Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. It was a summer house, or “cottage”, as Newporters called them in remembrance of the modest houses of the early 19th century. But Marble House was much more: it was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport, Rhode Island’s subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.
Mr. Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the family’s fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. His older brother was Cornelius II, who built The Breakers. Alva Vanderbilt was a leading hostess in Newport society who envisioned Marble House as her “temple to the arts” in America.
The house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. It includes 500,000 cubic feet of imported marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present. The Vanderbilts had three children: Consuelo, who became the ninth Duchess of Marlborough; William K., Jr., a prominent figure in pioneering the sport of auto racing in America; and Harold, one of the finest yachtsmen of his era who successfully defended the America’s Cup three times.
The Preservation Society of Newport County acquired the house in 1963. Today it is designated a National Historic Landmark.
Marble House is open daily through May 4; closed May 5-24; reopens May 25. House & grounds open at 10 a.m. Last tour admission at 4 p.m. House & grounds close at 5 p.m.