9. Marble House
Ludicrously lavish homes were somewhat of a family trademark, and Cornelius II’s elder brother William Kissam also had his own little construction project. This was Marble House, a Beaux-Arts monster that was purportedly meant to have been a cottage. And as was the case with The Breakers, William’s summer house was in Newport, Rhode Island.
Marble House was costly, too, since William spent a fifth of his $55 million inheritance on its construction, which was completed in 1892. But just like his brother with The Breakers, William didn’t get much time to enjoy his summer residence. He had given it to his wife, Alva, as a birthday present, but she divorced him in 1895 and subsequently took her gift for herself.
8. Buying social cachet
Determined to take what she saw as her rightful position alongside the crème de la crème of New York high society, Alva put on a masquerade ball in spring 1883. And over 1,000 people were invited to her new home, Le Petit Chateau – the Little Castle – on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The residence was far from little, however.