To borrow from Mr. Rodgers, today was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. NYC has been in the upper 70’s most of this week and today as the sun was shining I forgot it was only March and I felt like I should be planning a summer road trip. Actually any excuse for a vacation is fine by me. But today I was in the mood for Rhode Island. I say in the mood for because I crave locations the way most people crave food. Now don’t get me wrong, clearly from past blogs I am a woman that craves carbohydrates with the best of them, but mostly I use it as an excuse to travel someplace new. I get these overwhelming urges of a place that I have to visit that year and that’s how I decide where to go.
I have to confess I have only been to Rhode Island once, for an afternoon, and didn’t get to see much. I have great plans to go back and a folder filled to the brim of what I will do when I get there. But my desktop on my work computer is a pleasant reminder of what I did get to see when I was there. It is a place and palace of a family I wish I was a part of and a time that seems hard to comprehend.
The Vanderbilt’s are American royalty. They are among the legendary families from the Gilded Age like the Rockefellers, Dupont’s, and the Astor’s. Among their descendants are Gloria Vanderbilt, and her son and my obsession, Anderson Cooper.
I have always had a fascination with the past both because of the history and the grandeur. To picture that the Vanderbilt’s once lived on Fifth Avenue in the space that now encompasses an entire department store is mind blowing. But when that city life became too stressful for them they needed a retreat so they did what was popular of their time, they built one on the shores of Rhode Island.
Newport, Rhode Island has several beautiful well restored homes available for tours thanks to The Preservation Society of Newport County. Their motto is “We seek to inspire and promote an appreciation of the value of preservation to enrich the lives of people everywhere.” I think that is amazing. It is even more amazing that because of such a great mission statement and the donations they receive I am able to step back into the 1890’s and marvel at a lifestyle that still seems remarkably modern and grand.
“If the Gilded Age were to summed up by a single house, that house would have to be The Breakers.”
It was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893 and was completed less than two years later. The house was compiled stone by stone by countless employees working around the clock. Entire rooms were created in Europe and then put back together once in R.I.
When you walk up to this house you get the feeling you are approaching a great pyramid. The vastness of this mansion doesn’t even seem to come across in my pictures. No matter the angle or how many I took, I could never seem to capture it. The house had a feeling all its own.
I have always wanted to own a mansion and name it. I think houses that have names are fun especially if they have a meaning behind them. The Breakers was named for the water breaking on the shore line it was built on.
My favorite area I think is the great hall in the entryway. It is so impressive to see the second floor with the marble columns that go all around. From this vantage point you can also see out the back veranda out to the water. That is where the really stunning views are especially from the second floor.
Did you ever see that movie Clue? You know it was Mrs. White with the candlestick in the conservatory? Well this house kind of reminds me of that minus the murder. It has a billiard room, a breakfast room, main dining hall (because you can’t eat in the same room twice in one day that’s bad manners), a library with a model of an elder Vanderbilt I swear could pass for Anderson today, the ladies reception room, a music room, and more bathrooms than I could count. The bathtubs even had saltwater! The kitchen was incredibly enormous and ran the full length of the house. There are seventy rooms in total with thirty-three for the domestic staff. It was said that Mrs. Vanderbilt could throw a party for two hundred without calling for extra help. Talk about bragging rights.
The great thing about Newport is that there is parking at each house or even a trolley ride to each house if you are prepared to spend the day. I was visiting Mystic when I spent the afternoon here. I hope to go back soon and spend several days in Newport taking in several more houses and the infamous Cliff Walk. This is several miles along the water where you get to see the houses from the outside only but it is suppose to be gorgeous. I would also love to take a boat tour and of course enjoy more of the local cuisine. The day I was here I did manage to fit in one meal. I had my very first lobster roll at The Porch restaurant. It did not disappoint! It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
I had been waiting a long time to visit The Breakers and I was happily exhausted on the ride back having crossed it off my bucket list.
For The Breakers
For information on the Vanderbilt’s