The Bells - Atlas Obscura

Once one of Newport’s grandest estates, The Bells, molders in disrepair at Brenton Point State Park on the Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island.

Originally known as “The Reefs,” the grand estate, the remains of which can still be found in Brenton Point State Park, was built in 1876. It was the dream house of lawyer Theodore M. Davis who eventually filled the space with the artifacts and treasures he had collected on his travels around the world, with a notably impressive selection of Egyptian artifacts. After Davis Passed away, the property was purchased by the Budlong family, who held the mansion until it was seized during World War II so that a defense battery could be built on the land.

The government gave the property back after the war, but the Budlongs simply left the estate to rot. In 1960 most of the house was destroyed by fire, and the wrecked mansion was eventually torn down just a couple of years later.

Today the only remains of the once great estate are the crumbling stone ruins of the stables and carriage house. While they are found on public park land, they have been surrounded by a chain link fence and are regularly patrolled by security forces. Despite this, urban explorers and graffiti artists have made their marks all over the interior of the old estate. The property was likely always a bit haunting, but only now is it a ruin.    

Update, 31 May 2023 - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management will likely have to demolish the remains of The Bells after three teens were badly injured when the roof collapsed under the weight of one of them on 30 May 2023.  The site is now completely fenced off.

Update, January 2024: The site has been demolished.

Know Before You Go

There is free parking. Find the big field and walk into the forest there. You have to follow the path (left or right) around carriage house ruins to get to the tower.

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