• The Breakers


    If there is a single summer home that effectively serves as a monument to the Gilded Age, that home is The Breakers. The term was first coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today in an effort to mock the ostentatious display of wealth by playing on the term “golden age.” Such rapid accumulation of wealth will likely never be witnessed again as the personal fortunes of the 1870s and 1880s were not subject to an income tax.

    I recently toured this breath-taking relic of a by-gone era while in Newport for a stint. The great hall immediately swallows you in a sea of disbelief—disbelief that such an array of fabrics, stones, precious metals, and craftsmanship could be conceived, much less summoned in less than two years. Entire rooms were designed and built in shops of European craftsmen, including Allard and Sons of Paris, and then shipped to Newport for reassembly. Built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II (worth more than $70 million) and his family, The Breakers was modeled after the Renaissance palaces of Turin and Genoa. Its 65,000 square foot gait was fashioned to entertain. Ironically, the Vanderbilts weren’t particularly noted for their entertaining. In fact, they weren’t particularly noted for having lived in the summer home much at all as Vanderbilt suffered a stroke and died shortly after The Breakers’ completion.

    The Preservation Society of Newport County currently owns The Breakers. The non-profit’s collection includes 11 historic sites in an ongoing effort to protect, preserve, and present one of the most historically intact cities in America.

    The most striking feature of the library is the great stone chimney piece, originally from a French chateau.

    A portrait of Commodore Vanderbilt, the grandfather of the owner of The Breakers, is on the far wall.

    The music room, constructed in Paris by Jules Allard and shipped to Newport, was the scene of recitals and dances.

    Images via The Preservation Society of Newport County

    Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's room features French furnishings selected by the decorator Ogden Codman and portraits of Mrs. Whitney and her daughter.

    Aug 24, 2011 | Permalink (18) View/Leave Comments

    Robin left a comment on 7/13/2013 at 11:46 PM:

    I think its all lovely…thank you for sharing.

    Ann left a comment on 2/4/2012 at 4:06 PM:

    I went here for the summer with my cousins! Beautiful place!
    The pictures you took are set at an extravagant angle! It is simply eye-catching and riveting :)
    However were you granted permission to take pictures inside the mansion? I know there’s a ‘no taking pictures inside’ rule…

    Scarlet left a comment on 1/25/2012 at 2:37 AM:

    Very beautiful architecture. Looks like something out of a fairy tale. :D Wow!

    Walter left a comment on 10/20/2011 at 8:01 AM:

    The coverage of house is fine. I don’t know the purpose of the piece it does seem a bit out of place on this site to me. What I do find disturbing and distracting are the number of people who find what clearly appears to me to be the desperate need to either promote their degrees (no one cares) or their personal fantasies (no one cares) instead of comment on the piece at hand.

    Edward left a comment on 10/20/2011 at 7:46 AM:

    How sad how many dreamers this lifestyle solicites.

    bucephalus left a comment on 9/3/2011 at 3:28 PM:

    The interior décor of Breakers is not more elaborate or gaudy than your typical Bavarian or Austrian Baroque church, let alone Versailles.  But what makes it seem so shocking and overwhelming is that it’s in the United States where one expects a certain amount of Puritan understatement even in the stateliest (classic) mansions.  I’m wondering, is there another Gilded Age mansion that’s as ornate inside ?  Biltmore isn’t, nor the other Vanderbilt mansion in Hyde Park, NY.

    Elizabeth left a comment on 9/3/2011 at 1:22 AM:

    It’s beautiful, but at the same time, intimidating. I can’t even imagine living in a place like that. Look at that ballroom! Why, no matter what you wore, you’d clash with it!

    JMW left a comment on 9/2/2011 at 10:13 PM:

    Old Westbury is so much nicer.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 9/1/2011 at 6:36 PM:

    As someone who holds a degree in finance, I’m not even all that interested in conversing about historic income tax law.  Imagine how eager the rest are.

    bucephalus left a comment on 9/1/2011 at 6:28 PM:

    The federal corporate income tax was enacted several times in the 19th century, but it did not survive constitutional challenges.  It took the 16th amendment to the Constitution—the same one which allowed the personal income tax—to empower the federal government to tax corporate income.  In other words, robber baron corporations like Standard Oil or Carnegie Steel or J P Morgan & Co. basically paid no federal income tax.  There were state taxes, but these were risibly small.

    Modern financial engineering is not relevant.  The fortunes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett aren’t built on terribly complex products.  They are built on massively appreciated common and preferred stock.

    DJ left a comment on 9/1/2011 at 2:41 PM:

    Hmmm…long term capital gains are indeed taxed at 15%, but for the highest tax bracket, any short-term CG’s are taxed at 35%.  And yes, the fortunes of many of the Robber Barons were accumulated through personal income as much of the financial engineering and/or many of today’s modern electronic-marketplace derived products had not yet been developed.  It was much safer and lucrative to take the personal “income” then rather than to leave it subject to corporate taxation (which did exist then).

