When I was growing up, my sisters and I often stayed with our grandparents in Bristol, RI when we had time off from school. Some of my favorite In the late afternoon, we would occasionally drive to Newport and cruise by a stretch of ocean front mansions formerly owned by some of America’s most wealthy and powerful families, stopping for ice cream on the way home or Colt State Park to watch the sunset.
It wasn’t until I was dating my husband and we took a weekend trip to Newport that I actually toured the inside of one of these homes, The Breakers Mansion, formerly owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Vanderbilt and his family spent most of the year in New York City, and traveled to their Newport vacation home every summer. The Breakers is referred to online as a summer cottage, but truthfully it is a behemoth that takes two and a half hours to tour. The home is opulent and full of fascinating details, for example, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was designed as a perfect oval, and all of the doors were cut into the wall so that nothing would disrupt the symmetry of the room. The home has 70 rooms total, and the family usually only spent 6 weeks there each year.
The tour only allowed for photography outside of the home, which in hindsight actually gives the photos I took the feeling you have the entire time you are in The Breakers, that you are an outsider getting a glimpse at an incomprehensible lifestyle.