Cliffside Inn — The Original Home of St. George’s School

Swann Villa 1901

Swann Villa in 1901*

Newport features a rich array of history at every turn, including right here at the Cliffside Inn – the original home to St. George’s School, one of New England’s most renowned private preparatory schools.

Founded in 1896 by the Rev. John Byron Diman, Mr. Diman’s School for Boys, which would become known as St. George’s School, opened its doors to a dozen young men in the fall of 1897 in the residence then known as Swann Villa. Swann Villa, today the Cliffside Inn, was built in 1876 as the summer home of Maryland’s then governor, Thomas Swann.

In his memoires, Mr. Diman reflects on some of the good points of the location that we now call the Cliffside Inn:

“The eastern piazza was exceptionally pleasant, and in front of it there was a wide lawn sweeping down to the cliffs. The boys used to coast over this lawn in winter, and it is one of the things for which have had most reason to be thankful that none of them was precipitated into the sea.”

Swann Villa - St Georges students [1898]

Students of St. George’s School assembling in front of Swann Villa in 1898*

The early “Swann Villa period” from 1897 – 1901, established strong roots for St. George’s School leading to the construction of a new, permanent campus on  “The Hilltop” overlooking Second Beach and Sachuest Point, just across the bay from Swann Villa. Today, guests at the Cliffside Inn look across Easton’s Bay to The Hilltop and the beautiful classic Gothic chapel at the center of the St. George’s campus.

From Schoolhouse to Luxury Accommodations

Today, St. George’s School attracts young students from around the world and hosts many events throughout the year for returning alumni. Parents of students attending St. George’s and alumni visiting The Hilltop for reunions and other school events are frequent guests of the Cliffside Inn because of our historic connections with, and proximity to, the school.

St. George's Suite at Cliffside Inn

St. George’s Suite at Cliffside Inn

The Cliffside Inn offers 16 lovely rooms and suites for visitors, including the St. George’s Suite, which is tastefully decorated in the regal red and black school colors. The suite features a separate sitting room with a library and gas fireplace with a view across Easton’s Bay to St. George’s Chapel.

While you’re staying in Newport, we recommend that you take some time to visit the beautiful Hilltop campus of St. Georges, and as well as some of the other nearby attractions for our guests who are “in the know” — Sachuest Point Nature Preserve, Purgatory Chasm, the Norman Bird Sanctuary, Hanging RockSweet Berry Farms and Greenvale Vineyards.

The Cliffside Inn is proud to share its roots with the founding of St. George’s School. Whether you are a history buff, the proud parent of a St. George’s student, or a returning student coming to visit The Hilltop, we offer deluxe accommodations steeped in the history and beauty of this City by the Sea.

* A special thank you to Valerie Simpson, archivist at St. George’s School, for providing the images of Swann Villa and St. George’s students from 1898.

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