Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County Would you call a home with 70 rooms a cottage? If not, you’re obviously not Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
Marble House is a Gilded Age mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, now open to the public as a museum run by the Newport Preservation Society. It was designed by the society architect Richard Morris Hunt. For an American house, it was unparalleled in design and opulence when it was built. Its temple-front portico, which also serves as a porte-cochère, has been compared to that of the White House. The mansion was built as a summer "cottage" retreat between 1888 and 1892 for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. It was a social landmark that helped spark the transformation of Newport from a relatively relaxed summer colony of wooden houses to the now legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. The fifty-room mansion required a staff of 36 servants, including butlers, maids, coachmen, and footmen. The mansion cost $11 million of which $7 million was spent of marble. William Vanderbilt's older brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II subsequently built the largest of the Newport cottages, The Breakers, between 1893 and 1895.When Alva Vanderbilt divorced William in 1895, she already owned Marble House outright, having received it as her 39th birthday present. She remarried to Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont in 1896, and then relocated down the street to Belcourt Castle. After his death, she reopened Marble House and added the Chinese Tea House on the seaside cliff, where she hosted rallies for women's suffrage.Alva Belmont shuttered the mansion permanently in 1919, when she relocated to France to be closer to her daughter, Consuelo Balsan. There she divided her time between a Paris townhouse, a villa on the Riviera, and the Château d'Augerville, which she restored. She sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932, less than a year before her death. In 1963 the Preservation Society of Newport County bought the house from the Prince Trust, with funding provided by Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt couple's youngest son. The Trust donated the furniture for the house directly to the Preservation Society.