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​The Breakers and Marble House

"Sunday Morning" host Charles Osgood explores two historic mansions from the scenic shores of Newport, Rhode Island
A history of Newport, R.I. landmarks 01:41

The Breakers -- a so-called "cottage" -- is the crown jewel of Newport, Rhode Island ... the city that youmay be surprised to learn was a leading slave trading port during the 1700s.

A summer retreat for Southern plantation owners during the early 1800s, Newport later on attracted leading industrial tycoons of the Gilded Age. Chief among them was Cornelius Vanderbilt II ... grandson of the founder of the New York Central Railroad.

Vanderbilt bought the original Breakers, built of wood, in 1885. After it burned to the ground a few years later, he hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to design its replacement.

The Breakers under construction, 1894. Preservation Society of Newport County

Completed in 1895, the rebuilt Breakers is a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo.

The Music Room in the Breakers, 1895. Preservation Society of Newport County

It covers nearly 140,000 square feet, and features some 300 windows ... many with commanding views of the ocean.

Not that the Breakers is the only Newport cottage a Vanderbilt built.

Nearby stands the Marble House, built between 1888 and 1892 by Cornelius' younger brother, William.

Also designed by Richard Morris Hunt, William Vanderbilt gave it to his wife, Alva, as her 39th birthday present.

Today, both the Breakers and the Marble House belong to the Preservation Society of Newport County. Both are also National Historic Landmarks -- and make very clear why author Mark Twain coined the expression "The Gilded Age."

The Gothic Room at Marble House in Newport, R.I. Ira Kerns/Preservation Society of Newport County

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