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Vanderbilt Marble House

Great American Mansions: Vanderbilt Marble House


Railroad baron William K. Vanderbilt spared no expense when he built a house for his wife's birthday.
Vanderbilt Marble House in Newport, RI

Vanderbilt Marble House in Newport, RI

Photo by Flickr Member "Daderot"
Vanderbilt Marble House
1888 to 1892
Richard Morris Hunt, architect
Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Vanderbilt's grand "Marble House" cost $11 million, $7 million of which paid for 500,000 cubic feet of white marble.

The architect, Richard Morris Hunt, was a master of Beaux Arts. For Vanderbilt's Marble House, Richard Morris Hunt drew inspiration from some of world's most majestic architecture:

  • the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis (upon which Marble House's four Corinthian columns were modeled)
  • the Petit Trianon at Versailles
  • the White House
  • the Temple of Apollo

Marble House was designed as a summer house, what Newporters called a "cottage." In reality, Marble House is a palace that set the precedent for the Gilded Age, Newport's transformation from a sleepy summer colony of small wooden cottages to a legendary resort of stone mansions. Alva Vanderbilt was a prominent member of Newport society, and considered Marble House her "temple to the arts" in the United States.

Did this lavish birthday gift win the heart of William K. Vanderbilt's wife, Alva? Perhaps, but not for long. The couple divorced in 1895. Alva married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and moved to his mansion down the street.

Newport Mansions, the Preservation Society of Newport County, has owned Marble House since 1963.

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