Cliff Walk Trail Marker #11
Marble House was completed in 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. 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, Cornelius II built The Breakers. His wife Alva was a leading society hostess, and envisioned Marble House as her "temple to the arts" in America.
The house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.
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.
The Vanderbilts divorced in 1895 and Alva married Oliver H.P. Belmont, moving down the street to Belcourt. After his death, she reopened Marble House, and had a Chinese Tea House built on the seaside cliffs, where she hosted rallies for women's right to vote. She sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932. The Preservation Society of Newport County acquired the house in 1963 from the Prince estate. In 2006, Marble House was designated a National Historic Landmark.