Alva Vanderbilt’s Marble House Became the Blueprint for Gilded Age Grandeur

Quietly nestled along the Narraganset Bay, the Marble House was the first of the stone palaces to be built in Newport—transforming the quiet colony of wooden houses into a bastion of opulence. It would be called a “cottage,” in deference to the earlier shingle style summer residences. But in truth, this was a grand home “fit for a Queen.”
A French Affinity
Alva Erskine Smith was born in Mobile, Alabama, on January 17, 1853. She and her parents would spend summers in Newport, Rhode Island. During the Civil War, her family moved to Europe, and she attended a private boarding school in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Spending some of her formative years in the vicinity of Paris, young Alva became a Francophile (lover of all things French). She and her family eventually returned to America, living in New York. She married William Kissam Vanderbilt, a grandson of the patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt Sr….

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