Marble House front façade
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Our next Newport mansion virtual tour will take us to Marble House, the home (briefly) of William and Alva Vanderbilt. Now, if Vanderbilt sounds familiar, William’s brother, Cornelius, was the owner of The Breakers, which we took a look at earlier. Marble House is among my favorites – the interior is just absolutely breath-taking – it’s all in…you guessed it – marble!
Marble House is located at 596 Bellevue Avenue, just down the street from Rosecliff. Here’s a little social history first. Like the other mansions in Newport, this was used only as a summer cottage by the couple for 3 years from its completion in 1892 and 1895. The Vanderbilt’s divorced in 1895 and it pretty much sat relatively empty (as Alva had ownership of the home and she moved in with her new husband), except to be used as a glorified closet for the Belcourt Castle. Around 1908, when Alva’s new husband, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, passed away. Alva then began to use the home to host rallies for women’s suffrage. If you tour the home today you can see many of the “Votes for Women” memorabilia and even buy replicas of the china pattern.
Votes for Women China Pattern – You can buy your own!
Photo Credit: Newport Style
Like many of the other great “cottages”, Marble House was inspired by one of the great European architectural beauties – the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who became the architect for The Breakers subsequently. In contemporary dollars, the house cost approximately $11 million – in today’s money that would be approximately $260 million!!! And as you might expect, over three quarters of the budget went to the purchase of marble.
Marble House is comprised of 50 rooms, making it certainly a very large mansion. These rooms are spread out over four stories; however the building gives the appearance of only two. The kitchen and service areas are in the basement and the servant’s quarters are on the top level. On the first floor is the reception rooms (entrance, grand staircase, grand salon-ballroom-reception room, the Gothic Room, library, and dining room. The second floor was for the bedrooms and guest rooms. As you may imagine, many of these rooms reflect a French flavor – my favorite is probably the bedroom of Alva Vanderbilt – it is a gorgeous lilac color!
Alva Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
Photo Credit: Newport Preservation Society
You can’t visit Marble House without noticing the one object that clashes with all of that Gilded Age splendor – the Chinese Tea House located toward the back of the property along the cliff. The Tea House is designed to reflect a 12th century traditional Chinese tea house and was when Alva hosted many of her suffrage rallies.
The Chinese Tea House at Marble House
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
In 1919, when Alva moved to the European continent, the house was closed and stood vacant until 1932 when it was sold to the Frederick H. Prince family. They maintained ownership of the house until 1963 when it was given over to the Newport Preservation Society and subsequently opened for tours. Interestingly, the Society was able to purchase the house thanks to funding from Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the youngest child of William and Alva Vanderbilt.
If you visit Marble House today you can purchase a one house ticket or as part of the 5 property Gilded Age package. You can tour the grounds by yourself and the house via a self-guided audio tour. If you would like refreshment, you can grab lunch at the Tea House on the property. Marble House is one of the three properties that is open through the winter season and is beautifully dressed up.
Again, for some reason, I cannot find the photos I have taken of Marble House, but how about a look at this video? It was filmed during the holiday season but you can get a good idea of how the mansion would have looked in general (since Christmas would never have been held there as they didn’t live in Newport in the winter).
You can find out more about Marble House by visiting the Newport Preservation Society.
Have you ever visited Marble House? What do you think of it? How about the lilac room?
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