Richard Morris Hunt's Marble House  (William Kissam Vanderbilt -owner)
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Design for the entrance grill of Marble House 
Richard Morris Hunt, architect 
Ink on paper 
38.1 x 48.2 cm (15 x 19 in.) 
American Institute of Architects Foundation, Washinton, D.C. 

Dining Room 

Gold Ballroom 


William Kissam Vanderbilt's 
"Marble House", Newport R.I 
Richard Morris Hunt, architect 
Jpg: Excite image search

Under Construction 

William Kissam Vanderbilt left a fortune of $ 55 million, mostly to his two sons, William Kissam 
 Vanderbilt jr and Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, having given his daughter Consuelo the amount of $ 15 million  a little earlier. 

The first of Willam Kissam and Alvah Vanderbilt's three children and their only daughter, Consuelo 
 Vanderbilt (1877-1964) was the main actor in a society drama which epitomized the spirit of the Gilded Age 



ALVA ERSKINE SMITH (William Kissam Vanderbilt, ) 

"In 1874 she married William Kissam Vanderbilt, the second son of William H. Vanderbilt, owner of the Grand Central Railroad. Her brother in law, Cornelius was slated to inherit the entire Vanderbilt fortune, according to the eldest son tradition of the era. But, she influenced her father in law by persistent praise of the abilities of her husband, to divide the fortune more equitably. She taught the Vanderbilt family how to spend their fortune by building mansions and palaces to live in the style of European royalty, which they could well afford. In 1879 her fancy dress ball for the grand opening of 660 Fifth Avenue, the French chateau designed by Alva and Richard Morris Hunt to outshine anything in the neighborhood, brought the Vanderbilts into New York/Newport society, so long guarded by Mrs. Astor and the Old Family Knickerbockers. She raised three children: William Kissam, Jr. (Willie K.), Consuelo, and Harold Stirling. Her social position was at its height in the 1880s, when rumors of the attentions of Oliver Belmont began. At this time in Newport the great mansion-building era, the gilded age, was beginning and William K. Vanderbilt, at Alva's instigation, purchased the land abutting THE Mrs. Astor's "Beechwood" to build "The Marble Palace" as another challenge to Mrs. Astor, still leader in Newport society. Begun in 1888 with Richard Morris Hunt the architect, Marble Palace was completed in 1892, and lured many young European noble bachelors as well as all the wealthy sons of the American "Royalty" to catch a suitable husband for Consuelo. Mrs. Vanderbilt negotiated tirelessly to arrange the best alliance by lavish entertaining, grand balls and parties, tea dances and small private dinner parties ending late in 1895 with the marriage ceremonies and celebrations in New York, Newport and London celebrating the union of Consuelo to the 23-year old Ninth Duke of Marlborough." 


Duke of Marlborough Family  
(9th Duke)  
Duke of Malborough collection,   
Blenheim Palace   
Oxfordshire, England  
Oil on canvas   
332.7 x 238.8 cm (131 x 94 in.)  
 "The cash broke royalty from euourpe that came over trying to marry Consuelo was astoundinly discussting. Prince Leopold of (E) Isenberg  from the Imperial courts of Austria "It appears that the (E)Isenbergs were mortgaged to the limit, when young Prince Leopold started for America with borrowed money to attack the hearts of American heiresses, notably that of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was singled out as the richest plum to be plucked. In order to pay his traveling expenses the elder (E)Isenberg borrowed nearly 60,000 on his estates and when Leopold returned minus a wealthy wife things were looking black in the principality. The servants went without wages, and the horses went without fodder, the princesses without pin money and the Prince himself without the where with all to play baccarat and other notable games." 

Belmont, Alva Ertskin Smith Vanderbilt 
Born in Mobile, Alabama, on January 17, 1853, Alva Smith grew up there and, after the Civil War, in France. She married William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius, in 1875. Although the Vanderbilts were among the very richest people in the world, they were excluded from the "Four Hundred," the cream of New York society, by the arbiters of such matters, Mrs. William B. Astor and Ward McAllister. Vanderbilt undertook an aggressive plan to break in to the club. Richard M. Hunt was commissioned to build a $3,000,000 mansion on Fifth Avenue, a gesture that ended McAllister's resistance; then, in 1883, plans were made for an Olympian masquerade ball for 1,200 persons, by far the most opulent entertainment yet seen by New York. 

But of course Marble house didn't rival their home on fifth Ave. 
W.K. Vanderbilt'd 5th Ave Home 



By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2003 all rights reversed
Created 12/28/2000
Updated 3/5/2003