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Inside Champ Soleil, one of Newport's famously opulent mansions

by Kaitlyn Olvera (2020-12-05)


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The extraordinary Champ Soleil mansion nestled in Newport, where its palatial adornments are met with the timeless charm of a cozy summer escape by the sea, has hit the market for $14.8million. 

Found just off the famed Bellevue Avenue, Champ Soleil was built in 1929 in the world of socialites and heiresses escaping bustling urban life for jazz-filled summers in America's first resort city. 

The 13,000 sqft home main house, surrounded by luscious greenery and a massive weeping beech on 5.5 acres of manicured land, is a sight among the bevy of historic Gilded Age mansions.

'The gilded age summer cottages were built by America's most famous captains of industry,' the The Champ Soleil estate (pictured) was built in 1929 for Lucy Drexel Dahlgren, the heiress and granddaughter of Joseph W. Drexel, of Drexel & Company in Philadelphia

Champ Soleil is located on Bellevue Avenue in Newport Beach, Rhode Island, which emerged as a popular summer escape and getaway for America's former elite  The picturesque foliage that surrounds the estate creates an even more luxurious feel as tall trees sway overhead and manicured shrubbery creates a pristine aesthetic After entering wrought-iron gates, guests traverse up a winding driveway that is outfitted with pristine shrubbery to its gleaming wooden front doors.Once inside, they're met with opulent white and black marble floors, as well as a mix of coveted antiques and new home features that beautifully exemplify the current homeowners. 'I want people to know that fun was had here,' Joshua McKinney-Zarrilli, 49, told Pictured: Homeowners Joshua McKinney-Zarrilli (left) and Kenneth Zarrilli (right)McKinney-Zarrilli and his husband, reals estate developer Kenneth Zarrilli, 68, first moved into the sprawling mansion in 2003. Since then, McKinney-Zarrilli told WSJ that they have spent just under $10million to renovate and restore the breath-taking 22-room mansion.They're among a new era of wealthy homebuyers bringing life back into Newport's historic mansions and the private community.  The couple, who were among the first gay marriages in New York after it was legalized in 2011, have even hosted spectacular Halloween parties with up to 2,000 people and sword-swallowers. Mr. McKinney-Zarrilli told WSJ that the celebrations were 'a lot of crazy people having a lot of fun and also showing people that, you know, it doesn't have to be so stuffy here in Newport.'In fact, McKinney-Zarrilli admitted he sometimes liked to dress up in drag for tourists.'I'll put on a hat or a wrap and go out there and scare them a little bit,' he told WSJ. The Zarrilli's created a beautiful mix of old antique fixtures, new pieces and decorations snagged from yard sales to create a striking home interior - complete with gorgeous chandeliers and large windows  The blue walls of the Champ Soleil estate room offer a matte finish paired with gleaming hardwood floors and a beautiful dangling chandelier that illuminates that amazing space  RELATED ARTICLES



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McKinney-Zarrilli added that the couple had purchased and flipped more than 20 houses over the years, but saying goodbye to Champ Soleil was unlike any other estate.'This is hard for me to sell,' he said. 'It's been a stabilization for us and our friends.'They bought the home for $4.739million from the second wife of Russell Aitken, who initially owned the home with his first wife, Annie Laurie Aitken. The home was first built for Lucy Drexel Dahlgren, the heiress and granddaughter of Joseph W. Drexel, of Drexel & Company in Philadelphia.The home was later bought by Roberta and Robert Goelet before being sold to the Aitkens.  Champ Soleil descended into a media frenzy in the 1980s when Annie Laurie Aitken's daughter, Martha 'Sunny' Von Bulow, fell into an insulin-induced coma that led to the murder trial of her husband, Claus. Pictured: Opulent white and black marble floors led to a winding staircase that is topped with a cheetah-print rug McKinney-Zarrilli: 'My goal in here was, I want a little bit of old, a little bit of new because I want you to feel comfortable when you're in here. I want you to feel like you're not in an estate, you're in a home' Although several decades old, the Champ Soleil estate was outfitted with modern amenities like TV sets, updated home plumbing and HVAC