The Breakers: Fun Facts
After a visit to the summer home of the Vanderbilt family in Rhode Island, we have some facts and details to share which you're sure to find interesting.
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Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt's consolidation of several railroad lines made him, at that time, the richest man in America. Cornelius Vanderbilt II eventually became the chairman of his grandfather's company, which held property worth nearly $200 million in 1887!
The great hall of The Breakers measures 50 feet in all directions, including straight up, and the house itself is approximately 138,300 square feet. The great hall was first used for a midnight dance in August of 1895 for the Vanderbilt's daughter, Gertrude. It was filled with palms and roses and Miss Gertrude led the cotillion while guests watched from the grand staircase and galleries above.
The elaborate great hall ceiling detail showcases four medallions bearing the Vanderbilt symbol of acorns and oak leaves, which represent strength and longevity. The acorn symbol is seen throughout The Breakers and started with Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a self-made shipping and railroad magnate.
Bordering the property is the Newport cliff walk, which has always been public property. 30 feet below is the water breaking against the cliffs, which gives this cottage its name.
The Vanderbilts preferred not to have a view of the ocean from their bedrooms because at night they saw it is nothing more than a black hole; they preferred a view of the gardens and the neighboorhood.
- The front doors of The Breakers are made of carved oak and weigh about 1,000 pounds each.
- There are five levels to The Breakers and 33 of the approximately 70 rooms were domestic staff quarters in the north wing of the building.
- Mr. Vanderbilt's bathtub was carved from a single block of marble, and he could bathe in hot and cold fresh or salt water, which was considered beneficial to one's health.
- Even the Vanderbilts redecorated. Countess Szechenyi changed the draperies and wall fabrics in several of the bedrooms in the 1930s.
Watch as one young boy's bedroom is transformed into a creative under-the-sea fantasy room.