Richard Morris Hunt, Part 4

The Breakers

Are you getting bored yet? Only one more R.M.H. post to go! Will you miss him? I'm sure he'll miss you! Two summers ago I fulfilled a lifelong dream to go to Newport, RI. Some might say this was the playground of the gilded age - just R.M.H.'s cup of tea! I went during the famous jazz festival ( think louis armstrong and Bing Crosby in 'High Society' -thats newport and the festival ) which was really fantastic. Imagine sitting out in a sailboat riding the waves, sipping champagne and listening to fantastic music -that was me 2 years ago :) But of course it wasn't all fun and games -I had NUMEROUS house museums to see -I was on a schedule!!!
The front facade and driveway from Ochre Avenue ( millionaire row )

The most famous house in Newport ( and one of the most famous in the country ) is the Breakers. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt ( ya, his younger brother built Biltmore ) as his summer home from 1893-1895, the Breakers is a 70 room mansion with 65,000 SF. Thats like.....super-target sized! The original cost was $7 million dollars ( $150 million in todays money). Like most of the mansions in Newport, the Breaker's rear facade faces the Atlantic ocean and cliffwalk ( a path you can follow along the ocean past all the mansions ).
the Breakers from cliffwalk and the 30 ft tall entry gates

The Breaker's truly is breathtaking. You enter into a lavish great hall which rises 50 ft. high, 50 ft. wide and 50 ft. long and basically all the main rooms of the house open off of it. Ceilings are tall and windows large to catch the ocean breezes. It truly is a magical place. However, the thing that struck me about all of the mansions in Newport were the fact that the mansions are so LARGE and the yards are so small. These are all basically palaces built one upon the other! In scale, it's somewhat like current-day suburbs - houses were built to maximize the space. Until Biltmore was complete, The Breakers was the largest house in America and it's sumptuousness surely beats the Biltmore estate.
the dining room and the central great hall

One interesting tidbit is that while the Vanderbilt family sold the home for $365,000 to the Newport Preservations society in 1972, the family still has the right to use the 3rd floor of the mansion for their use and they do each summer! So one of the biggest tourist destinations in New England which attracts over 300,000 visitors annually is still essentially a private home! Smart owners! Plus while technically the building and property are owned by the preservations society, all the precious furniture on display is still owned by the family. So when you visit ( and you must! ) don't touch!
Those pictures not by me are courtesy of the Newport Preservation Society as to preserve the house you cannot take interior photos

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