Three Newport Mansions of the Gilded Age

In what ways do the Newport Mansions reflect the values and ideals of the Gilded Age?


Key Staff

Social Studies Teacher

Key Skills

Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Creative Thinking: Communication and Collaboration


Students will study three Newport mansions: The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House. Students will research the history, architect and architecture, and patron of each mansion to gain an understanding of the arts and culture of America's Gilded Age.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Learn about the historical period, the Gilded Age.
  • Identify the ways history influenced architecture and interior designs.
  • Interpret the patrons and the architects' intent in the exterior and interior of the buildings.
  • Learn how to identify various styles of architecture, and how architects use them to create a unique building.
  • Create small group visual presentations about the Newport mansions of the Gilded Age.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative Learning
  • Self-Directed Learning
  • Information Organization
  • Research

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
  • 1 Computer per Small Group
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Presentation Software
  • Word Processing Software
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should have an understanding of the Gilded Age in American history. They should also be familiar with the Newport Mansions, exemplars of Gilded Age style and architecture.

Prior Student Knowledge

Familiarity with the Gilded Age

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab
  • Media Center or Library


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


  • Test internet connection
  • Make necessary photocopies

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.



1. Ask students to imagine they are the richest people in the United States and are going to build a second home just for use in the summer. What would it look like? Where would it be located? How would it be furnished? Ask students to record their thoughts on the Magnificent Summer Home worksheet located within the Resource Carousel. Give students several minutes to do this.

2. Ask two or three students to share their writing/sketches with the class.

Build Knowledge

1. Explain to students that during this unit, they will learn about the life, arts, and everyday culture and society of citizens during the Gilded Age (1870-1910).

2. Distribute the Newport and the Gilded Age handout to the students located within the Resource Carousel. Allow students time to read and comprehend the information.

3. Divide the students into pairs or small groups. Tell students that they will use the Internet to research general characteristics of the Gilded Age. Each group must cite 5 characteristics of the Gilded Age. Students may use the following two sites for their research:

Students can also try a Google search for the term "gilded age." Give students some time to complete their research.

4. Have each group discuss some of the facts they found out about this time period and how it compares and contrasts with today's society. Students should record their ideas on the Compare and Contrast Venn Diagram located within the Resource Carousel. You may wish to create a master list of the Web sites used for research by each group and distribute to the class for future reference.


1. Distribute the Characteristics of a Gilded Age Mansion handout located within the Resource Carousel. Divide the class into three groups. Each group will be assigned one of the Newport Mansions to research. Each group will use Powerpoint or Keynote software or printed visuals to create an historical tour and visual presentation to the class.

Groups will be divided as follows:

2. Distribute to the groups the corresponding handouts located within the Resource Carousel. Distribute to each group the Architecture Vocabulary handout as well as the Research Suggestions handout. Allow students ample time to read the handouts.

Each student in the group may choose to become an expert in one specific area of the mansions such as the ground, exterior, first floor etc. Walk around to each group, offering suggestions and feedback about how to conduct their research and construct their presentation. Students should use the sites listed on the Research Suggestions handout, located within the Resource Carousel, to research each mansion.

3. Distribute the Study Questions found in the Resource Carousel to guide students’ research. Students may use handout to assist them in their research. (Note: you may add, delete, or create your own study questions if you prefer.)

4. Give students at least 2-3 class hours and independent/homework time to research and prepare their presentation.

5. Once their research is complete, have student groups make their presentation about each mansion. Allow time for class to ask questions and give feedback after each presentation.


1. Explain to students that they will be writing a brief essay in which they respond to the following essay prompt. If you wish to distribute to your students a hard copy of the Essay Prompt, you may find one in the Resource Carousel.

During the Gilded Age, some people expressed their wealth by building opulent mansions. In what ways do people today express extreme wealth? Why is this important to them?


Use the Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel to evaluate your students’ work.

Extending the Learning

  • Explore a virtual tour of The Elms on PBS's American Experience site. Have students develop questions to address as they go through the tour.
  • There are many historic homes, now museums, throughout the United States. Using this type of lesson format, students may develop their own interpretive plan on the historic houses near their home or school. This type of research/activity unit makes a field trip to an historic house more than "just a tour".


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education

Grade 9-12 Music Standard 6: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

Grade 9-12 Music Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes



Daniella Garran
Original Writer

Joyce Payne
Original Writer

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Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



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