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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Gilded Age

Last weekend, my hubby took me on a surprise trip to Newport, RI for our 6th anniversary. We spent a half day there several years ago and I’ve always wanted to go back. So when I realized that was where we were going, I was thrilled!

One of the many activities he had planned for me was to go see The Breakers, the famous mansion built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II during the “Gilded Age.” The size and splendor of the place was absolutely awe inspiring. I wish we could have taken pictures inside, but security was tight (though you’ll see we got a couple illicit shots!) We did, however, take lots of pictures of the grounds and the cliff walk just beyond, and I would love to share those with you as well as a little bit of history...Enjoy!

The Breakers was one of many grandiose summer homes in Newport, RI
during The Gilded Age.
They all abut the Cliff Walk, and this is a view of the home from the
other side of the hedgerows.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II loved two things: hard work and building houses.
The Breakers was the family's summer "cottage," and it cost $7 million to build
(about $150 million today!!)

With approximately 65,000 square feet, it has 70 rooms.

We snapped some illicit shots of the music room.
The family loved to perform together and often put on musicales in this room.

The backyard seemed never ending, especially with the vast expanse of the ocean just beyond.

The original structure that stood where The Breakers stands now burnt to the ground in 1892. Cornelius therefore insisted that the new house be entirely fire proof.

Huge slabs of marble were imported from Italy and Africa. The Gold Room was apparently constructed in France, disassembled and then sent to Newport to be reassembled there.

The Breakers is a palazzo style home, inspired by the 16th Century palaces of Genoa and Turin.

Cornelius is the grandfather of famed heiress and designer-jean maven, Gloria Vanderbilt,
and great-grandfather to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Views from the Cliff Walk are breath-taking. I can only imagine how romantic it would have been for the Vanderbilt daughters to sneak to the other side of the hedgerows for a romantic tryst during one of the many parties held at The Breakers.

Sadly, Cornelius only got to enjoy one summer of good health at The Breakers. He died 4 years after its completion of a stroke. Thankfully, his daughter wisely sold the house to the Preservation Society of Newport County (for a mere $365,000) so that her father's legacy could live on and be appreciated by thousands of visitors every year.

I hope you've enjoyed this little photo tour of The Breakers!

-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar


  1. How wonderfully splendid! Thanks for sharing, it's fun to live vicariously now and then :)

  2. I live vicariously through you every Tuesday, Erin! LOL! Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Oh, that is just gorgeous. I'd love to visit a building like that one some day. I could spend hours just looking around...and sneaking some illicit shots, of course. LOL. I'm a little jealous.

  4. Jerrica - Thanks for sharing. I love historic houses especially the big ones. Biltmore in Ashville NC is incredible. I also sit on the board of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance, our historic house in Washington Heights. It’s much smaller than the others but a wonderful representation of an 1816 farm house. Jeanine

  5. Catherine, I'm sure there are some great historic spots in Texas!

    Jeanine, The Biltmore was a popular family vacation for us when I was growing up in NC. I hope to go sometime with my hubby, as he's never been. I've never heard of the Dyckman Farmhouse! I'll totally have to make a trip up to see it!

    Thanks for stopping by, ladies!

  6. Jerrica,

    These are breathtaking pictures and inspire all kinds of story ideas in my head. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Julie, it was SUCH an inspiring place to be. I'm thinking of trying my hand at some Gilded Age stories myself. So many fun stories to be told from that era! Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Omg beautiful! I love these shots you took, they're gorgeous! I live about two and half hours from the Biltmore estate and have never been! I should be shot lol. I plan on going though in the next several years. I'm hoping to buy a house first, that's my first priority. Thanks for sharing Jerrica!

  9. The Biltmore is amazing, Melissa! You should totally just plan a day trip to go see it. Glad you enjoyed the pics!! :)

  10. This was lovely. It's been a few years since I've been to some of the homes in Newport, and I've got to go back -- I'm only an hour or so away, so I have no good excuse! (Plus there's a place in town that has the BEST mojitos! LOL)


  11. Ooh, you'll have to give me the name of the mojito place, Donna! I'm sure we'll be going back...I'm hoping in the winter to see the Christmas lights :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Oh wow - what a beautiful place. I'm glad you had such a wonderful anniversary. Did your hubby have to prize your fingers from the marble column in order to take you home?

  13. Ha! Practically, Heather! I just kept wishing, though, that I was in a white muslin gown with my hair swept into a chignon. Being in shorts and tennis shoes just didn't feel right in that setting. LOL!

  14. I love the blog. Love the pictures. But I mostly love the illicit shots. You're such a rebel! :)

  15. We've actually been to the Breakers twice. And loved it both times. What an age of opulence it was. Always fascinated with the fact that there was no income tax in those days and so they had all this disposable income -- and a lot of it landed in Newport. All the mansions there are worth seeing.

  16. Lydia, we ARE rebels! LOL! I'll have to show you our London video sometime...Eric would film openly until someone told him not to. It was hilarious. We have the inside of Apsley House and St. Paul's, among others :)

    Dee, how interesting about the income tax! I didn't realize that. But you're right, I wish we had had more time to see all the mansions. We did Rose Cliff a few years ago - I love that one!

  17. What a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures.