L was a social hub during the Gilded Age. John Jacob Astor IV wed in the ballroom here before an ill-fated return from his European honeymoon on the Titanic. While other area mansions have been restored by the Preservation Society of Newport County, this house is privately owned. Newport sits on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, less than two hours from Boston and just 32 miles from Providence. Founded in the early 1600s by setders seeking religious freedom, the town has been best known as a summer playground for the wealthy. should be Vanderbilt Hall, built in 1908 by Alfred Vanderbilt, son of patriarch Cornelius. It opened for business as Vanderbilt Hall Hotel in 1997, and the staff makes you feel like a family guest. In the Cornelius Suite, the spacious sitting room has a fireplace with a mantel clock and such books on the shelves as Samuel Butlers The Way of All Flesh, signed by its Liverpool owner in 1926. The inns 52 rooms are decorated differendy, but all are beautifully furnished with armoires, bedside tables, and more books. An indoor pool, original to the house, awaits downstairs, along with billiards, exercise, and massage rooms.