Newport’s Marble House gets a head start on spring cleaning

East Bay

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — With only a few weeks until spring, the caretakers of the historic Marble House in Newport are getting ahead by giving the mansion a deep clean.

The Newport Preservation Society says this is the first time the 13-room property has undergone such extensive cleaning and renovations.

The process is about halfway done, according to collections manager Katherine Garrett Cox. The mansion will be closed for the six weeks between the holidays and February break, which she says is typically the slowest time of year in terms of visitors.

Because of all the antiques, a specialized team of about a dozen staffers is working on the home. They’re removing all items from the bedrooms, taking down pictures, dusting old books, wiping down candelabras, and carefully cleaning furniture so that nothing is damaged.

Cox says the work was overdue and now’s the time to do it because with each year that goes by, time and weather take their toll on Marble House.

The mansion is expected to reopen on Valentine’s Day.

The History of Marble House

The Newport Preservation Society says the mansion was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. It was a summer home – referred to in that day as a “cottage” – and a birthday gift from William to his wife Alva.

Alva Vanderbilt was a well-known Newport socialite and wanted Marble House to be a”temple to the arts” in America. The architecture of the home was inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France.

But the Preservation Society says Marble House became much more, leading the transformation from smaller, wood-built houses in the area to extravagant mansions.

William Vanderbilt was the younger brother of Cornelius II, who built The Breakers.

After William and Alva divorced in 1895, she married Oliver H.P. Belmont and moved down the street to Belcourt.

Following Belmont’s death, she reopened Marble House and had a Chinese Tea House built on the property where she hosted rallies for women’s suffrage.

Alva then sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932 and the Preservation Society acquired the mansion in 1963.

In 2006, Marble House was designated a National Historic Landmark.

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