Nov. 26, 1845 Cincinnati Hamilton County Ohio, USA
Apr. 22, 1934 Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Notable Socialite and Dowager Matron of the Vanderbilt Family for more than sixty years. Daughter of Abraham E. and Rachel Flagg Gwynne. Widow of Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899); Head of the House of Vanderbilt and Chairman of the Board of the New York Central. From her humble beginnings as the daughter of a prominent lawyer, she met her equally pious husband while teaching Sunday school. Proud and aristocratic, she transformed herself into the supreme empress of Fifth Avenue, launching a successful campaign to elevate her husband's family into the top drawer of New York and Newport society. This in time came for the need of a "suitable" New York residence; located at 1 West 57th Street, designed by Richard Hunt and George Post, imposing and dignified, it comprised one hundred and thirty rooms - the largest private home ever erected in the city. In Newport, Rhode Island, a home was needed to replace their previous home 'Breakers' that had burned down; completely fire-proof, 'Breakers II' was also designed by Hunt and was seventy rooms of sumptuous luxury, making it the most splendid home at that summer resort. Dubbed as "Alice of The Breakers", she insisted on the finest luxuries that could be bought; which ranged from footmen attired in maroon livery to the salt water in the baths at her summer home. Alice, a tiny woman at 5 feet 2 inches, was intensely religious, attending church services daily, sometimes twice a day if schedules permitted. Unusually cold to strangers, she was perpetually camera shy; and never left home without a thick veil and in the attendance of two burly guards. Preferring the comforts of a automobile rather than the uncertainties of boat or plane, she travelled between her two residences in a fleet of limousines~ all dressed in maroon. A widow in 1899, she was further saddened by the loss of her son Alfred (d. 1915) onboard the sinking of the "Lusitania" and her youngest son Reginald (d. 1925) after literally drinking himself to death; after which she chose to remain in mourning for the remainder of her lifetime, never donning anything more than black; her exquisite four-strand pearl necklace, which were so long she could actually kick them with her feet, being the only jewelry of choice. Alice Vanderbilt ~ The beloved Matriarch of the Vanderbilt family ~ passed away quietly at her marvelous summer home in her eighty-eighth year; being buried in the Vanderbilt family plot at Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island, New York. When her long-awaited will was finally probated the following year, it was revealed that, amongst other things, her assets included exactly $10,184,587 in cash. Today, though her incredible wealth has been dispersed, the 'Breakers', her splendid summer home in Newport, Rhose Island, lives on as her fabulous legacy.