I think it’s time for a little travel, what do you say? Today, we find ourselves back in Newport, RI, touring another gorgeous mansion! Do you remember when we took a walk through The Rosecliff Mansion? It was the most romantic of the mansions we toured, and today we will be at The Breakers…the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages”! It is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. Cornelius Vanderbilt II was the grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt who had established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad. After Cornelius became Chairman and President of the New York Central Railroad system in 1885, he purchased a wooden house called The Breakers in Newport that same year. In 1893 after a fire destroyed the wood house he commissioned a new house to be built. The Breakers was completed in 1895. The design is based on Italian Renaissance villas. This house was their stage to receive the world, and foreign ambassadors and dignitaries came to enjoy the grandeur of this American mansion! Grab a cup of coffee…you are in for a “Gilded Age” treat!
The Great Hall was inspired by the open courtyards of Italy. But for all its opulence, the Breakers was always a family home. Generations of Vanderbilt grandchildren slid down the staircase and rode their tricycles around this Great Hall.
Fine European antiques furnish each room
The dark paneled walls of the Library offered an intimate and private space for family and friends to read or relax for afternoon tea. The stone fireplace came from a French chateau and is almost five hundred years old.
From floor to ceiling, the stone surfaces of the Billiard Room offered a cool retreat. This photo shows only the sitting area, for some unknown reason I did not get a photo of the billiard table. Each wall is covered in a single slab of Cipollino marble imported from Switzerland. The wall sconces are by Tiffany.
The detail and craftsmanship is remarkable! Every floor, wall, and ceiling is of the finest materials.
There are fifteen bedrooms for family and guests on the second and third floors of The Breakers. The rooms on the second floor are much more subdued than the grand rooms downstairs. All the rooms on the second floor were designed by Ogden Codman, who was known for his understated elegant style. This is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s bedroom. He only enjoyed one summer at The Breakers in good health. He suffered a stroke in 1896 and died in 1899.
Most summer houses in Newport had only one bathroom. This house has twenty. The bathtub was carved from a single block of marble. Notice that the faucet has four taps. Since this is a house by the sea, the extra two are for hot and cold running salt water. Bathing in salt water was considered good for your health at the time.
The corner Guest Bedroom has green panels on the wall. The decoration of all the rooms on this floor were considered simple and spare for its time. Ogden Codman, a young Boston architect, was responsible. Codman based his look for The Breakers on the classic style of eighteenth century France with the soft ivory and cream colors.
Codman was discovered by the writer, Edith Wharton, who had a summer house in Newport and she introduced him to the Vanderbilt’s. After he completed his commission for The Breakers, Codman and Wharton published a book called “The Decoration of Houses” in 1897. It became the reference book for classical design in America and is still in print today.
The beautiful skylight is by John LaFarge, an American master of the art of stain glass.
Pieced Pastimes, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Coastal Charm, Dwellings-Heart of Your Home, Savvy Southern Style, French Country Cottage, Stone Gable, Confessions of a Plate Addict, Worthing Court, Between Naps on the Porch, Cedar Hill Farmhouse, A Stroll Thru Life, The Charm of Home, Katherines Corner, Share Your Cup, 21 Rosemary Lane, Love Of Home, Rattlebridge Farm, Rustic & Refined, Celebrate & Decorate, Chatham Hill on the Lake