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Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. It was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport's subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.
Mr. Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who established the family's fortune in steamships and the New York Central Railroad. His older brother was Cornelius II, who built The Breakers. Alva Vanderbilt was a leading hostess in Newport society, and envisioned Marble House as her "temple to the arts" in America.
The house was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost of the house was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble.
The Vanderbilts had 3 children: Consuelo, who became the 9th Duchess of Marlborough; William K., Jr., a prominent figure in pioneering the sport of auto racing in America; and Harold, one of the finest yachtsmen of his era who successfully defended the America's Cup three times.
In 1914, Alva had a Chinese Tea House built on the cliff overlooking the ocean.
In 2006, Marble House was designated a National Historic Landmark.