A visit to Newport, Rhode Island is not complete without a visit to The Breakers mansion. The Breakers, named for the breaking Atlantic waves it overlooks, is considered the most elaborate of Newport, Rhode Island's mansions, which were considered "summer cottages" for the wealthy at the turn of the century.
Earning a fortune in steamships and railroads, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) built a family fortune. His grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, purchased a wooden home called The Breakers in Newport in 1885. In 1892, a fire destroyed the home and Vanderbilt, a workaholic, was determined to rebuild and make the building as fireproof as possible. The structure of the building used steel trusses and no wooden parts. He even required that the boiler be located in an underground space below the front lawn. An international team of artisans and craftsmen was assembled to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance-type home. The home's footprint itself takes up an acre and encompasses 138,300 square feet of space on 5 floors.
In the library of The Breakers, the fireplace (from a 16th-century French chateau, (Arnay-le-Duc, Burgundy) bears the inscription “I laugh at great wealth, and never miss it; nothing but wisdom matters in the end.” Throughout the home are mosaics of acorns, the Vanderbilt family emblem, intended to show strength and longevity.
A fascinating read, documenting some of Newport's last private "cottages," is entitled Private Newport by Bettie Pardee.
In 1972, the Preservation Society of Newport County purchased The Breakers from his heirs and, today, the home is designated a National Historic Landmark. Over 400,000 visitors view The Breakers annually.
The Preservation Society has a year-round operating schedule for the Newport mansions. Though The Breakers is open daily, some houses are open only seasonally. Call (401) 847-1000 for more information.
The Breakers is open daily, while several other mansions are currently only open weekends and holidays.
Today, The Breakers is in the news as Newport's preservationists and residents fight about a proposal to build a visitors center on the grounds of The Breakers.
Live in the shadows of the mansions - come by my Open House
at 58 Bateman Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday,
February 1, 2014 from 11am to 1pm.
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