Wednesday, May 21, 2014

There Was Gold Everywhere

Today we visited Marble House, another Newport mansion.  This one belonged to Alva Vanderbilt and her husband William K. Vanderbilt.  He gifted it to her for her 39th birthday.  In 1892, a gift of this caliber cost $11 million dollars.  Today, that gift would cost him over $282 million.  That's some gift.  And because it was a gift, when she divorced him in 1895, at a time when divorce was rare, she got to keep the house since she owned it outright.

This is one of my favorite houses so far.  It's amazing.  The house has 50 rooms and contains over 500,000 cubic feet of marble.  Stunning, cool, smooth marble.  This was the Vanderbilt's summer "cottage" and they only stayed in it six to seven weeks each year during the season.

They don't allow interior photos in the houses, so the following ones I found on the internet.  As you'd imagine, although impressive, they're not as nearly as impressive as seeing it in person is.

This is the Italian marble staircase in the entry foyer.  The Siena marble continues throughout much of the house and was specifically chosen for its golden hue, reflecting the light of the day and the gas lamp lighting in the evening in a way Alva Vanderbilt thought white marble never could.  It covers the floors and walls in every direction.

To the right of the staircase is the ballroom.  Entirely covered in 24 karat gold leaf.  That's pure gold, people.  It's beyond opulent.  A friend of the Vanderbilts described the 1890s as a time of "dazzling wealth, restless endeavor, ambition and rivalry.  The 'Gilded Age' had dawned.  It merited its name.  There was gold everywhere."  Literally.
On the other side of the main hall is the dining room.  The walls there are deep pink Numidian marble imported from Algeria.  The chairs are made of bronze, covered in gold leaf.  The chairs at each end of the table weigh 100 pounds each and the side chairs, 75 pounds each.  Servants moved the chairs whenever the family or guests needed to sit in or rise from them.
Most of the rooms in the house were equally impressive.  The kids' rooms were much smaller than I imagined and not decorated exactly as I would have expected - for instance, the daughter's room looked very masculine with its dark wood furniture and heavy red drapery and upholstered furniture and the boys' rooms were very stark - but were still interesting.  Alva's bedroom, on the other hand, was stunning.

Walls covered in lilac silk, made in France, bed on a pedestal, a painting that included cherubs on the ceiling.  It was visually stunning.  

After watching four seasons of Downton Abbey, it's easier for me to imagine how these people lived their lives.  What they did while at the houses, how they entertained their guests, how they spent their free time, what they ate, the clothing they wore, how the women sat on those tiny chairs so elegantly, the walks they took on the great lawns.

If they had air conditioning, I'd beam myself back to that time period and take up residence in that lavender silk-covered room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Two Telephone Poles And A Cloud
2012: I’ve Yet To Make Lemonade
2011: Alien Ribs Of The North
2010: White’s Bastard Cousin
2009: Jake
2008: I Might Have To Be Put In Restraints For Our Next Conversation
2007: People Who Are Happy To Help You Drown In Debt
2006: I, I, I
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.


Mick said...

So beautiful. I was just looking at the photos and thought you'd popped over to England for a few days. Well, once again you've ruined our vacation plans-we were planning to go to New York and New England next year, but now we'll have to slate in some more days in Newport!

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