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The Guilded Age: Vanderbilt's Summer "Cottage"

Cornelius Vanderbilt fashioned a shipping and railroad empire within a single lifetime and subsequently built himself wealth beyond measure. (Not paying income tax sure helped)

THAT he did it deserves respect.

HOW he did it, far from it.

Like all Industrialists it took cutthroat tactics and competitive maneuvers to outdo all others for the most money and power in America. Cornelius was known to shut down bridges and shutter the stock market to cripple companies and overthrow them.

The term "Guilded Age" was never meant to be a compliment. Mark Twain coined the term noting that anything guilded was only shiny and gold as a thin external veneer. Scratch just a little and base metal lies beneath.

Still, his accomplishments in revolutionizing industry in America are worthy of recognition. Cornelius wanted to dominate the business world. His grandchildren wanted to spend all the money they inherited from him.

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island is one such example.

A summer "cottage" of one of his grandchildren the palatial home sits on a rocky beach and was used just 6 weeks of the year by the Vanderbilts.

You'll leave with a sore neck from staring up at all the ceilings that are adorned with meticulously detailed plaster moldings and gold leaf.

It's an exhausting experience for the eyes.

It was also exhausting to maintain.

At the start of WWI homes like The Breakers were snubbed by the public for their excessive size and opulence. Future grandchildren wanted nothing to do with the massive estate that required more than 40 staff and endless maintenance.

Today it's in the hands of the Preservation Society and for a hefty fee you can see for yourself how the other side once lived.


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