The Breakers, Rhode Island, is one of the most prominent cliffside mansions on the East Coast. The Breakers is the largest and most magnificent of the Newport mansions. It is located in Newport, Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States. This magnificent 70-room estate initially owned by the Vanderbilt family, who made their money via steamships and the New York Central Railroad. In 1885, Cornelius Vanderbilt II acquired the timber mansion as it stood and became the first owner. Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife Alice, who is frequently referred to as “Alice of the Breakers” set out to build a masterpiece.

The Breakers Rhode Island Cover

 

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History of The Breakers, Rhode Island

Vanderbilt first acquired the land in 1885, but the home on the grounds was destroyed by fire in 1892. The following year, the current mansion arose. Vanderbilt went to considerable lengths to make the new estate as fire-resistant as possible to prevent another blaze.

It is an understatement to say that The Breakers is exquisite and luxurious. Luxurious does not capture it. It is a dramatic extravaganza of sheer opulence and wealth.

The Breakers is a product of the Gilded Age. During this time, the rich built summer homes in Newport.  Steel trusses, imported marble, and fine wood led to some of the best specimens of Italian Renaissance architecture. The outstanding artistry, décor, and period furniture will transport visitors to the era where money moguls of the time spared no cost on their vacation houses.

The Breakers served as the family’s summer vacation house. Each chamber includes timeless and classic characteristics dating back to the 16th century, with colors and fabrics to match. Every inch of its 70 rooms is beautifully designed, and the luxury of each room is simply astonishing.

Change Of Hands

Cornelius Vanderbilt II died of a stroke after living in the house only for four years and Alice died in 1934.

Gladys Vanderbilt was given the house after she married a Hungarian count and became “Countess Gladys Széchényi.”. Gladys could not maintain the sprawling estate. As a result in 1948, she signed a $1 lease between her and the Preservation Society of Newport.  She and her family then moved to the third floor. 

The Countess died in 1965. In 1972, the house was sold to the Preservation Society of Newport County, an organization that Gladys strongly advocated for at the mere price of $365,000. Her children donated most of the furniture to the Preservation Society of Newport.

Who Are The Vanderbilts?

The Vanderbilts were among the wealthiest families in the world when they constructed The Breakers. Cornelius Vanderbilt amassed his wealth via railways and steamships, and his sons merely expanded the enterprise.

The Vanderbilt family contributed significantly to the industrialization of the United States. The Breakers, Rhode Island is a classic example of the Vanderbilts’ immense wealth and influence during the period now known as the “Gilded Age.”

The Vanderbilt Family Tree

Vanderbilt Family Tree Brit on the Move

The Style And Function Of The Breakers

The architect Richard Morris Hunt was tasked with designing the house. One of his goals was to ensure that each room adhered to classic Italian Renaissance architecture. This was accomplished, and no detail was overlooked in the process, as seen by the breathtaking chambers throughout the estate.

The prominent New York architect Richard Morris Hunt built many Vanderbilt estates, including the famous Biltmore in North Carolina.

Every window treatment, color palette, and fixture is designed to evoke the appearance and feel of the 16th century. This is what gives the Mansion its distinctive sense of style.

Brick and steel reduce the risk of future fires. The boiler room is located on the other end of the house rather than immediately below it.

Famous Rooms Of The Breakers, Rhode Island

The Great Hall is the first thing you’ll notice when entering The Breakers.  It will leave you speechless. Inspired by Italy’s famous open-air courtyards. It serves as the ideal starting point for The Best Newport, Rhode Island Mansion Tour.

The Dining Room: Every detail of gold and crystal will attract you to the dining area. This makes it difficult to concentrate on a single object. The ceiling is decorated with the goddess Aurora, and extraordinary chandeliers dangle over the long table.

The Breakers Dining Room

Billards Room: The billiards parlor at The Breakers, Rhode Island is a significant source of amusement for visitors. Observe the marble mosaics and the four acorns that serve as the Vanderbilt sign on the floor.

The Library: The Library’s walls are built of Circassian walnut and adorned with beautiful carvings. The stone fireplace is five hundred years old and is from a French château.

Gertrude Vanderbilt’s Room: While Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s rooms are lovely, we were most intrigued by their daughter Gertrude’s room. As a passionate sculptor, samples of her work are on display around the room.

Butler’s Pantry: The kitchen is spectacular, but the Butler’s Pantry is a sight to see. This two-story chamber is the staff’s headquarters under the butler’s command.

Music Room: The Vanderbilts were captivated by the music and played instruments themselves in the Music Room. The music room is where they played together and hosted extravagant parties for Newport’s elite.

The Breakers Music Room

Address of The Breakers, Rhode Island

Address: 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840

Where To Stay Near The Breakers in Newport

Booking.com

Touring The Breakers, Rhode Island

As you approach The Breakers’ front gate, the new Welcome Center, ticket office, and garden café are located to the left.

The Breakers Gate

After obtaining your ticket, you may ascend the gravel path to the grand entryway. The first thing you will see is the spectacular Great Hall and Grand Staircase as you enter the mansion’s first floor. The Breakers is over 65,000 sq feet of indoor space along with a 13-acre lawn. You need at least three hours to explore the Mansion and the grounds.

