Rhode Island is known as the smallest state in the country but it's also home to one of the most prestigious cliffside mansions on the East Coast, The Breakers. This incredible 70-room mansion once belonged to the Vanderbilt family, who amassed their fortune via their trade, which was in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. The home was first owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who purchased the wooden house as it stood in 1885.
Sadly, a fire in 1892 destroyed the house formerly known as The Breakers. The following year, the mansion that can be seen today was built in its place. To say that The Breakers is elegant and lavish would be an understatement; each room features timeless and classic details that date back to the 16th century, with appropriate colors and fabric to match. Every inch of its 70 rooms has been meticulously decorated, and each room is quite breathtaking in its extravagance. This is what you can see on a tour of The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.
The Style And Function Of The Breakers
The home was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, with the intention of each room following a traditional Italian Renaissance style. This was achieved and with no detail left out, as is evident by the rooms throughout this stunning mansion. The style of a palazzo is evident in every window treatment, color palette, and fixture, all of which echoes that same 16th-century look and feel.
The house was also constructed with brick and steel so as to avoid any fire hazards in the future, and the boiler room was placed at the opposite end, rather than directly underneath. After the house was inherited by Gladys Vanderbilt, who eventually married Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary, it was sold to the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1972, which Gladys was a huge supporter of. Today, The Breakers is open for tours daily, with hours varying seasonally.
The Breakers Audio Tour
Guests on tours of The Breakers have two audio options to choose from: the main audio or the Family Tour. Guests will be given a pair of headphones through which they can listen to stories, anecdotes, and historical details about the home that haven't been heard outside of the tour itself. Details from family letters, records, and personal accounts are all included on this tour, transforming a historical house into the memory of what was once a home for the Vanderbilt family.
Guests have the same option to choose from the main audio or a Family Tour audio at Marble House, as well. As they walk through the house, they'll hear a first-hand account from Alva Vanderbilt as she describes the history and architecture of Marble House. A deep dive into this tour includes her account of rallying for a woman's right to vote, how she claimed her place in society, and her daughter's marriage into the British aristocracy.
Audio Tours For Newport's Other Mansions During The Gilded Age
The Elms tour is ideal for fans of artwork, as the entire house is home to an art showcase. The intention of the house was to entertain family and friends, and it served its purpose via its 18th-century chateau-style architecture. This tour includes details about recent restorations as well as what servant life was like at the home.
The hostess of Rosecliff, Tessie Oelrichs, is the main source of information for this audio tour. The house was built with the intent to entertain and its architecture and grand feel speak to that. This means of entertaining was carried on in traditional until the last owners of the house, the Monroe Family, hailing from New Orleans, eventually donated it to the Preservation Society of Newport.
Why Tour Newport This Way?
It could be said that the easiest, and best way, to explore a historic city such as Newport. While it's a wonderful city to explore in the modern-day, there's something so different and unique about seeing it brought to life via its most historic properties. Hearing the stories of the people who called it home and (literally) built lives there casts a different view on cities such as this. The grounds of each stunning home are also worth walking around, as they give incredible views of the surrounding area and help visitors get a feel for what life was once life. With the lives of families such as the Vanderbilts so ingrained into Newport's culture, visitors should be asking themselves instead: why not take one of these tours?