Newport Mansions - Marble House
The summer "cottages" of Newport, Rhode Island are a lovely respite from reality. Most of these mansions line the beautiful Bellevue Avenue. These houses are lovingly maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County. You shouldn't look at the mansions as a celebration of vast wealth, but as an important part of America's cultural history.
Because Newport is cooled by the winds off Narragansett Bay, many of America's wealthiest families decamped from their mansions on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and headed to the nation's place of summer partying. To this day, real estate shoppers in Newport are shocked to find that very few houses and even condos are air conditioned.
The Mansions of Newport
For a preview of any of the Newport mansions visit the website of the Preservation Society, http://www.newportmansions.org. This organization does a fabulous job of preserving these architectural gems for present and future generations.
44 Ochre Point Avenue
474 Bellevue Avenue
120 Narragansett Avenue
367 Bellevue Avenue
54 Washington Street
Isaac Bell House
70 Perry Street
253 Bellevue Avenue
Marble House - See below for details and photos.
596 Bellevue Avenue
548 Bellevue Avenue
Rear View of Marble house
Marble House was built over four years from 1888 to 1892. It was built for Alva and William K. Vanderbilt. William was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt who formed the New York Central Railroad. William's older brother, Cornelius Vanderbilt II built a cottage nearby known as the Breakers LINK TO MY HUB. Marble House, like other famous estates across the country was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt. It was inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles in France. When the house was finished, William gave it to his wife Alva as a present for her 39th birthday. What a guy. According to published accounts of the day, Marble House cost $11 million, including over $7 million for the 500,000 cubic feet of marble alone. Apparently Alva wasn't impressed with the gift. She divorced William three years later after 21 years of marriage, something a lady of her set just didn't do. But she did.
One thing you notice when you enter Marble House is that it is rather dark. Vanderbilt opted for marble that wasn't just pure white, but various gorgeous colors. The effect is striking, but one result is a certain gloominess.
After divorcing William, Alva Vanderbilt married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, a wealth heir of his father August Belmont. The newlyweds moved just a bit down Bellevue Avenue to the Belcourt mansion.
The Woman's Suffrage Movement and Marble House
Alva Vanderbilt, later Belmont, was one of the most significant voices in the women's suffrage movement, and Marble House was the scene of fundraisers for the cause. In 1909, Alva founded the Political Equality League to raise votes for New York State politicians who supported women's suffrage. She also wrote articles for newspapers in support of the suffrage movement.
The Tea House
After William Vanderbilt's death Alva Belmont reopened Marble House. Remember, she owned it outright. She built a Chinese Teahouse overlooking the ocean. It's one of Marble House's great treats. It's one of few mansions where you can enjoy a meal. Plan to have lunch and take in the beautiful view of the ocean. The Tea House appears to be surrounded by a moat, which is really just crushed rock.
Marble House was donated to the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1963.
You can enjoy Marble House and all of the Newport mansions by purchasing a $35 ticket that enables you to visit five mansions. There is no time limit to using your ticket. I believe this is the best value.
Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran