Touring: Marble House

Last on our tour of the Newport Mansions (although there are more of them than we visited) was Marble House. Sadly, this grand home was our least favorite because of the sad lives of the couple who had it built. It was built in the early 1890's by Mr. William K. Vanderbilt. His wife insisted that she would only live there if it was an outright gift to her. And then, after only living there for a couple of years, she divorced her husband and married a neighbor. Her husband begged her to only separate, but she wanted to "set an example for women" (as the audio tour told us) and prove that women could initiate divorce. After marrying the neighbor, she used Marble House as basically "an extra closet".


While not the largest of the summer "cottages", it is considered the grandest, with $7-million of its $11-million building costs spent on marble.  And certainly the grand entrance hall has marble in abundance!...walls, ceiling, underside of the stairs, stairs.







Passing by the foot of the stairs, we went into the opulent formal dining room. Each chair is made of bronze and plated with gold. A footman was required for each chair, as they weigh 75 pounds empty.






The ceiling of the library.


This is the Gothic Library, with a large collection of books and antiquities. It was said that at the time Marble House was built, there were few museums in America, so scholars would make an appointment to come and study in the Gothic Room of the Marble House since it housed so fine a collection.




From there, we proceeded into the gold room. This room would've been used for grand balls, hence why the floor is wooden and not marble. Everything that looks gold in this room is actually covered in gold.





Then we ascended the grand, marble staircase to the second floor and its many bedrooms. Mr. Vanderbilt's gold bedroom was first. Very tastefully done.



Linked by a shared bath, Mrs. Vanderbilt's much larger bedroom was a profusion of lavender, and I couldn't help but think of Marie Antoinette while glancing about the room.



Back out in the hallway, we passed this servants' stairway...a masterpiece of construction!


Their daughter's bedroom was also quite grand. Consuelo Vanderbilt was forced, by her mother, to marry an English duke, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, in one of the many marriages between wealthy American heiresses and English aristocracy struggling to financially maintain their grand estates. (Think Downton.)


By stark contrast, down a small passageway, you find the bedrooms of her two brothers. I took no photos there, save this one of the beautiful silk draperies. Ahh...silk! There's nothing like it! Just look at that body! How it holds itself together so beautifully! Sorry...just a little crazy about fabric!


Then we took (a different) servants' staircase down to the kitchen rooms. The Vanderbilt china in the butler's pantry.


Nearby was an early hot water heater. And there was also an ingenious device for measuring the water level in the rain water cisterns on the roof of the mansion, saving a servant a 4-story climb up the stairs to determine it.


Although quite faded, I tried to enhance the contrast so you can read the list of servants required to run Marble House. After doing a bit of math, and dividing the mansion's square footage by the number of servants required, it seems I might need to employ a single servant for my home! Oh wait. That's me! That's just as I would have it too!



Then we wandered outside to take in the view of the house from the back, the ocean ahead, and the Chinese tea house that Mrs. Vanderbilt had built and where she hosted teas in support of her pet cause, "Votes for Women".



And that concludes our touring at the Newport Mansions. I hope you've enjoyed following along in our footsteps!

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