out on the third floor from an oil heater in the main section of the house, causing moderate damage to the third floor. After the damage from the fire had been repaired, the building then opened as a hotel for the first time shortly after World War II. In its original state, the structure was a 30-room hotel. It was sold in 1956 and was subsequently renamed Cliff Walk Manor, as it remained for over 40 years.
Becoming The Chanler
The Cliff Walk Manor was sold in June 2000 to Detroit businessman John Shufelt, who temporarily closed the hotel to embark on an extensive three year renovation and refurbishment to the building. Shufelt sought to bring attention to the history and original elegance of the mansion, while at the same time creating a luxury hotel and restaurant experience as had not been seen before in New England. Along with his wife, Jeanie, Shufelt reopened the hotel in 2003 in its current format as The Chanler at Cliff Walk.