Spectacular Settings – Exceptional Elegance – Fascinating Families
Thanks to meticulous historical preservation, many of the Gilded Age mansions in Newport remain standing—and even served as filming locations for the HBO show. – Vogue Magazine read the full article here
The Gilded Age comes alive with engaging audio tours of life in the Newport Mansions. From the soaring marble columns that greet you at Marble House to the platinum wall panels at The Breakers, immerse yourself in these social and architectural landmarks. Hear the fascinating stories of people who lived and worked in these grand houses.
The Gilded Age, approximately 1870-1910, was a period of unprecedented change in America. The expansion of industry and transportation – and the lack of an income tax – gave rise to a new wealthy class of people with names like Vanderbilt, Morgan, Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller. Massive fortunes were made very quickly and spent on lavish lifestyles.
Gilded Age pageantry was nowhere more on display than at the spectacular “summer cottages” of the Newport Mansions, where the new millionaires sought to outshine each other at balls, banquets, carriage parades, concerts, sporting events and other entertainments. Constructed at the height of the Gilded Age, The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and Rosecliff reflect their owners’ obsession with social status and emulation of European aristocracy.
Not everyone was impressed by the newly rich. They were shunned by the “old money” members of New York society, who considered them invaders. It was a battle that would last for years.
Despite tremendous economic growth and the expansion of the workforce, the gap between rich and poor became ever wider during this period. The term “Gilded Age,” coined by Mark Twain, refers to the thin veneer of wealth that covered a less attractive reality. Yet this period marks the beginning of America’s development into a prosperous, growing, innovative, modern nation.
“The Gilded Age” on HBO
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes chose the Newport Mansions to provide authentic scenery for his new historical drama The Gilded Age. Scenes were filmed at The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer and Hunter House. Set in the 1880s, The Gilded Age tells the stories of “old money” New York elites and their escalating feud with nouveau riche neighbors who threaten the established social order. The show airs Mondays, January 24 through March 21, on HBO. Photographs courtesy of Alison Rosa/HBO
Do these rooms look familiar from the show?
Consuelo Vanderbilt's bedroom at Marble House stands in for railroad tycoon George Russell's bedroom in his new Fifth Avenue mansion. The Billiard Room at The Breakers is where Russell intrigues with City Alderman Patrick Morris over a game in Episode 2. And The Breakers Music Room was introduced as the Russells' ballroom, which we're bound to see again.
The kitchen at The Elms is seen frequently as the Russells’ kitchen where their French chef and other servants work. The Butternut Bedroom in Chateau-sur-Mer is used for the apartment of man-about-town Oscar van Rhijn. These are just a few of the real spaces that add magnificence to Lord Fellowes' dramatic tale.
In Episodes 5 and 6, we see Mrs. Berwind’s Bedroom in The Elms as the room of the Russells’ daughter Gladys. And Chateau-sur-Mer appears as the home of Mrs. Fish, with the three-story Great Hall and Dining Room shown during the doll tea party in Episode 6.
In Episode 7, The Breakers Music Room, as the Russell family’s ballroom, stuns the visiting Carrie Astor. Once again we see Consuelo Vanderbilt’s Bedroom in Marble House appear as Mr. Russell’s room. The Elms Kitchen gets plenty of screen time as the Russells’ butler, chef and other servants gather there. And the white front façade of Rosecliff is striking as Mrs. Chamberlain’s house in Manhattan.
Episode 8 featured multiple early scenes set in The Elms Kitchen, where the Russell servant staff is often seen gathering, and The Breakers Music Room, which serves as the Russell family ballroom. The Music Room gets extended camera time during a quadrille practice session, and the observant viewer will catch brief glimpses of The Breakers Morning Room in the background. Later in this episode, when the action shifts to Newport, the character John Adams mentions he is staying at Chateau-sur-Mer with the Wetmores. However, when we see Mrs. Astor’s newly built Beechwood, the exterior shot is of Chateau-sur-Mer while the kitchen Mrs. Russell hastily exits through belongs to Marble House.
The Season 1 finale of "The Gilded Age" features a starring role for The Breakers Music Room as the ballroom where the elite of New York society gathers for the Russells' first ball in their Fifth Avenue mansion. The room's French baroque design, blue-gray marble, crystal chandeliers, mirrors, and rich red and gold fabrics enhance the glamour of the scene. The Music Room was constructed in France by Allard & Sons, then disassembled, shipped to Newport and reassembled inside The Breakers.
Earlier in the episode, Mrs. Berwind's bedroom at The Elms appears as Gladys Russell's room where her friend Carrie Astor is visiting. And toward the end, we again see the Butternut Bedroom in Chateau-sur-Mer as Oscar van Rhijn's apartment.
"The Gilded Age" also draws upon the history and real-life people of the period. The parallels between the character Bertha Russell and Alva Vanderbilt of Marble House are striking. Alva famously manipulated the queen of New York society, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, into attending her gala costume ball by refusing to invite Mrs. Astor's daughter unless Mrs. Astor called upon her. Mrs. Astor called; the Astors then attended the Vanderbilt ball; and Alva secured her place in society.
Although Season 1 of "The Gilded Age" is finished, please continue to visit this page for more content related to the show, as well as interesting facts about the Gilded Age period in American history.
Other spaces in the Newport Mansions directly inspired the sets created by “The Gilded Age” Production Designer Bob Shaw. Bertha Russell’s room is modeled after Alva Vanderbilt’s bedroom in Marble House, while the Marble House grand staircase with its ornate wrought-iron railing influenced its counterpart in the Russells’ mansion.
See these magnificently preserved Gilded Age places in person! The Breakers and Marble House OPEN DAILY.
Hear HBO’s Gilded Age series star Carrie Coon explain how the Newport Mansions inspired the grand settings in the show.
Carrie Coon, who plays Bertha Russell in "The Gilded Age," explains how the Newport Mansions inspired the look of the palatial new home her character occupies in this fascinating look behind the scenes. Watch the video. Photographs of Carrie Coon courtesy of Alison Rosa/HBO