    JC left a comment on 9/1/2011 at 10:01 AM:

    Less than half the size of the “other” Vanderbilt abode in Asheville, NC.

    bucephalus left a comment on 9/1/2011 at 1:43 AM:

    “Such rapid accumulation of wealth will likely never be witnessed again as the personal fortunes of the 1870s and 1880s were not subject to an income tax.”

    Actually, the accumulation of wealth in the Gilded Age has nothing to do with the lack of an income tax.  In fact, most fortunes TODAY are not subject to income tax, because the wealth of billionaires like Bill Gates are not derived from income, but from unrealized capital gains (which are not taxed at all).  Even if Bill Gates sold all his Microsoft shares, the capital gains tax is only 15% !

    Raulston left a comment on 8/31/2011 at 6:54 PM:

    I find myself in a constant fit of nostalgia wondering why we no longer build with such detail (even if it is on a bit of a smaller scale). The attention to detail in the gilded age was extraordinarily unprecedented. Thank you for another superb post !

    Phaon Spurlock left a comment on 8/31/2011 at 3:52 PM:

    This place is BEYOND amazing! Well, I know where my next trip will be.

    Phaon Spurlock
    Men’s Lifestyle

    Joy left a comment on 8/31/2011 at 3:51 PM:

    America’s Versaille that’s for sure.

    G.O.S left a comment on 8/31/2011 at 3:22 PM:

    How did you get into my house ?!?

    Christina left a comment on 8/31/2011 at 3:10 PM:

    When I was little we’d go visit The Breakers every summer.  I always liked to pretend I’d be invited over for croquet on the back lawn.


  • ITHF Class of 2011 Induction

    Culture | Sports | Miscellany  

    Last month I met up with high jinks cohort K. Cooper Ray and Arthur Wayne of Brooks Brothers for Andre Agassi’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The grass courts in Newport, RI, aside from being immaculately manicured, are some of the finest and rarest public grass courts in the land—only four other facilities in the States accommodate those without country club membership. After a well rounded luncheon, we all ducked into the Brooks Brothers box for the afternoon to find respite from the heat. Not all guests were so fortunate. Agassi’s speech was heartfelt, the clothes playful, and the Del’s lemonade thirst quenching (thanks for the round Arthur). All around, it was a great day of tennis and for tennis. I wonder who will be in the class of 2012?

    Photographed in Newport, RI

    Aug 15, 2011 | Permalink (13) View/Leave Comments

    Annica Benning left a comment on 8/21/2011 at 1:06 AM:

    My two favorite fashion icons, FEC & Cooper Ray. Well done.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 8/19/2011 at 10:44 AM:

    @Tim—Only original Del’s for me…unfortunately they did not have any pretzel rods.

    J. Prep Lee left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 9:20 PM:

    Killah layout… I really like the pic of K. Ray looking back at the photo. Tight…

    J. Lee


    Tim left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 6:44 PM:

    Del’s! That’s what I’m talkin’ bout. It better be the original and not the watermelon or blue crap!  Nice photos, I was bummed I could not make it.  Classy outfit as well.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 3:36 PM:

    @Randy—Yes, my glasses are Total Wits by Eyebobs.

    Randy left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 3:05 PM:

    I love your posts.  I was actually wondering which model Eyebobs frames you converted to real glasses?  Was it the Total Wit?

    Eustace Tilley left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 12:37 PM:

    I’m lucky that I can walk to the Hall of Fame, the Newport Creamery, the Redwood, the Reading Room and Brooks Brothers.  They pretty much cover my basic needs.  Thanks again for the great pictures.

    Theri left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 9:50 AM:

    I think the hydrangeas look amazing… you’ve made me want to visit Newport sooner than I planned!

    AEV left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 7:22 AM:

    Really great pics…Newport (and the Tennis Hall of Fame) is a special place indeed.

    c.e. left a comment on 8/18/2011 at 2:24 AM:

    awesome pictures, what camera do you use?

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 8/17/2011 at 6:47 PM:

    @Desmond K—America’s public grass courts.

    Desmond K left a comment on 8/17/2011 at 6:28 PM:

    The melancholy inside me just has to know; where are the other 4 courts located?

    Tripp left a comment on 8/17/2011 at 6:13 PM:

    i was there too! not in a box though. it pays to have friends in high places


  • The Glorious Fourth


    Photographed on Nantucket, MA

    Jul 4, 2011 | Permalink (14) View/Leave Comments

    30somethingAtty left a comment on 7/11/2011 at 8:04 PM:

    Wait…is she wearing the shirt you had on in Newport Harbor??

    30somethingAtty left a comment on 7/11/2011 at 8:01 PM:

    Best of yours, yet. Top drawer!

    Amy Martin left a comment on 7/5/2011 at 3:11 PM:

    So, I want a photo just like this of myself… is that weird?  You have such a gift.  :)

    GoodStyleHunter left a comment on 7/5/2011 at 6:34 AM:

    I love everything about this shot…Wonderful.

