The Breakers at Ochre Point Avenue

The Breakers is another one of Newport’s famous Gilded Age Vanderbilt mansions that is under the management of the Preservation Society of Newport County. It is located on Ochre Point Avenue and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The mansion was designed and built by architect Richard Morris Hunt for Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Hunt’s five-story architectural masterpiece was further beautified by the interior design done by Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman, Jr. The home’s construction began in 1893 and ended it 1895.

The project cost over seven million dollars, an amount which converts to an astounding one hundred fifty million in today’s dollars. The Breakers stands on the site of Pier Lorillard IV’s mansion which burned down in 1892. Fearing the possibility of another fire, Vanderbilt insisted that his mansion be fireproof. Following his client’s demands, Hunt did not use wooden structural elements. Instead, he utilized the more expensive steel trusses. The designers used only the best construction and finishing materials for the Vanderbilt mansion. Marble was imported from Italy and Africa. Expensive pieces of art from all over the world were brought in. After all, the most expensive house should be furnished and adorned with the most expensive furniture and décor.

The Breakers houses seventy rooms on an approximately six thousand square meter area. In the basement are the laundry and servants’ restrooms. On the first floor are the entrance foyer, the gentlemen’s reception room, the ladies’ reception room, the Great Hall which can be accessed through six porticoes, the main staircase, the arcade, the library the music room, the morning room, the porch, the lower loggia, the billiard room, the dining room, the marriage chest, the breakfast room, the kitchen and its pantry. The second floor contains more private areas such as Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, Gertrude Vanderbilt’s bedroom, and Countess Szechenyi’s bedroom. On the third floor are eight more bedrooms and a beautiful sitting room with Louis XVI style walnut paneling. The attic, containing the servants’ quarters and the storage rooms, can be accessed from the basement without having to go through any of the three floors.

In 1899, Cornelius Vanderbilt II suffered a second stroke and passed away at the age of 56. The Breakers was left to his wife Alice Gwynn Vanderbilt. After thirty-five years, she, too, passed away and the mansion was inherited by their youngest daughter Gladys. Gladys leased the property to the Preservation Society of Newport County for an annual fee of one dollar. In 1972, the society bought the mansion from Gladys’ daughter, Sylvia Szapary, for three hundred sixty-five thousand dollars. The third floor was barred from the public as Sylvia and her family continued to spend their summers there. Sylvia died in 1988, but her children Paul and Gladys still make use of the Breakers third floor, while the floors below are explored by tourists from all parts of the world.