Marble House




Marble House

Site Information

Country: United States of America
State: 596 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Location: 41° 27' 43" N - 71° 18' 17" W
Field Documentation Date(s): To be determined
Project Release Date(s): To be determined
Time Range: 1888 CE - 1927 CE
Era: The Gilded Age
Culture: American
Site Authority: The Preservation Society of Newport County
Heritage Listing: U.S. National Historic Landmark
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Ceiling plan of the Gothic room at Marble House, created from photo-textured laser scan data

Site Description

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Located along Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island, Marble House is an opulent Gilded Age mansion, which was used as a summer home by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Designed by the renowned American architect Richard Morris Hunt, this nineteenth-century classical masterpiece set the standard for the American Renaissance.

The building is made from white marble and takes the form of a temple. It was inspired by the Petit Trianon, a garden retreat on the grounds of Versailles. Along the west façade, a two story entrance portico supported by Corinthian columns faces the main entrance to the estate which is accessed from Bellevue Avenue. The portico is accessed by a curved marble carriage ramp. The walls of the entire building are lined with two-story Corinthian style pilasters. Along the east façade, a large marble terrace faces the grounds and Atlantic Ocean.

The estate is a rectangular 4.4 acre plot of land with many beech trees. At the southeastern corner of the grounds is the Chinese Teahouse, which was designed and built in 1913 by Joseph and Richard Howland Hunt.

The house’s interiors were designed by Jules Allard and Sons of Paris in the French style. The house has fifty rooms and is believed to have been built at the cost of $11 million dollars. This estimate would make Marble House the most expensive Newport “cottage.” The interior of the Marble House contains approximately 500,000 square feet of marble. The marble work was done by Batterson, See, and Eisele of New York.
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History

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The Gilded Age

The Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 as a gift for Mr. Vanderbilt’s wife Alva's 39th birthday. The Vanderbilt family was one of the most powerful families in the nation with over 70 million dollars. They first acquired their wealth through the railroad business, but also built railroad stations, libraries, chapels, and mansions. The Vanderbilt family lived in a time called the “Gilded Age.” This was an era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States during the post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the late 19th century.

Gothic Art

Mrs. Vanderbilt was an avid collector of Gothic and Renaissance art. In 1889, Alva Vanderbilt acquired from Émile Gavet a collection comprising around 350 Medieval and Renaissance paintings, sculptures and works of decorative art including metalwork, furniture, ceramics, carved gems, timepieces, and wax miniatures. These objects were on display in the Gothic room at Marble House from 1892 until their sale in 1927 to John Ringling. All artwork from this collection is currently housed in the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.
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Perspective of the ceiling inside the Gothic room

Project Narrative

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In 2010, an exhibition called “Gothic Art in the Gilded Age” physically reunited the collection with the Gothic room after over eighty years of separation. The digital preservation project at Marble House was first conceived of during the 2010 exhibition. A year later, CyArk conducted 3D laser scanning and photography to document the Marble House and produce highly accurate reconstructive data.

Through a generous grant from the Kress Foundation and with the support of the Preservation Society of Newport County and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Marble House project served as a pilot for the concept of "digital repatriation." The project's primary objective is to “virtually reunite” Newport Mansion with the Gavet-Vanderbilt-Ringling Collection.
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Photograph of the north wall of the Gothic room, taken during the 2010 "Gothic Art in the Gilded Age" exhibition. Photo by Ira Kerns.

Preservation

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On the 100th anniversary of Marble House, the Preservation Society of Newport County began a restoration project to return the Gothic room to its 1892 appearance. The Parisian firm Duchemin reproduced the room’s painted glass windows. The silk damask wall coverings were rewoven by Scalamandre in New York. Additionally, the blue-green ceiling canvas featuring vine and leaf patterning were recreated by the Preservation Society of Newport County. In 2006, Marble House was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
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Area Descriptions

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Gothic Room

Gothic Room

Gothic Room Description:

Located on the first floor of Marble House, the Gothic room was used to house the Vanderbilt’s art collection in an architectural context which also referenced the Gothic age. Originally, the room was to be a Louis XIV-style library but Alva changed the design once she acquired the exquisite collection.

This room is very different from the rest of the mansion. One of the most interesting features about the room itself is the elaborate ribbed ceiling done in the Gothic motif. The room also features Gothic arches, figurative carving and a large collection of Gothic sculpture. There are four stained glass windows along the east and south walls. Along its southern wall is a stone fireplace copied by Allard and Sons from a late-Gothic chimney breast in the house of the merchant Jacques Coeur in Bourges, France.

Public access to the Gothic room at Marble House was limited until Alva’s divorce. She opened the room in 1909 and 1910 to public tours and used the proceeds to benefit the universal suffrage movement. By 1927, Alva sold her collection to the collector John Ringling for his art museum in Sarasota, Florida. In 2010, an exhibition called “Gothic Art in the Gilded Age” physically reunited the collection with the Gothic room after over eighty years of separation. After the exhibition, the Gavet-Vanderbilt-Ringling collection was returned to the RIngling museum.


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