breakers6602.jpg (69623 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Newport Mansions, Brooklyn

The Breakers


Richard Morris Hunt


Ruggles Avenue




Renaissance Revival




The Breakers is the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages" and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century. 

The Commodore's grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, became Chairman and President of the New York Central Railroad system in 1885, and purchased a wooden house called The Breakers in Newport during that same year. 

In 1893, he commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a villa to replace the earlier wood-framed house which was destroyed by fire the previous year. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin. Allard and Sons of Paris assisted Hunt with furnishings and fixtures, Austro-American sculptor Karl Bitter designed relief sculpture, and Boston architect Ogden Codman decorated the family quarters.

The Vanderbilts had seven children. Their youngest daughter, Gladys, who married Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary, inherited the house on her mother's death in 1934. 
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  The Vanderbilt Mansion (also known as the Breakers) of Rhode Island. The 70 room Renaissance style house, completed in 1895, was built as a summer retreat for the Vanderbilt family.
A year-long restoration project aimed at preserving one of America's most famous Gilded Age mansions for years to come was completed in early 2003. The Breakers, an Italian Renaissance-style villa built for the family of Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895, received a new roof and other exterior repairs at a cost of two million dollars. 

The Breakers, a National Historic Landmark built by Richard Morris Hunt, is the most famous of The Preservation Society of Newport County's collection of 11 historic house museums. The 70-room 19th century mansion, used as a summer cottage by one of America's wealthiest and most influential families, is visited annually by almost 400,000 people. 

Construction began in March 2002 and included rebuilding several chimneys, replacing the entire roofing system-including more than 30,000 terra cotta tiles-and restoring or replacing rooftop skylights. In addition, the exterior limestone walls were power washed to remove decades of grime and lichen growth, window and door trim was painted, and exterior cracks were repointed. 

The Breakers remained open to visitors throughout the restoration project. "We are very grateful for the patience of the hundreds of thousands of people who came through The Breakers during 2002," said Preservation Society CEO Trudy Coxe. "While the construction did not affect tours of the house, some exterior access was limited for safety reasons, but the vast majority of our guests understood and appreciated the value of the restoration work that was being done."

Partial funding for the project was provided by the Loebs Family Foundation, Save America's Treasures, the Champlin Foundations and the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust. 

In addition, more than 450 individuals paid $20 each to sign a new roof tile that was then installed on the building. 

Significant restoration work is still needed on the east terrace of The Breakers; that project will be scheduled at a later date, as funding permits
The monumental main floor rooms were furnished by Allard and Sons of Paris in both French and Italian fashions. The more delicate, lightened 18th Century French decoration of the upper floor family bedrooms were designed by the Boston architect Ogden Codman. During the 2 year construction period, entire rooms were created in European workshops, shipped to Newport and then reassembled in the house. Hundreds of the world's finest craftspeople worked tirelessly to complete the 70-room mansion, 33 of the rooms, which were used for domestic staff.

In 1972, the Preservations Society of Newport County (P.S.N.C.) acquired the Breakers from the Vanderbilt family, Scalamandré has supported the restoration of the Newport mansions for years. Recent installations include the burgundy brocatelle and trim in the Grand Dining Room and the cut and uncut voided silk velvet and fringes of the Music Room. Currently our studio is preparing the green silk damask and fringes for the Breaker's Library, Stop by this summer to see the work in progress. From May to October visitors can tour the house and grounds, which is decorated for the holidays from November 26 through January 2, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.