The Breakers

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The Breakers as seen from the lawn leading down to the sea
The Breakers as seen from the lawn leading down to the sea

The Breakers is located on Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, on the Atlantic Ocean. (41° 28′ 11″ N, 71° 17′ 55″ W). It is a National Historic Landmark, and is owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County.

The Breakers is a mansion, built as the Newport summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a member of the wealthy United States Vanderbilt family. Designed by renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt and with interior decoration by Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman, Jr., the 70-room mansion was constructed between 1893 and 1895 at the then-astronomical cost of more than seven million dollars. The Ochre Point Avenue entrance is marked by sculpted iron gates and 30-foot high walkway gates are part of a twelve-foot-high limestone and iron fence that borders the property on all but the ocean side. The 250' x 150' dimensions of the five-story mansion are aligned symmetrically around a central Great Hall.

Part of a 13-acre (53,000 m²) estate on the seagirt cliffs of Newport, it sits in a commanding position that faces east overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Because the previous mansion on the property owned by Pierre Lorillard IV burned down in 1892, Cornelius Vanderbilt II insisted that the building be made as fireproof as possible and as such, the structure of the building used steel trusses and no wooden parts. The designers created an interior using marble imported from Italy and Africa plus rare woods and mosaics from countries around the world. It also included entire rooms purchased from great chateaux in France.

In 1948 Countess Gladys Széchenyi (1886-1965), the youngest daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, leased the high-maintenance property to the non-profit Preservation Society of Newport County for $1 a year. After negotiations with other Vanderbilt family members, the Society bought the Breakers outright in 1973. It is now the most-visited attraction in Rhode Island and is open year-round for tours.


See also: Vanderbilt mansions

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