Jennifer Lawrence, 29, will reportedly be tying the knot with art gallery director Cooke Maroney, 34, in Newport, Rhode Island, this weekend. Her rumored wedding venue, Belcourt of Newport, is a historic mansion with a shocking history.
The seaside town on Aquidneck Island is home to some of the most impressive homes in the country. Formerly owned by American industrialists and financiers like the Vanderbilts and Astors — who dubbed the enormous private houses “summer cottages” — most of the properties are now looked after by the Preservation Society of Newport County and are open to the public for tours.
The most famous of these Gilded Age mansions include The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and Rosecliff — but Lawrence’s potential venue is a newcomer to the tourist circuit, with some far less savory periods in its history.
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The 40,000-square-foot house was designed in 1894 by the renowned American architect Richard Morris Hunt, commissioned by Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and decorated by his second wife Alva Vanderbilt. But in 1956, when the town had fallen out of fashion and the homes built there were deemed too big to function, it was sold to the Tinney family for a reported $25,000 (about $235,000 today).
The family owned it for decades according to a local source. Other residents weren’t thrilled with the Tinney’s unsophisticated, anachronistic decorating choices, the addition of an elaborate gate on the town’s showplace street, Bellevue Avenue, and the addition of “Castle” to Belcourt’s name.
After the death of her husband, Ruth Tinney, then in her 80s, entered into an unusual relationship with the property’s plumber, Kevin Koellisch, fueling less-than-flattering public opinion. The plumber moved in and escorted Mrs. Tinney around town, to her son’s dismay, the local source says. She later legally adopted Koellisch, then in his 30s, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Following her death, he continued to live on the third floor of the house as it fell into a state of decay.
In the 1990s, the property became notorious for hosting raucous parties, the profits from which reportedly helped the family hold onto it in a time when nearly all the other Gilded Age estates had been donated for public use. One infamous event had a “No Underwear Allowed” theme. On entering, female guests were asked to stand on a mirror to prove they were abiding by the rule, the source recalled. Eight hundred people reportedly attended.
A cartoon in a local newspaper depicting “Sunday Morning on Bellevue” showed party guests slung over Belcourt’s stone walls and the famous street’s sign, surrounded by bottles.
After receiving little care for decades, the derelict mansion leaned into its spooky state, offering ghost and murder mystery tours.
It was purchased in 2012 by Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian, a Rhode Island native, for $3.6 million, according to the New York Times, almost half the Tinney’s asking price by some reports. It underwent a years-long restoration, and another renaming, dropping the “Castle,” and emerging as “Belcourt of Newport.”
According to Rafaelian, those ghost tours may not have been entirely unfounded. In 2013, she told the Times, “There were energies and entities, some not pleasant. I had a shaman perform ceremonies. We did a major cleansing, energy-wise. There was a lot of heaviness, but we took care of that. Now the house has a different vibration.”
In a 2017 Forbes feature she recalls the “before” state of the home: “It was, like, red velvet coverings and hoarder rooms,” she said. “It even smelled weird. But the house spoke to me. It was beautiful. It was historic. It had so much meaning. And there was a story to tell.”
It reopened for tours in 2018 and now also hosts special events.
If Lawrence and Mulroney do tie the knot at the storied property, it won’t offer much privacy. There are public streets on three sides of the suburban lot, including a stretch of Bellevue popular with tourists. The house does have a central courtyard and, inside, a horse stable turned ballroom, courtesy of Alva Vanderbilt. However, unlike other Newport mansions, the landlocked parcel doesn’t offer water views.
The chateau will host 150 guests over this upcoming weekend. Guests are expected to enjoy an extravagant menu complete with an array of hors d’oeuvres and plenty of dessert options, including s’mores, TMZ reports.
The couple may already have tied the knot officially in New York City on September 17. They were photographed outside of the Manhattan marriage bureau, where Lawrence smiled as she stepped outside with Maroney holding what appeared to be a document.
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The pair, who have been linked since June 2018, was also joined by two security guards, a photographer and a friend, according to Page Six.
Lawrence and Maroney’s union comes eight months after a rep for the actress confirmed with PEOPLE that the pair got engaged in February, after less than a year of dating.
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