    Rex left a comment on 7/5/2011 at 3:16 AM:

    Stunning! And the photo isn’t bad either :)

    Joey Dee left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 8:12 PM:

    Declare your independence from ill fitting clothing, trends, and game jerseys! Have a safe, sartorial, happy Independence day, everyone!

    Carlos left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 6:48 PM:

    So fitting! Excellent picture.
    Hope you are having a great fourth.

    rSl left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 2:16 PM:

    i’m such a sucker for the freckles, man.  gorgeous.

    Julien (from France) left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 1:47 PM:

    Congratulations, it’s a very nice picture… As usual!
    Happy 4th July!

    Paul Kim left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 12:53 PM:

    Hey Fred, great site.  Just wondering, where did you prep?  I went to Greenhill in Dallas.

    Tyler Khan left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 11:07 AM:

    Such a great picture! Hope you have a Happy 4th of July!

    NPHAF left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 10:18 AM:

    Happy 4th from Sweden. Great picture.

    Christian Bourasseau left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 8:38 AM:

    Happy Birthday America! Great picture Fred!

    Stu Hodgkiss left a comment on 7/4/2011 at 6:34 AM:

    What an amazing image!

    Happy 4th July!


  • Decoration Day


    Memorial Day, formerly knows as Decoration Day, is not only observed in remembrance of Americans who’ve lost their lives in wars but unofficially marks the beginning of summer. To my friends on Nantucket for Figawi, I’m looking forward to making it out next year. To everyone else, relish the remainder of your weekend.

    Image via Nick Onken

    May 30, 2011 | Permalink (3) View/Leave Comments

    Joey Dee left a comment on 6/1/2011 at 4:14 PM:

    Great photo. God bless those in service, and may they all come home in health soon.

    Scott Alexander left a comment on 5/31/2011 at 12:37 AM:

    I truly enjoy your blog. Your article on Of Rogues and Gents is excellent.

    Stu Hodgkiss left a comment on 5/30/2011 at 3:07 PM:

    Hope you have an enjoyable Memorial Day, enjoy the summer…


  • Blue Devils in Madras


    Image via Duke University Archives

    Duke may not be the first university to come to mind when you think “prep”, but the Durham private school certainly represents a bolder southern variation. These three students usher in a 1980s spring with their light-hearted display of madras. Though you can still get your hands on plaid jackets like these, opt for the eccentric patchwork madras sport coat that works just as well with navy chinos or khakis.

    Mar 11, 2011 | Permalink (14) View/Leave Comments

    amg left a comment on 3/23/2011 at 10:25 PM:

    Interesting post!  I have followed the preppy movement since the 1980’s and its slow fade to the background in the succeeding decades.  I did go to Duke in Durham to study law in 2000.  What I did not expect was the existence of a look, noted in the post as a “southern variation” of preppy. I would not necessarily call it “bolder” and neither would I call it “ivy”, it is more like Southern Traditional Americana (brass buttoned blazers, khakis, loafers, regimental ties, etc.).  I guess it’s the Ben Silver look.  This look can likewise be found in UNC-Chapel Hill where one of the purveyors of this look, Alexander Julian, still keeps shop.

    http://nivaldodelima.com/ left a comment on 3/21/2011 at 2:59 AM:

    Love the madras!!

    GJA left a comment on 3/16/2011 at 2:51 PM:

    Reminds me of Rollins College in late winter

    john lexington left a comment on 3/16/2011 at 10:51 AM:

    southern ivy, duke, emory, , unc, vandy

    karen left a comment on 3/15/2011 at 7:17 PM:

    My grandfather went to Duke University. I was accepted to Davidson College.

    K left a comment on 3/15/2011 at 10:09 AM:

    Love the blazers and I agree with @Angel, the fit is great! A lot of people in college cannot dress themselves, nor find the right cuts.

    Andrew left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 10:34 PM:

    At first glance I thought it was a modern day photo. Shows you how little change there’s been in collegiate preppy style.

    RWF left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 8:18 PM:

    Whitney you are right UNC also has a tradition for southern prep and the gentleman in the middle is actually a UNC student while the other two are Duke students and the uncles of one of my best friends. The photo comes from my friend’s album and was first posted on http://pleasurablerevelation.tumblr.com/

    Tom left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 2:57 PM:

    I still have one of those in the back of my closet.  Sadly (but much to my wife’s delight), the college-age 36 no longer fits my fatherly 42 frame.

    preppywithatwist left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 12:55 PM:

    Glad to see my alma mater finally getting the style accolades it deserves. We’re quite the dapper bunch.

    Angel left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 12:20 PM:

    Whats impressive about this photo is that the Gents in this photo all have very well fitting clothing, hard to find student aged men who know how to buy proper fitting attire. Very cool.

    Angels Point of View - Street Style Blog

    Chenners left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 11:24 AM:

    Great find, Fred.

    Whitney left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 9:55 AM:

    I really think you should head 8 miles down the road and take a look at UNC… the less devilish (but still quite preppy) rival. Go Heels!


    Robert left a comment on 3/14/2011 at 4:09 AM:

    Duke University, birthplace of the Campus Sartorialist.


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