ELLEVUE HOUSE ON THE WORLD-FAMOUS
Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island, had lain
empty for almost seven years before Ronald Lee Fleming,
a Cambridge, Massachusetts, urban planner and preserva-tionist, bought the 1910 Federal Revival structure in 1999.
To the relief of all, the new owner painstakingly restored
the mansion designed by none other than renowned
architect and interior designer Ogden Codman Jr. for his
third cousin, Martha Codman. As his guide, Fleming had
both old photos and the influential 1897 handbook The
Decoration of Houses, which Codman wrote with his friend
Edith Wharton, who had summered down the street.
But what really knocked the socks off Newport society was what Fleming did with the 3½-acre grounds.
“The garden is attracting more attention than the house!”
Like many a Newport estate, the property has a color-
ful pedigree. Though Codman designed it for his cousin,
he hoped to inherit it himself, but he was thwarted when,
at age 66, she married Maxim Karolik, a Russian-Jewish
opera singer half her age. She had already inherited some
of the country’s finest early furniture, silverware, needle-
work, and oil portraits from her ancestors, the Derbys,
early millionaire merchants from Salem, Massachusetts.
Fascinated, Karolik himself became an ardent art collec-
tor. Altogether, the couple bequeathed a staggering 1,200
objects to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. (Many pieces
in the collection are now on view in the MFA’s new Art
of the Americas wing.)
a fountain spouts water in front of the Allée, which leads to a reproduction of an 18th-century teahouse designed by Samuel McIntire. An excedra (facing page, top), a curved bench the ancient Greeks and Romans designed to inspire philosophical discussions, adds a classical touch. The new latticework gazebo at he Allée center (facing page, bottom) frames the teahouse, built for Martha Codman in 1922.