Gilded Walls from the Gilded Age

Summer in New York City can get pretty sticky, and escaping to somewhere that isn’t oppressively hot and stinky has always been de rigueur for those who can afford it. 

 The Breakers, Newport Rhode Island

The Breakers, Newport Rhode Island

Perhaps the fanciest getaway ever built was The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s summer “cottage.” Constructed in 1893 in Newport, Rhode Island (a favorite high society summer destination during the gilded age), The Breakers is a 70 room behemoth modeled after Italian Renaissance palazzos. 

 Dining Room in The Breakers. 

Dining Room in The Breakers. 

While lavish decoration is crammed into every corner, perhaps the most opulent detail can be found on the walls of the morning room (what, you don’t have a room that’s just for the morning?). 

 Morning Room at The Breakers

Morning Room at The Breakers

 Detail of wall paneling in the Morning Room. 

Detail of wall paneling in the Morning Room. 

Originally it was believed that the gleaming wall panels were covered in silver-leaf, but when they remained untarnished for decades conservators decided to investigate. They found that the walls were covered not in silver—which would have been impressive in its own right—but in platinum! 

This innovative use of precious metals ups the term "Gilded Age" to a whole new level. Well played, Cornelius.