The Breakers, Newport RI – The Vanderbilt’s Summer ‘Cottage’

The mansions of Newport Rhode Island – the luxurious summer retreats of the super rich of the ‘Gilded Age’ and quaintly referred to as ‘cottages’. Amazingly, many of these summer houses were only lived in for six to eight weeks a year.

A quick recap, the ‘Gilded Age’ was a term coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in the late 19th century, satirising the greed and corruption of the governing class and the dazzling wealth accumulated by the likes of the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Carnegies.

The Breakers

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island, designed by Richard Morris Hunt

As we are looking for a new house with a sea-view we thought it would be a good idea to tour the Vanderbilt mansion known as ‘The Breakers’. If we liked it, we would make them an offer and move in before Christmas. Although our budget may not quite stretch to the 7 million dollars it cost in 1893 which is equivalent to 150 million dollars today. Also, we’ve just bought a doubtful Leonardo da Vinci painting for $450m to hang in our bathroom.

The Breakers was originally commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt who made his fortune from shipping and the New York Central Railroad.

The Great Hall, The Breakers

The Great Hall

The Mansion Tour

We took the main audio tour which leads you through the mansion’s rooms at a comfortable pace. It was very well done, although I don’t know what Mrs W was listening to for the first 5 minutes as she had pressed a couple of the wrong buttons on the audio player. Generally, they are quite easy to operate.

The Music Room

The music room

There are a number of points on the tour where you can find out more about specific family members and staff who occupied the house by listening to optional extras within the audio tour.

There is an audio tour for families which is aimed at parents and kids to enjoy together, it is narrated by a number of house characters.

Also, there is a free app available to download which includes audio, photos, floor plans and other features.

The Breakers Dining room

The dining room ceiling

We really enjoyed our visit to The Breakers and we would definitely recommend a visit if you are touring Newport, Rhode Island. We spent a good two hours touring the mansion and also visited The Marble House later in the day.

The Marble House was also designed by Richard Morris Hunt for William K. Vanderbilt, the younger brother of the Cornelius II.

The Breakers Balcony

The balcony overlooking the gardens and sea

Useful Newport Masion Info

The Breakers
44 Ochre Point Avenue
Newport, RI 02840

Opening Times
Open daily from 9 am except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day

Admission price at time of visit,
$24 for just The Breakers
$29 for The Breakers plus one other house (we did The Marble House – highly recommended.)

There is free parking at the properties except for the Hunter House

You are allowed to take photographs without flash and videos but tripods and dreaded selfie sticks are not allowed.

The Breakers Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island – Pin For Later

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  • Kavita Favelle
    November 25, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I can’t help but giggle at how the rich and famous used to call their secondary holiday homes “cottages” when they are vast enormous mansions to the rest of us! Your passage about checking them out as you’re looking for a new place made me giggle too! If only we could, eh? Love the interiors though I admit, I would never want to live in places so shiny and ornate, but lacking in comfort and softness.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 25, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      They are amazing considering they were only used about 6 to 8 weeks a year. In one room they actually had what they thought to be silver leaf wallpaper. It turned out to be platinum!

  • Siddhartha Joshi
    November 25, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I loved the story and also the subtle humor which made it such a fun read (Leonardo da Vinci painting :P)! I had no idea about the ‘Gilded Age’ so now that’s something new to read about this weekend 🙂

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      Ye, the gilded age before the first world war is quite interesting. They say we are actually entering a new gilded age with extreme rich.

  • Anu
    November 25, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Mansions show the new money usually acquired by the owners. Some of them continue to live by showing off their wealth to future generations for a fee. This seems to be one of those.

    However, I admire the way curators of these places recreate the lives of original owners.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      The mansion is now part of The Preservation Society of Newport County.

  • Panchami
    November 25, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    The interiors are so beautiful and the artwork is so intricate and detailed. I was wondering why this wonderful “cottage” was called Breakers.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 26, 2017 at 9:17 am

      It is a beautiful mansion – It sits on the water’s edge where the waves are breaking.

  • Tom
    November 26, 2017 at 5:22 am

    That’s the dream, to have a summer retreat for yourself. Most of those retreats unfortunately cost more than I’ll earn in a lifetime 😀 The details of the architecture look absolutely amazing though and very suiting for a Mona Lisa or a Edward Munch! Thank you for highlighting these awesome “cottages”

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 26, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Maybe if we did save we could afford the little shed that was in the garden.

  • Hannah
    November 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    hehe these were holiday ‘cottages’? The incredible wealth is kind of grotesque nowadays, but these buildings are so stunning. I wouldn’t mind a da Vinci in my bathroom, although as a museologist, I cringe at the damage that would’ve done to the canvas 😉 That coastline sure is gorgeous, so I can see why they chose the area!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      It was a great location and so much cooler than the summer in the city. Yes, maybe I’ll move the da Vinci from the bathroom to the guest bedroom!

  • Silke
    November 26, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    I have heard about the fabled wealth of these super rich East coast family in the US but I hadn’t seen any of the mansions on the inside. I also heard about the heiresses who would then marry into European nobility for the title. I love your approach, saying that The Breakers was not quite within your budget. 🙂 When I get to visit the US I will definitely check out one of these mansions, they seem worth a visit.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 30, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Most of the ones in Newport, RI are very close to each other so you can do 2 or 3 in a day.

  • Elena
    November 28, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Not bad for a “cottage.” I guess, to each their own. Regardless, of how you call it, the mansion is magnificent. I would expect to find such opulence somewhere in European capitals. The ceiling is captivating and the balcony just waiting for a princess to step in. Living there – mmm, I’ll pass, but definitely would want to tour the place. BTW, congratulations on acquiring the doubtful Leonard for your bathroom 😉

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 30, 2017 at 11:42 am

      A lot of the fittings such as fireplaces and marble were imported from Europe. Everything is really ornately decorated.

  • Cathy
    November 28, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Massive yet beautifully architectured. And they’re called ” cottages” .. While in my mind cottage means small bamboo built houses. The mansions look incredibly magnificent and by just looking at them, I’m left in awe! I wish to see it in real, tho! Worth a visit indeed! I wouldn’t mind fastening a gaze in them!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      November 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

      The houses were grand in every way and they only used them for about 6 weeks a year. The families constantly travelled from mansion to mansion throughout the year.

  • Meg Jerrard
    December 1, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Absolutely incredible that these mansions are referred to as cottages! Even more incredible that these were the holiday homes! There was definitely a greater divide between the rich and the poor back then, but man the rich were decadent! The Breakers is like a palace – what a great option you chose for a tour. Great that they have a free app which guides you – those sea views are incredible!