The next stop on our Rhode Island vacation was a self-guided tour of The Breakers. The most extravagant of the Newport mansions, The Breakers signifies the wealth and influence of the Vanderbilts—once one of America’s most powerful families.
We arrived on a crisp summer morning, the air cooled by the storm passing through Newport. For a fee, we were given access to the mansion with a pair of headphones detailing the importance of The Breakers’ rooms.
Below is a collection of some of the tour’s highlights.
This view of the mansion shows the builders’ attention to detail even on its exterior.
The Breakers’ garden was well-landscaped and painted a gorgeous picture beneath the cloudy sky.
Statues, sculptures, and gargoyles were scattered throughout the grounds.
This photo was taken from the bottom of the Grand Staircase. The skylight above was designed by John La Farge, a renowned stained glass artist.
Another view of the Grand Staircase—the detailed tapestry depicts a scene from Alexander the Great’s life.
The Great Hall’s ceiling—this was home to debutante balls, dances, and other formal events. President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy were guests at The Breakers in 1962, and other elite members of American (and European) society visited the mansion.
Another view of the intricate Great Hall.
The Dining Room hosted guests from the “400 Society” and other groups during the Gilded Age. The chandelier to the right is adorned with Baccarat crystal, and the entire room is decorated with gold. Mr. Vanderbilt even equipped The Breakers with electricity, an uncommon feature in those days.
Dolphins, the symbol of hospitality, are just some of the creatures painted on the Billiard Room’s ceiling mosaics. Decorated to resemble an ancient Roman room, the walls are made of Cipollino marble from Switzerland.
Modeled after the styles of the French and Italian Renaissance, the Morning Room was designed by Parisian Jules Allard. The walls are decorated with platinum, a resilient metal.
Furnished with a variety of crystals and mirrors, the Music Room plays homage to the Vanderbilts’ musical attributes. In addition to concerts, this space hosted celebrations from balls to Gertrude Vanderbilt’s wedding.
An avid reader, I quickly claimed the Library as one of my favorites. The walls are Circassian walnut, and the leaves pressed into the wood are made of gold.
This bathroom’s tub was crafted from one block of marble and modeled after a Roman sarcophagus. The faucet has four taps—an extra two for hot and cold salt water, which was believed to have health benefits. Did I mention The Breakers has twenty bathrooms?
This photo depicts the embellished ceiling of the Upper Loggia, which provided an excellent view of the lawn during parties.
At the tour’s end, I reflected on the true significance of The Breakers. Most of us would never expect to attain the notoriety the Vanderbilts once held in American society, yet this visit reminded me it’s perfectly alright to keep dreaming those big dreams.