the breakers {life}

Cal at house.jpg

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on yesterday's post! I responded to each of you in the comment section.

I was first (and last) at the Breakers in August of 1977. I was seven. Yes, I'm that old. My mom and dad will have to chime in on the particulars of this vacation to New England that we took with my grandparents (apparently I have been to Mystic!) because let's face it, the memory dims. I do remember the specific month and year very clearly because it was during this vacation that Elvis died. I may not remember Mystic (sorry Mystic!), but I do remember lots. It was cold! We stayed in a hotel with an indoor pool, and my dad swam in it with me for hours, even after it was supposed to have closed. Memories get jumbled, especially when you're a kid, but it seems to me that it was the morning after we'd stayed up late swimming in that pool that we picked up a paper to learn that Elvis had died.

Another thing that stood out to child-Lauren was Newport, RI and the Breakers. The Breakers is one of several "summer cottages" built in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the American royalty of the era. During this time families such as the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers escaped New York City to their homes on the New England Coast. The Breakers, considered the grandest of these "cottages," was originally a wooden home when purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who extended the family fortune during his stint as president of the New York Central Railroad. Vanderbilt remodeled the original home into a 70 room Italian-inspired mansion. No detail was left unconsidered, including the steps on the staircase in the grand hallway with risers two inches shorter than usual so that ladies could glide down them in their ball gowns. Chandeliers were fitted with electricity (a new rage!), but had pulls that could convert them to gas should the fickle electricity prove tricky. Bathtubs all had four fixtures, two taps each for hot and cold, one of which ran with salt water which was considered curative.

We took an audio tour (which was different from when I was here before and the tours were led by actual humans), and sadly, no photography was allowed in the building. Gladys, the youngest daughter of Corneilus Vanderbilt inherited the Breakers in 1934. Gladys was a supporter of the Preservation Society of Newport County and to support the society she opened the home to tours. In 1972 the home was sold to the Preservation Society for the princely sum of $399,999. The house was named for the huge waves that crash upon the beach below. The day we traveled there when I was a child was quite stormy, and our tour guide, who had taken a liking to me, led me into the loggia first, (the loggia is the covered porch, see the 3rd photo from the top, there's a person peeking out of one of the windows!), with the rest of the group trailing behind and said, "On days like this you can hear it...listen," and we could hear the distant thunder of the waves on the shore. Running along the bottom of the lawn (see the 4th photo from the bottom) is Newport's famed Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile trail that runs between the mansions and the sea. Part walking path and part rugged trail, the cliff walk is an absolute must-do for me when we next head to Nantucket (sorry Megs, we're coming back!). I'm thinking if we pushed the drive a bit we could overnight in Newport, maybe?

It's a funny thing to go back to something you remember so distinctly from your childhood. The Breakers was different, for sure, but still, I wasn't disappointed. Decorated for Christmas, with lilies everywhere, the place smelled heavenly, and the crisp day was perfect for touring both inside and out. I always worry that Neel will be disappointed and Callum too, but no. We're ready to do it again. But which one next? Marble House?Rosecliff? Breakers again? All of them?