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 Donald Harold Tinney

Donald Harold Tinney

Charlemont, Franklin County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 17 Jan 2006 (aged 71)
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, USA
Burial Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, USA
Memorial ID 13066173 · View Source
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Donald Harold Tinney, was the only son of the late Harold Benjamin Tinney and Ruth Emily (Betzer) Tinney, died in Newport not far from his home, Belcourt Castle on Bellevue Avenue and Ledge Road.

He is survived by his wife Harle (Hanson) Tinney and numerous cousins. Donald descended from the Erwin Tinney Family of Charlemont of four boys and five girls. Ruth Betzer's ancestors hailed back to Queen Anne in England, through Edward Lord Hyde and Samuel Fuller of Plymouth, MA, one of the early English colonists arriving on the Mayflower.

From about 1936-1940, Donald lived in Lanesboro, MA, near Pittsfield. When he was three, the Tinneys purchased a house set in 125 acres of bird sanctuary in Lanesboro, MA, and when he was six the family moved to an historic house in Cumberland, RI on Angell Road. He went to Garvin Memorial and graduated in 1950 from St. Dunstan's Choir School. Donald studied piano and organ at Grace Church and St. Martin’s Church. One of Ralph Harris’ star pupils, he was a natural musician and composed extemporaneously from an early age. His piano and organ technique was inspired and original.

His greatest influence came from his private tutor Theodore Dexter, who taught him the art of observation. At sixteen, Donald joined the family restoration business Faraway Meadows Shop. As a teenager, Donald showed promise as a sculptor and in wood carving. Largely self-taught, with his mother's guidance in use of materials, he painted his head of Christ. Two other significant oil paintings were finished between 1957 and 1958. "Madonna of the Rose" and the Self Portrait of the Man in Armor". His antique collection began with the acquisition of an English chair, which he restored himself. The family collection soon outgrew the 14 room colonial house and large barn. For his twenty-first birthday in 1955, his parents, his maiden Aunt Nellie Fuller, and he purchased "Seaverge" on Bellevue Avenue in Newport from Mrs. Peyton van Rensselaer. After a year living on the ocean and having restored the 1899 former Gerry Estate, the family discovered "Belcourt", the O.H.P. Belmont estate. They purchased the derelict property in November, 1956. Donald was the inspiration for his family who enthusiastically supported his dream.
As Newport's Gilded Age Society waned the new generation tore down many great estates. Donald set his goal to save as much of the former grandeur as he and his family could. The work of restoration was endless. The Tinney Family's dedication to the task was complete. Donald Tinney, a polite reserved handsome six-foot bachelor, was wooed by a number of society debutantes but found their frivolous customs boring. He loved his work. His passion was collecting. On the other hand his mother cultivated enough social activity to host the Eisenhower press and musical.

At a Belcourt concert given by soprano Emma Beldan in 1959, he met Harle Hanson a student at Classical High-School. The following year he married her in a civil ceremony on December 2, 1960. He was twenty six and she was nineteen. Their formal blessing of the marriage was performed by Canon L. F. Ballard on August 25, 1961.

Belcourt Castle's spirit today is Donald Tinney. The furniture, the individuality and creative presentation of pieces from all over the world side by side regardless of political "correctness", indicates that old adage “vita brevis ars longa”.

In 1961 to 1989 he was the designer of St. Luke's Studio as a stained glass artisan. Among his best works is the series of windows in Holy Cross Polish National Church in Central Falls, commissioned by the late Fr. Edward Paluch.

Between 1966 and 1969 while making stained glass, restoring Belcourt, building the furniture collection and teaching his friends the skills he had developed he designed and built the gold coronation coach. Every project he undertook was grandiose. A lesser mind would be crushed by the magnitude of his ambition. He bought the rose granite columns from Union Station on April 16, 1964 to create his family tomb and mausoleum. The family resources never kept up to his expansive mind, but the magnificent columns were preserved, not destroyed or crushed under the highway. Those that see them just lying there after all these years should beware of judgment, for except for his family, few supported his dream. He never asked for much help—he just wanted to be left alone to create in his own way. The Tinney Family encountered stumbling blocks along the way but Belcourt stands as the family monument—not frozen in time, but living and growing. This was his dream.
He was an original founder of the Royal Arts Foundation and in 1969, was given an honorary degree of AFA by Vernon Court Junior College in 1970. In September 1998, he was knighted in St. Petersburg Russia into the Sovereign Order of Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem by Ct. Nicholas Bobrinskoy, Grand Prior. He participated in their activities throughout the years.
As we go forward into this new world we will uncover his genius. His fantastic drawings and concepts, his dreams for the house, his plaster sculpture for grandiose mirrors, his wood carvings and of course his stained glass works. He touched countless lives. Though solitary except for his family, he was the inspiration for a myriad of artists The firsts of Belcourt are too many to list—that will come in a volume as we record Donald Tinney's legacy in the years to come.

Entombment will took place in the Tinney Family Mausoleum at Trinity Cemetery, Portsmouth.

Family Members




  • Created by: Serenity
  • Added: 19 Jan 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 13066173
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Donald Harold Tinney (18 May 1934–17 Jan 2006), Find A Grave Memorial no. 13066173, citing Trinity Cemetery, Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, USA ; Maintained by Serenity (contributor 46561673) .