National Geographic : 1968 Sep
a palace in Renaissance style and one of the most ornate houses on the continent. Fire had destroyed the original Breakers in 1892. Mr. Van derbilt immediately commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a new one. Platoons of stonecutters, sculptors, mosaic makers, and wood carvers and an army of laborers and carpenters were unleashed. They completed the amazing struc ture from the ground up in just two years. The Breakers is overpowering: a mazelike conglomeration of limestone from Caen, France, marble in a dozen different varieties, wrought iron, massive chandeliers, alabaster, silver, crystal, antique tapestries, stained glass, gilt, huge rugs, ornate fireplaces, and tooled and gilded leather "wallpaper." The Great Hall soars to a ceiling with a painted sky 45 feet above the floor; one glass wall looks out over the lawn to the sea. Close by, the huge dining room also has a distant ceiling devoted to a painting of Aurora at Dawn. Two large crystal chandeliers, fitted for both gas and electricity, illumine 12 red alabaster columns, above which life-size goddesses and nymphs disport themselves in ceiling arches. The table, fully extended, can seat 34. Clearly this was no room for a quick snack, so the family had another dining room, with pale-green French antique paneling, for everyday use. State Bird Gives Way to Other Breeds Bedazzled by The Breakers, I got back my perspective by driving to Adamsville through Tiverton and Little Compton. This eastern section of the state has a comfortable look. White houses perch on long lawns that run down to the Sakonnet River; baled hay stands in the fields; honeysuckle-covered stone walls enclose a few black-and-white cows. On the way I paused at Middletown to visit Whitehall, the restored clapboard house that from 1729 to 1731 was the home of George Berkeley. The Irish bishop and philosopher was awaiting funds from Parliament to found a college in Ber muda-funds that never came. The products of his busy pen included "Westward the course of empire takes its way...." At Adamsville I clucked at a bronze tablet erected to honor a chicken-the Rhode Island Red, a breed developed there in 1854. But I did not see any Rhode Island Reds. The chicken itself has been superseded by other, more modern varieties, but it still rules the roost as the official state bird. On one of my last days in Rhode Island, nature put on a brilliant show for me, a sharp rainstorm just before sunset. A canopy of dark clouds hung over Providence. When the rain stopped, the low-lying sun cast a rosy glow that deepened the tone of the red-brick city, tinged the wet dome of the capitol, and struck a rainbow directly over the First Baptist Church. I hoped it meant a bright tomorrow for the littlest state. THE END "Summer cottages," multimillionaires called the pleas ure palaces they raised from the Gay Nineties to the Roar ing Twenties, when Newport was the playground of so ciety's elite "400." A spectacular promenade called Cliff Walk rims the surf-dashed headland. Tudor gables crown The Waves, built by architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D. C. KODACHROME BYFREDWARD,BLACKSTAR© N.G.S. .