The Breakers – Music Room // 1895

You know you’ve “made it” if you have a music room, especially if you have one in your summer mansion in Newport! The Music Room in The Breakers evokes the opulent Parisian interiors of the Second Period and when inside the room, you just feel sensory overload (in the best way possible. The room is located off the Great Room and Morning Room, at the southern end of the house. The Music Room was used for recitals and dances for the Vanderbilt Family and guests. The room displays ornate woodwork and furnishings designed by Richard Van der Boyen and built by J. Allard of Paris. The room looks like it was plucked out of a French building and dropped into the mansion, and that is because it was! The room’s interior was constructed completely in France and then sent to America where it was installed at The Breakers by French craftsmen. My favorite parts of the interior are the bay window at the end and the gilt gold coffered ceiling.

The Breakers – Morning Room // 1895

Possibly my favorite room in The Breakers mansion is the Morning Room, found on the first floor, just off the Great Hall and lower loggia. The Morning Room is executed in a late Renaissance style and faces east to catch the morning sun and provides sweeping views of the Atlantic. It served as a family sitting room at all times of the day. The interior design, including the fixtures, woodworking, and furniture, were designed by French architect Richard Bouwens van der Boijen and designer Jules Allard. The predominant grey, and gold colors of the Morning Room are echoed in its fireplace which is made of Campan marble. On the walls, you will find the most stunning shimmering silver wall panels, depicting ancient Greek goddesses. It was originally believed that these features were silver leaf, but the Newport County Preservation Society investigated further, determining it is actually platinum! The Vanderbilts clearly wanted this room to shimmer with the sunrise, so the use of platinum, which never tarnishes, was a great solution!

The Breakers – Dining Room // 1895

The Dining Room at The Breakers Mansion in Newport is straight out of a postcard! As you walk through the Great Hall into the Dining Room, you can imagine the high-quality 10-course meals served to the Vanderbilts and their wealthy guests. The two massive chandeliers always catch my attention first. The chandeliers are comprised of thousands of crystal balls and beads and were executed by Cristalleries Baccarat, the French glassmakers founded in 1765, but were partially designed by William Morris Hunt, the architect of the home, in the imperial pattern with a crown atop each fixture. Twelve free-standing columns of alabaster surround the room each with Corinthian-style capitals of gilded bronze, which seemingly support the edges of the vaulted ceiling. These columns support a massive carved and gilt cornice. The fireplace of the Dining Room is of carved and gilt grey marble; its hood is of a deep grey Cippolino marble, and it is amazing!

The Breakers – Great Hall // 1895

Merry Christmas from The Breakers! This 1895 Gilded Age mansion is the best to explore during December, when the halls are decked and stunning Christmas trees adorn the lavish rooms (learn more about the mansion in my last post) When you walk into The Breakers, you enter the Great Hall. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the Great Hall after the open-air courtyards in Italian villas, but enclosed due to the tough New England winters. The palatial space (measuring 50 foot square), even if crowded by tourists trying to get the perfect shot on their smartphones, feels spacious yet somehow welcoming given the art museum-like detailing. The walls are made of carved limestone from Caen on the coast of France and adorned with plaques of rare marbles. Elaborately carved pilasters decorated with acorns and oak leaves support a massive carved and gilt-cornice which surrounds a ceiling painted to depict a windswept sky, further expressing the open-air courtyard feeling envisioned by Hunt, the architect. Four bronze chandeliers dangle from the gilded ceiling, and flood the room with warm light, evoking warm summers in Italy.

Charles Owens House // 1906

This house at 11 Powell Street in North Brookline was built in 1906 for Charles H. Owens, Jr., and his wife, Nellie. Charles Owens was listed in the directory as a “house decorator”, which presumably was an early term for interior designer. The architectural firm of Loring and Phipps designed the home in the Federal Revival style with a rectangular form with shallow hipped roof. The symmetrical main facade has flushboard siding which provides the smooth texture, compared to more traditional clapboard siding. There is an elliptical portico at the entry with a large stair hall window above. While I personally am not a fan of the lemon yellow, the home is an amazing addition to the streetscape and neighborhood. Historic New England has a collection of historic images of the property’s interior and exterior which showcase Owen’s personal style.

Frank Anderson House // 1906

One of the finest mansions in Nashua is the Frank Anderson House, a c.1906 Beaux-Arts style property on Concord Street. The home’s original owner, Frank Manning (1852-1925), co-ran the Estabrook-Anderson Shoe Company in Nashua, which at its peak, manufactured over 10,000 pairs of shoes daily. In 1925, the house was sold to New Hampshire’s seventy-fourth governor, Francis Murphy, a successful businessman. Most recently, the home was home of the Manchester Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, then became a private girls’ high school; and in 2016, it was purchased by Thomas More College. The home was given a full restoration in 2018.

At the exterior, the symmetrical home features red brick and Vermont marble trim. A hipped slate roof is accentuated by twin dormers. The interior was surprisingly well-preserved given its wide variety of uses, and local interior designers completed modern, but appropriate modifications to the spaces.

Gasson Hall – Boston College // 1913

The Boston College campus at Chestnut Hill represents the best of the Collegiate Gothic style in the Boston area.

Boston College was founded by the Society of Jesus in 1863, and is one of twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. Originally located on Harrison Avenue in the South End of Boston, where it shared quarters with the Boston College High School, the College outgrew its urban setting toward the end of its first fifty years. A new location was selected in Chestnut Hill, then almost rural, and four parcels of land were acquired in 1907. A design competition for the development of the campus was won by the firm of Maginnis and Walsh, and ground was broken on June 19, 1909, for the construction of Gasson Hall.

Originally called the Recitation Building, then the Tower Building, Gasson Hall was finally named in honor of Father Thomas I. Gasson, founder of the Chestnut Hill campus. The building was designed by Charles D. Maginnis and built from stone quarried on the present campus. The style of the building and much of the campus can be classified as Collegiate Gothic. Gasson Hall was publicized by Ralph Adams Cram, who helped establish Collegiate Gothic as the prevailing architectural style on American university campuses for much of the 20th century.

At its interior, the Rotunda at the center of the building is a special treat to behold. A blending of different mediums of art including: architecture, sculpture, stained glass, and painted murals, the space is truly awe-inspiring. The dominant feature inside the rotunda is the large marble statue of St. Michael triumphing over Satan. The art piece was commissioned by Gardner Brewer, a Boston merchant for his great hall in his Beacon Hill house. Brewer hired Scipione Tadolini, a renowned sculptor in Rome, and he (along with his assistants) turned a massive block of the finest Carrara marble into the epic battle between good and evil. The piece was eventually purchased by Boston College when they envisioned it to be placed in their Rotunda.