Royalty of America - NEWPORT
Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
81Trip End Dec 10, 2008
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Where I stayed
Liberty Harbor RV Park
You've heard of the Vanderbilt's haven't you? Well I had too, but apart from knowing they were one of the wealthiest families in the U.S., I hate to admit it, but I didn't know much else. BUT I certainly do now!
It all started many years ago with Cornelius Vanderbilt and his ambition to establish a 'decent' transport system. To cut a long story short, he soon had ships sailing in and out of Boston & New York, and then with the foresight to see railroads as the transportation of the future, he built and owned New York Central railway. AND.. made millions and millions and millions.
In 1895 he and his wife (whom he'd met when they both taught Sunday School) , built their 'Summer Cottage' - called The Breakers. A cottage to them perhaps, but for us mere mortals, this is nothing short of an elaborate mansion of such grandeur I could not possibly know how you could even imagine it, let alone plan, design and build it. The ideas for this 70 room, 27 fireplace construction, were obviously taken from the homes of Europe, and reflect the opulence of that era. Some of the home, with gilded ceilings, artwork panels on the walls, and enormous fireplaces, were actually made in France, then shipped and assembled on site. At the time of its conception to it's completion was just over 2 years - that's with 2,500 people working on it, - architects, builders, plasters etc etc. It had to be completed in time, for the 'coming out' of their daughter, (of course).
Unfortunately, we are not allowed to photograph the inside at all, which was a disappointment, but the rooms were so huge, and the details so fine and delicate, a normal camera lens would not capture them, or do them justice.
We took a walk around the perfectly manicured grounds, and the day was brillantly clear, and the sun just glistened on the sea - it really was beautiful. In the grounds was a playhouse built, at the same time as the main home, for the children. It came complete with a kitchen, fireplace etc. A cosy cottage by anyones standards - except perhaps the Vanderbilts - for them a kids playhouse.
Next on the list was another Vanderbilt house built in 1892, just down the road, called the Marble House, and as the name suggests every room was made with marble - floors, walls, ceiling etc. The dining room was decorated with a maueve colour marble, with red upholstered chairs,with solid bronze and coated in gold for the legs. I give you these colours, so you can try and imagine the brillance. Remember, the ceilings are incredibly high, and every room has mirrors to reflect the light. It reportedly cost 11 million US dollars to build in 1892, and was built by Alva Vanderbilt (she called it her fourth child, she put so much of hereslf into it). Interestingly enough, they only spent 3 summers there, as she then filed for divorce from William Vanderbilt - the first society woman to do - and she went on to be a leader for 'Votes for Women' campaigns. She moved down the road with her new husband and the Marble Home became a fancy storage place, for clothes, linens and glassware.... Hmmm...nice.
There were many other mansions we could've looked at, and would've loved to, but just ran out of time. In fact, these homes are so much more than mansions they are palaces! The detail in these homes is breath-taking, and it takes so long to properly view even one of these and I just wander around with my mouth open most of the time .... And I'm happy to do so.
A lot of these homes (which remember were just 2nd summer houses), have been gifted by the families to the National Heritage Society, and so although we may not agree with the whole 'showing' of money, that they were obviously so inclined to do in that time, (to make their mark on the society ladder) we're grateful, that we are able to share in this piece of history, and have a better understanding of how the country and the world developed.