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A real-life ‘Downton Abbey’ in Newport, Rhode Island

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NEWPORT, R.I. -- As fans soak-up the last season of mega-hit "Downton Abbey," they can find a similar "upstairs-downstairs" drama on this side of the pond.

ServantLifeTour"The Servant Life Tour at The Elms is one of our most popular tours," says Andrea Carneiro of the The Preservation Society of Newport County.

A traditional tour of The Elms, an extravagant home from the Gilded Age, is complemented by this "behind-the-scenes" look, which begins at a side entryway.

"O'Brien and Thomas in 'Downton Abbey': this is where it would all occur, right here," laughs tour guide Raymond Roy.

Inside, the "staff stairway" visitors climb up 80-plus stairs to an area hidden in the architecture of this magnificent home, modeled after a French chateau.

Stairwell"The Elms, in particular, is the house that ran by magic, we talk about it that way," explains Carneiro. "It was really designed in a way that visitors to the house and guests couldn’t see the inner workings."

The servants lived in the third floor, which was hidden on the outside of the house by a tall parapet. In the early 1900s, many of the staff members came to Rhode Island from England or Ireland.

Sixteen sleeping rooms and three bathrooms -- for a mix of men and women -- feature oak paneled doors and precise moldings. Coal magnate Edward Berwind and his wife, Sarah, aimed to improve the living conditions for their valets and maids.

Bedroom"What this shows is an evolution of staff quarters," says Roy.

The third floor also features a unique call box with 48 squares to represent each room in the large structure. The device would alert staff when they were needed anywhere around the house.

"In the Gilded Age, entertaining was an art form and it was constant, so, it took an army of people to maintain the house which would always be filled with guests," says Carneiro.

Find more intrigue in the coal storage room, home to a secret tunnel that leads out to the main street. The tour ends in the stunning kitchen, filled with copper pots and a huge stove. TheElms

"Way more interesting than the main part of the house, really," says Steve Paquette of Pelham, New Hampshire. "The back of the house is always more interesting to me: the mechanical side, the way the staff functioned, the way the house ran."

Two intersecting worlds. Close relationships. Loyalty and work.

"It was the staff that made that lifestyle possible," says Carneiro.

In Rhode Island, fiction becomes fact. The Servant Life Tour runs daily, all year long. Click here for times and prices.

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