Marble House
(Vanderbilt Mansion)



Marble House is one of the Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, now open to the public as a museum. It was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, and said to be inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles (which it resembles in little more than pilasters and balustrades).

Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for William Kissam Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. The house was a social landmark that helped spark the transformation of Newport from a relatively relaxed summer colony of wooden houses to the now legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.

It was reported to cost $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet (14,000 m³) of marble ($260,000,000 in 2009 dollars). Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife Alva Erskine Smith as her 39th birthday present. William Vanderbilt's older brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II subsequently built the grandest of Newport cottages, The Breakers, between 1893 and 1895.

After the Vanderbilts divorced in 1895, Alva married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, moving down the street to Belcourt. After his death, she reopened Marble House and added a Chinese Tea House on its seaside cliffs, where she hosted rallies for women's suffrage. She sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932. Prince's estate gave the house and its furnishings to thePreservation Society of Newport County in 1963.


Chinese Tea House, near the Marble House, Newport, RI
In 1971 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Five years later theDepartment of the Interior designated it, and the Bellevue Avenue Historic District in which it is located, as National Historic Landmarks.
Marble House is considered one of the finest and most extravagant summer "cottages" built in Newport, Rhode Island, and for that matter during America's Gilded Age. Using the Vanderbilt fortunes amassed through steam shipping and railroading over the previous two generations, William K. and Alva Vanderbilt commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design and build along the Bellvue Avenue ocean lot the "finest cottage money can buy". Four years, over 300 European artisans and 11 million dollars later, the Vanderbilt's were one step closer to buying their way into high society. Fascinated with King Louis XIV of France, Alva couldn't be happier to receive Marble House for her 39th birthday. Hunt's neoclassical expression combines the elevation of the Petit Trianon at Versailles with the Washington DC White House portico.

Marble House Gold Ballroom

Rear view of Marble House, a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, facing sea.
Through the massive Corinthian columns, past the 10 ton bronze, steel and crystal grille entranceway, and into the main entry hall made entirely of yellow Sienna marble, one can no doubt be impressed by the wealth and power of the Vanderbilt family.

Gold Dining Room

Gothic Room