The First Floor

The tour starts on the first level. The four enormous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling in the Great Hall on the first floor are a fantastic sight. This room is designed to host gatherings. The sensation of being outdoors is created by painting the ceiling a sky blue with clouds painted on it.

On the tour, you will see the spectacular Dining Room, Library, Music Room, Billiards Room, Breakfast Room, and Kitchen. The kitchen is complete with brilliant copper pots and pans swinging and dangling from the ceiling. 

The Breakers Kitchen

Instead of situating the kitchen in the basement – a traditional at the time. Vanderbilt chose to erect it on the first floor of the side of the house to protect The Breakers from another disastrous fire.

The Butler’s Pantry is located right next to the kitchen. It’s a beautiful space with a mezzanine on the second floor and showcases some of the Vanderbilt family’s most exquisite china. The pantry includes a big safe in the wall where the family’s silver is stored.

The Second Floor

Even though The Breakers has more than 30 bedrooms, most of them were used by the employees on the third floor. There were just a few spare rooms on the second level, which surprises everyone.

Most of the Vanderbilts’ friends and acquaintances had their own homes in Newport. As such, they didn’t need many guest bedrooms. On the second floor, there’s a guest room, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedrooms, and their children’s bedrooms.

Mr. Vanderbilts Bedroom

Mr Vanderbilts Bedroom

Mrs. Vanderbilts Bedroom

Mrs Vanderbilts Bedroom

Easton’s Bay may be seen from the upper loggia, or second-floor balcony, which overlooks the garden. Take in the stunning views of the Great Hall and the Grand Staircase from the second floor while you explore the rest of the estate. You can see the size of the Great Hall from this vantage point.

The Breakers Gardens

The grounds and rear of The Breakers are a great place to spend some time after exploring the house’s interior. A team of 20 people keeps the garden and lawn in pristine condition. If the surf is up, you might hear the waves breaking on the rocks below. It’s these waves that gave birth to the name “The Breakers”.

It’s easy to envision the lavish summer celebrations that took place here in the past. It has spectacular views of Easton Bay from its waterfront location.

Breakers Gardens

Maintaining the lawns and gardens of Newport’s mansions is costly and time-consuming. This is why the Newport Mansions often have large backyards that face the ocean. The Breakers’ 14-acre site has recently undergone a revitalization project that will finish in stages over five years. 

The Breakers Family Tour

The Family Tour enables parents and children to tour the famous Vanderbilt summer “cottage,” envisioning themselves directly experiencing the history produced in this grand Gilded Age Mansion.

As the mansion reveals its secrets during this audio tour, you will hear from family members and staff. In addition, you will hear from fantastic animals like the friendly dolphin lurking under the grand staircase, the lions of the Music Room, and the dragons of the Dining Room.

You’ll also get to experience a summer day in the lives of one of the Vanderbilt children. You will learn about the kitchen’s masters, Monsieur Le Chef, and his assistant. Also, listen to imaginary acrobats pile feet high to scale the Great Hall and learn all the “rules” the youngsters at The Breakers were required to follow.

Using imagination, the tour explains the architecture, design, and interior decoration. Lastly, the tour articulates the significance of historic preservation.

The Breakers Revealed

In 2009, the Preservation Society of Newport County launched “The Breakers Revealed,” a popular audio tour based on a decade of study and oral history from family members and staff who grew up there. It takes young people on a journey through one of the 19th century’s most opulent private residences. It exposes them to a period and a place far apart from the current day via detailed documentation of historical facts.

App-Tours Vs. Guided Tours 

Guided tours were available before the pandemic. However, all excursions are currently via the Newport Preservation Society App. This enables guests or visitors to go at their own pace, and we can attest that the app-based approach works wonderfully.

Before your visit,  download the app by searching for Newport Mansions in the App Store. Docents will be accessible and happy to answer any questions you may have while touring the building.

Your app-based tour of The Breakers covers the first and second floors and the kitchen and butler’s pantry. In addition, you have access to the grounds.

Parking at The Breakers

The parking lot is right across the street from the main entrance, and it’s free.  There are also bicycle racks, which is a terrific way to get about Newport.

When Should You Visit?

Peak season is the summer months and it is packed. If you can handle crowds then summer is the best time because the weather is perfect. This said, visiting The Breakers at Chrismas is a magical experience.

Consider traveling from early to mid-spring or autumn, when temperatures are pleasant, crowds are few, and lodgings are more affordable. 

Sightseeing in Newport, Rhode Island

One of the most popular things to do in Newport is to tour the Breakers Mansion.   After the estate, you can take a stroll along the breathtaking Newport Cliff Walk. Or, take an additional tour:

Tours In Newport, Rhode Island

Closing Thoughts

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, is the finest and most extravagant of all the grand mansions of the Gilded Age. It’s hard to believe that The Breakers and most of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions were only used for six to eight weeks each summer.

Can you imagine having a property of this size and lavishness and just spending a few weeks there?

The Breakers is the largest and most magnificent of the Newport summer house mansions.  If you visit only one Newport Mansion, this should be it.

Looking for more posts on historical American homes? Start here:

Author’s Bio

Aubrey MooreAubrey Moore is a freelance writer and home renovation enthusiast living in New York City. She keeps up to date with the newest trends and then passes this knowledge on to her audience. When Aubrey isn’t researching and writing, she is out playing volleyball with her friends or taking a Cruise to Falkland through Quark.

 

 

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