Final Summary

Having studied the Mansions of Newport, RI and the people who lived in them, I feel like I have learned so much about American culture.  Families like the Vanderbilts, Oelrichs, and Berwinds represent the American desire to make everything bigger and better, and each family is a part of American history. Berwind ran the coal empire that powered the Vanderbilt trains that revolutionized American travel, while the majority of the Oelrich fortune came from California’s 1849 goldrush and Nevada’s Comstock Lode.  Their summer homes in Newport had to be as impressive as their place in history.

As much as American history is about distinguishing ourselves from Europe, Newport proves that we did this by copying Europe, but making a key few changes. Newport architects like Richard Morris Hunt and McKim, Mead, and White, trained in the European Beaux-Arts tradition, would take European aesthetics, generally Italian and French, then use American innovation to make the homes unique.  Technology is really what set America part at this time in its history.  In addition to architecture, Newport’s rich and famous would take European social traditions to create American society. Figures like Alva Vanderbilt, wife of William K. Vanderbilt,  even used European connections to gain entry into established American high society.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing my product. My research didn’t even feel like work because I was so interested in what I was reading. I went into thinking the architecture would be what interested me most, and it definitely did keep me reading, but it was the people inside the mansions that really drove the story home for me. Which families were truly families and which were just groups of people that shared the same name that, a name that meant you were in or out of society.