Created by architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1892, the Marble House is a Gilded Age mansion which is one of the most magnificent Newport Rhode Island mansions ever seen.
It was built as a summer cottage for Alva and William Vanderbilt and it contains 500, 000 cubic feet of marble. William Vanderbilt gave this house to his wife Alva for her 39th birthday. It is a portico-like structure, a porte-cochère and is very similar to the White House.
The Marble house was a social landmark, as it is one of the earliest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture which transformed the wooden colony houses of Newport into the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. Hunt had the inspiration for this house from the Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles. The cost of the mansion was reported in the contemporary press account as being $11 million; $7 million of which was spent on the marble.
The Vanderbilts divorced in 1895 and Alva married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont. When Belmont died in 1920, Alva reopened the Marble House and, along with Caroline Astor, they were its hostesses during the Newport’s Gilded Age.
On the seaside cliffs, Alva built a Chinese Tea House, where she hosted rallies for women’s right to vote. The house has fifty rooms, including that which is known as the Grand Salon; used as a reception room and a place for entertainment, also known as the Gilded Ballroom.
The Salon was designed by Allard and Sons and was decorated with 22-karat gold wall panels, green silk cut velvet upholstery and draperies, and painted ceiling murals. There is also a stone fireplace (a replica of the one from the Salon d’Hercule in Versailles), which is one of the finest designs of the Gilded Age.
The library came out of a collaboration between Allard and Cuel, in the Rococo style. A must-see is the Harold S. Vanderbilt Memorial Room, which features yachting trophies and memorabilia. On the ceiling, there is a painting of Athena painted by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini.
In 1963, the Marble house was purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County, and Harold the youngest son of the Vanderbilts, gave money to restore the home to its original immaculate condition.
As one of the top 3 landmarks in Newport, in 1971, the mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and on May 11, 1976, along with many other historic mansions from Newport, it became a National Historic Landmark District.