By Molly G. @ The Bumbles Blog
Have you ever wondered how the other half lives? Newport is known for being a playground of the rich. It was home to The America’s Cup for yachting and boasts the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But if not for the millionaires of the Industrial Revolution, it just might have become another sleepy ocean town in the smallest state of the U.S.A.
High society families in the second half of the 1800’s flocked to Newport to build homes for summer retreats and like all good people with money to burn they went above and beyond to out-do each other . Today you can tour many of these mansions set in a row like a parade of wealth, but the biggest of them all is The Breakers, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895.
The wealth and opulence of the Vanderbilt family is in full display via a new self-guided audio tour where you listen to memories of a gilded time as told by some of the relatives and servants who experienced The Breakers first hand. The mansion comes to life with the sound effects and background music making it easy to picture yourself peeking in on famous guests or making an entrance of your own to a grand ball. Conservators add interesting facts, such as how some shimmering wall panels were just recently determined to be Platinum. Or how a nod to the roots of the Vanderbilt fortune is subtly found in a certain frieze of cherubs.
The tour takes you through the first two floors of the mansion which is jaw dropping in it’s grandeur. These millionaires knew how to make an impression. Gold surrounds you in the Great Hall as well as most other rooms. Alcoves underneath the main staircase create impressions of Italy with peaceful fountains. The chandeliers glisten in the enormous Dining Room. The bright Billiard Room is surrounded by marble and frescos. The bedrooms on the second floor either have sweeping views of the Atlantic ocean or of the immaculate and immense grounds. And they all overlook the central Great Hall which acts as an interior courtyard.
But one of the best features of the mansion is found outdoors where there are loggias acting as an extension of the home with intricate tiles and pillars to decorate and frame them with elegance. You could spend hours just taking in the cool breezes and a view to take your breath away and the tour allows you the opportunity to explore them to your heart’s content.
Outside, take the wide steps off of the terrace just made for elaborate functions onto a perfectly groomed lawn that rolls out before you to the ocean cliffs. Easter egg hunts on the lawn of the White House have nothing on The Breakers. Side gardens are filled with blooms and there are endless spots for romantic strolls.
The talent of architect Richard Morris Hunt and the Vanderbilt fortune created this premier example of the Gilded Age which allows us little folk a tremendous opportunity to see how the other side lives and appreciate some of the most beautiful views New England has to offer.
- COST = Adults $18, Kids ages 6-17 are $4.50, Kids under 5 are Free. Additional $2 charged to online purchases. Combination packages available in conjunction with other mansion tours.
- DURATION = Self guided audio tour so you can dictate the pace. Allow 1 to 1 ½ hours to listen to the full audio.
- HOURS = Daily, opening at 9AM. Closing times vary between 4-6PM depending upon the season. Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas.
- ENVIRONMENT = Wheelchair accessible. No strollers. Younger children love running on the expansive lawn and find enough inside to hold their interest.
- ACCESSIBILITY = By car – plenty of free parking on site. By Trolley. By Foot.
- WEBSITE = http://www.newportmansions.org/
- FUN FACTS = The Breakers is part of a group of 11 historic mansions and grounds falling under the Preservation Society of Newport County. One such property in Portsmouth, The Green Animals Topiary Garden, offers an affordable Children’s Party on 07/14/09 with games, rides, food and entertainment. This is a nice occasion for kids to let loose after tagging along on grown-up mansion tours. Another activity fun for all ages is the Cliff Walk which is free and runs behind several mansions, The Breakers included, providing stunning views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.