It was Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt who first created the extraordinary wealth of his family. After entering the world into considerable poverty in 1794, he died the richest man in the United States in 1877, with a railroad network and shipping the main sources of his income. Then his son William carried on making money, and he too was the richest man in the country when he died in 1885. But after that, things went off the rails for the Vanderbilts. Read on to find out how one of America’s most fabulous fortunes evaporated over the years.
10. The Breakers
It may have seemed to the various Vanderbilts that the money tree would never cease to produce its rich fruit. Perhaps this very thought was in the mind of Cornelius Vanderbilt II when he built his enormous Italian Renaissance-style pile in Newport, Rhode Island. He was one of the third generation of wealthy Vanderbilts, having inherited $70 million from his father, William Henry. Boasting 70 rooms and spectacular ocean views, The Breakers was completed in 1895.
And this palatial joint wasn’t even the main residence of Cornelius II and his family; it was merely a summer home. Building the house, though, cost what would be around $150 million today, and while this sum wasn’t enough to break the bank for the Vanderbilts back then, it can be seen as a first extravagant step in their ultimate downfall. Cornelius II only had four years in which to enjoy The Breakers, too, as he died in 1899.