Rhode Island

Marble Mansion Newport

The Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island was designed and built by prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt for the immensely wealthy William Kissam and Alva Vanderbilt. William Kissam Vanderbilt is one of the grandsons of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a highly-regarded gentleman in the steamship industry.


Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt established the Vanderbilt fortune when he got involved in the profitable New York Central Railroad project.


The Marble House is one of the several Gilded Age mansions, which have become popular tourist attractions in Newport.


Hunt used the Petit Trianon of Versailles as a source of inspiration for the design of the Vanderbiltís Marble House.


The construction of the mansion began in 1888 and ended after one year.

Marbke House Tunnel

The result is a truly magnificent home that set the bar for other residential buildings. After the Huntís creation of the striking Marble House, the wooden houses in Newport were replaced by luxurious stone castles. The Marble House is reported to have cost the Vanderbiltís a whopping eleven million dollars. In todayís value, that translates to around seventy two million dollars.



A huge percentage of that amount was spent on the acquisition of the main building material: Marble. When the mansion was finally completed in 1889, William gave it to his wife Alva Erskine Smith as a gift for the 39th birthday. Alva was one of the three prominent hostesses in the elite society of Newport. William and Alva Vanderbilt had a daughter and two sons. Consuelo became the ninth Duchess of Marlborough. William, Jr. became an esteemed icon in the American auto racing world. Harold, like his brother, was an excellent sportsman. He was a fine yachtsman and has thrice won the Americaís Cup.

Six years after the completion of Marble House, the Vanderbilt couple divorced and Alva married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont. She moved out of the Marble House to reside in a more modest home in Belcourt. When Belmont passed away, Alva returned to the Marble House. As she had little to do, Alva hired an architect to add a Chinese Tea House on the propertyís seaside cliffs where she, again, acted as hostess and organized gatherings for womenís suffrage. As seen in the picture, beneath the Chinese Tea House runs a tunnel.

Alva sold the Marble House in 1932 to a man named Frederick H. Prince. Prince was a Winchester, Massachusetts born financier. Along with all its contents, Prince gave the mansion to the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1963.

The Preservation Society of Newport County operates the Marble House as a museum. It is open to the public and there are regular tours for foreign and local travelers who want a taste of the opulence enjoyed by the wealthy circles of Newportís past. The Preservation Society also owns many other Gilded Age mansions in Newport.