Saturday, June 5, 2010


In the 1800's, Newport, Rhode Island became the playground for the wealthy. New Yorkers built beautiful mansions as second homes to spend summers in the cool weather. Commander Vanderbilt amassed a fortune of $2 million dollars. His son, William doubled it in a few short years. Money begets money and it flowed like water. The Vanderbilts controlled steamship lines and railroads.  The summer villa at Newport built by William's son, the modest Cornelius Vanderbilt, had a fifty foot high ceiling, decorated in frescoes marble carvings and gold leaf. The other rooms surrounded this massive central room to the house which had 138,000 square feet. The library has leather walls, another platinum panels.  Gold, marble, rich woods and lavish furnishings are complete, here. The opulence reminds one of European castles and royalty. In a sense, these American giants of industry were the first American Royalty.

 No pictures were allowed on the inside, though some replicas in the gift shop were from inside the house and made worthy photos. The Vanderbilt story is an interesting one and many good books are available there as well. The picture above is a decorated lamp post on the Breaker's driveway.

 The estate gates had just been refurbished to the tune of $35,000. The Vanderbilts kept 40 gardeners busy about the grounds. Its easy to see why these places were impossible to maintain.
 The new income tax law of 1913, followed by the great depression, did many of the mansions a lethal blow.  If they hadn't put some control on the barrons, America would have been just another Great Britain, with the wealthy upper class and the struggling, working, poor. Glad we can be that some of the largest mansions were saved to become open to the public as the Vanderbilt's Breakers and Cornelius' daughter's nearby mansion, Marble. The Breakers has been open to the public since 1948.
 We visited on June 3rd.
You can find other mansions open to the public at this sight and listen to the audio voices of some Vanderbilt children describing what life was like in the big house at the following link:

The visitor's center in Newport provides a map for visitors to drive around the lavish neighborhoods and gawk. Which we did. You can't see much, the gates and lamp posts make an impressive photos and the atmosphere, shaded woods, acres of lawn and mansions hidden behind then make for a lovely sight, even so.

We also drove around the marinas and yacht clubs in the fog. It had a beauty of its own.

People seem to love living here.


Newport Discovery Guide said...

Hey Mary!

You're right, people do love to live in Newport. I grew up there, and hope to live up there during the summers again eventually.

It's been awhile since I've toured some of the Newport mansions, but I look forward to seeing some of them again soon (especially the Breakers).

Thanks for the good post and pics.

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