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In Newport, R.I., echoes of an eccentric heiress

NEWPORT — Rough Point, the Newport estate of heiress Doris Duke, overflows with enough antiques and old master paintings to rival a world-class museum. Then there is the architectural pedigree of the 10.8-acre estate: The prominent Boston firm of Peabody & Stearns designed the 105-room mansion for a member of the Vanderbilt family in 1887, and Horace Trumbauer of Philadelphia enlarged it for Doris’s father, James Buchanan Duke, in the early 1920s. Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, designed the grounds, which reach to the edge of the harbor’s famous Cliff Walk. Spanning a rocky cleft, a stone bridge, rebuilt from Olmsted’s original design, frames the chop of Newport Harbor in its perfect arch.

Yet even today, 20 years after Doris Duke’s death, it is not these material marvels that make visiting Rough Point so memorable. It is the colorful stories about this independent-minded woman that haunt every room.

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