In Europe the Royalty built castles and palaces. In America the rich people built large mansions. During the 19 th century, the wealthiest New York bankers and business families chose Newport, Rhode Island as their summer resort. This was pre-income tax America, their fortunes were fabulous and their 'summer cottages' - actually mansions and palaces - were fabulous as well. Most Newport Mansions are on Bellevue Ave, and they frequently turn up as settings for films like The Great Gatsby and many PBS series. Several of these fabulous mansions are open to the public. I visited Newport in 1981, 27 years ago. At that time I took slide pictures and some of them were restored for this presentation. You can see a younger version of myself and my daughters! I added also some pictures from the internet. I selected four of these mansions for my presentation. The Breakers and Rosecliff are featured in this presentation, Marble House and The Elms will be in part 2.
The Breakers is the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages" and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794 -1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad. The Commodore's grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1893 to design a villa. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo inspired by the 16 th century palaces of Genoa and Turin. The mansion boasts approximately 65, 000 sq ft (6, 000 m 2) of living space. The home was constructed between 1893 and 1895 at a cost of more than seven million dollars (approximately $150 million in today's dollars adjusted for inflation). The Breakers Mansion overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is named for the waves crashing into the rocks below the 13 -acre estate.
The entrance is marked by sculpted iron gates. They are 30 -foot (9. 1 m) high walkway gates and are part of a twelvefoot-high limestone and iron fence that borders the property on all but the ocean side. The gate is open, let's go in
One family building! (15 rooms for servants) Immaculate lawn
With its massive Corinthian columns, the solid-stone Breakers Mansion resembles a 16 th-century (Renaissance-style) Italian seaside palace
I am wondering how much it costs to heat and cool such a building
Breakers Mansion incorporates Beaux Arts and Victorian elements, including gilt cornices, rare marble "wedding cake" painted ceilings, and prominent chimneys
Very elaborate stone work
Magnificent stairway divided in two like the one that Tevia dreamed of, one for going up and the other for going down
The great hall soars to a height of 45 feet, four times the height of a regular house room
The elegant music room was constructed in Paris and shipped to Newport for assembly
Dining room with beautiful chandeliers
Some children have a playroom, others have a tree house, but the 7 Vanderbilt children had a Children Cottage! It was designed to match the style of the big mansion.
I hope that the weight does not give them headaches!
Original support for the light poles
When the sun is starting to go down, the big mansion gets a pink reflection
…and close to sunset it changes into a yellow shade Bye-bye Breakers
Commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. After the house was completed in 1902, at a reported cost of $2. 5 million (70 million of today's money), Mrs. Oelrichs hosted fabulous entertainments here, including a fairy tale dinner and a party featuring famed magician Harry Houdini. The brick walls were finished in off-white terra cotta tiles, creating a sense of lightness and grace. Mrs. Oelrich loved the color white. It reflected her obsession with cleanliness. Her instructions to her staff included changing the beds daily whether or not guests used the beds! What sets Rosecliff apart from the other mansions, is not simply its architectural features but its connection to the movie box office. Scenes from seven different movies have been filmed on its property, the first being The Great Gatsby, as well as True Lies, Amistad, and more recently, Evening and 27 Dresses.
The "White House" of Newport
My daughters Ruth and Mona posing for me 27 years ago
I am resting before taking the big tour
The Grand Salon has a fireplace with a mix of wellcarved stone and carefully-molded plaster. This feature sets the pace for the intricate designs around and on the ceilings throughout the rest of the mansion. Rosecliff can be viewed as a “symphony of molded plaster. ”
The ballroom—the largest in Newport—is an airy space thanks to the doors that line both long sides of the room and can be opened to terraces. A ceiling mural of a light blue sky spotted with clouds continues to bring the outdoors inside. Here, many a ball occurred including the White Ball in 1904. White flowers filled the house, women were allowed to wear only white dresses (and if your hair was dark, you had to powder it or wear a wig). Theresa Oelrichs, the hostess, asked the US Navy to move the fleet—the Great White Fleet—to the water behind the property to add interest to the view. When they refused, she ordered props shaped like ships to fill the water.
The big ballroom
It looks like you can see the sky!
Rosecliff can be rented for a variety of events. For $75, 000 a couple can enjoy a wedding in a fabulous setting (this is only a base price; one wedding on-site last year cost $1 million).
Crystal dinnerware and silver tableware were used for this wedding. Different magnificent flower arrangements were set as centerpieces for each table.
To increase the space for the guests, the terraces were covered and enclosed. (Not a very good aesthetical decision)
The grand staircase has an unique design, the curves of the two stairwells create a heart shape
Most of the furnishing are original antique pieces
We have to rest again after such an elaborate visit
In Autumn, the falling leaves became part of the decorum
The outside of the building has numerous statues and decorative elements
My lion tamers
She covers herself in front ……but her backside is exposed
Many children sculptures adorn the lawn
The mansion is nicely illuminated at night
I hope you enjoyed seeing what can be built when money is not a problem. But sometimes you cannot enjoy the results. Richard Hunt, the architect of The Breakers, died before the building was completed. Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the owner, had a massive stroke one year after the building was completed. Presentation and pictures (some from Internet) by Dan Calistrat dcalistrat@aol. com More Newport Mansions in part 2