Travel

Newport, Rhode Island – Touring The Breakers November 2022

We came down to souther Rhode Island to go camping with friends this weekend. Sunday it was predicted to rain all day, so we decided that would be a good time to tour the Gilded Age homes in Newport, Rhode Island. I’d been here geocaching last fall but hadn’t gone into any of the mansions at that time.

It costs $29 per adult to tour The Breakers. It can be combined with other tours of other homes which makes it a little more reasonable, but we weren’t going to do any others today, so $29 each it was.

The welcome center outside of The Breakers Mansion is where the tickets are bought. There are also restrooms here and a small cafe.

The Breakers mansion was built on the site of a former house owned by the Vanderbilt Family which burned down in 1992. Cornelius Vanderbilt II built this second home on the site, using marble, brick, and steel so there would be less worried about fires.

The entryway gives way to The Great Hall. This is a stunning room mostly done in marble. There is gold leaf also all over the place. I downloaded the tour onto my cell phone and listened to the narration all the way through on my earbuds. It gave a lot of information that I summarized for the rest of the group who didn’t bother with it.

There is a fountain under that grand staircase. Also in this alcove is a portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt II over an ornate chest. The detail in many of these features is truly stunning, even if I find the overall decor to be very ostentatious.

The dining room is one of those areas of immense ostentation. It is definitely not what I would ever want in a home even if I hit Powerball.

The billiard room is one you might recognize if you’ve watched HBO’s The Gilded Age. Some of that series was filmed here to be a substitute for the protagonists’ mansions in that series. In fact, another of the homes that is usually open was closed while we were here because they were using it to film the second year of that series.

The palazzo at the back of the home boasts some stunning views. They are getting ready for the holidays and many Christmas trees and other decorations could be seen.

Up the stairs we went to the area of the mansion where the family lived most of the time.

This is the “morning room” where the family would gather in private. When the house was first taken over by the Newport Mansion Historical Society, it was thought that behind the painting on the walls the shiny gray was silver. However, it didn’t tarnish. Further testing revealed it to be platinum.

The Music Room was another room that just felt like it was too ostentatious and gaudy.

This is Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom.

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom is also where she ran the house from as well as kept track of her social calendar.

Above the grand staircase is a tapestry that’s nearly 400 years old. The stained glass above it is actually very beautiful compared to the rest of the house.

This is the kitchen of the house, set away from the rest of it due to the fear of fire after the last house burned down. That stove has a flat top extending all the way across so the cooks could put the pots on it anywhere they needed to and they would cook – no burners to deal with.

The Butler’s Pantry is off the kitchen and has china and silverware for the entire house.

The top two floors of the home are where the servants lived. That was also where the last of the Vanderbilts lived until the Historical Society finally told them they had to leave. There’s more about this in Anderson Cooper’s book about the Vanderbilts which I read but have not yet reviewed. I highly recommend it.

It was raining when we finished the tour, so I didn’t get to explore the grounds as much as I would have liked. However, I did take a picture when I was here last year from along the Cliff Walk.

It was a nice way to spend a good part of the day. I don’t think I would do it again. It is very interesting though. I do recommend seeing it if you are in the area. There was a Princess Cruise ship in Narragansett Bay and many of the passengers were on tours here when we arrived. This and other mansions would make a good shore excursion.

I’ll rewatch The Gilded Age when I get home as well, since I want to see what scenes have rooms I recognize after touring The Breakers. As I said to my son, think about the CEO of McDonald’s (where he works) having a home like this while you’re flipping burgers and dealing with people. It’s exactly this lavish overindulgence that some people want to return to. As spectacular as it is to see, it also is sobering.

2 replies »

  1. We geocached the area way back in 2010. We wanted to go on the tour but all the slots were filled and they were limiting the number of people they were letting in… We opted to just gaze from afar and then moved on to get some more caches. Perhaps next time we travel that way we’ll stop. The interior reminds me of the cruise ship décor!!