Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Museums ~ Marble House, Newport

Marble House
596 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, Rhode Island

One of the summer "cottages" in Newport, owned now by the Preservation Society of Newport and formerly by a Vanderbilt (as a gift, for Mrs. William Vanderbilt - Alva - who divorced her husband shortly after its completion). It's the second of two Vanderbilt mansions in Newport, and Alva worked closely with the architect in its design.


For whatever reason, my camera jammed as I tried to photograph the front of the building, so I'm using an image from Wikimedia Commons. It's very imposing, with beautiful iron grillwork on the doors. Tours are guided, and I have mixed feelings about that. I like having an actual human being that I can ask questions of, but I prefer to wander and explore at my own pace.

Marble House rear
rear view

Our guide was very knowledgeable, and showed some enthusiasm for the property, which was nice. Also, we finally learned about all those blue and white "votes for women" plates we've seen in the gift shops. It turns out Mrs. Vanderbilt-Belmont devoted her adult life to securing women's suffrage. The plates were specially designed for the rallies she held in her backyard, and were frequently given as mementos.

The rallies were frequently housed in the Chinese Tea House she had built on the grounds for that purpose. Although Alva was mostly interested in French history and architecture - and it shows in the architecture and decor of Marble House - the design for the Tea House was probably influenced by her only daughter, Consuelo, who had a keen interest in China.

Chinese tea house

The inside was as over-the-top ornate as you'd expect from a fabulously wealthy Victorian family. There are intricate details and huge sculptures. Lots of gilding and silk and marble. The house was intended to make a statement, and it does. I was particularly impressed with the second parlor, that was done as a Medieval church with beautiful stained glass windows and other architectural details.

We would love to take "backstairs" tours of the mansions and see what the servants' rooms were like. I know one of the houses does offer those tours on occasion, so we may check that out.

update: I found a photo of the interior of the dining room.

baronial dining room via Golden Newport

So far, Bear and I have visited The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms, and we agree that this is our favorite of the three.

1 comment:

  1. I've been to the Newport mansions many times over the years and agree that MArble House is the nicest. I still vividly remember being 12 years old and visiting it for the first time with my Grandparents. I felt like a princess in a fairy tale.

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