5. The Breakers in Newport

The Breakers in Newport designed by Richard Morris Hunt
Photo courtesy of the Preservation Society of Newport County

Around the same time that Marble House was completed in 1892, Cornelius Vanderbilt II commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the Breakers, which took three years to build and became the grandest and most opulent of all the “summer cottages” in Newport. Hunt gathered an international team of artisans and craftsmen to create the 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo inspired by 16th-century palaces in Genoa and Turin. He brought on Karl Bitter to design relief sculptures, Allard and Sons of Paris to help with fixtures and furnishings, and Boston architect Ogden Codman to design the family quarters. The Breakers is three times the size of the White House and cost $7 million to build (roughly $220 million today).

As he did at Marble House, Hunt drew inspiration from a variety of European architectural styles. The library has coffered ceilings, walnut paneling, and a fireplace taken from a 16th-century château in Burgundy. The music room has gilt coffered ceilings and a French Second Empire piano. The billiards room was inspired by ancient Roman architecture, with walls of Italian marble and mosaics made of semi-precious stones. The dining room boasts 12 freestanding rose alabaster Corinthian columns and two Baccarat crystal chandeliers. The breakfast room was done in the Louis XV style. Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was designed in the Louis XIV style, while Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was designed as an oval and had four closets to hold her extensive wardrobe.

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