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Newport mansions

Tourists walk through the Great Hall at The Breakers mansion in Newport, R.I., Tuesday, March 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

America's Downton Abbey

The wild stateside success of the British period drama about

post-Edwardian aristocrats and their live-in help has piqued interest in

the life of servants in the Gilded Age mansions of the seaside city.

The nation's wealthiest families built Newport "cottages" in the 19th

and early 20th centuries and would move their households here —servants,

silver and all — from New York and elsewhere in the summer to enjoy the

ocean breezes and society scene.