Friday, August 7, 2009
Virginia Fair Vanderbilt
As you've probably guessed by now I have a special interest in the Vanderbilts. It's not for any particular reason - I just find The Gilded Age and the famous, wealthy families of that era fascinating.
Virginia was the sister of Tessie Oelrichs and followed in her footsteps. The sister's father made a fortune from the Comstock Lode and Bonanza Mines in Nevada. He was also a US Senator from 1881 -1887.
Virginia, nicknamed 'Birdie', looks like a raven-haired beauty in her portrait, but she was described by The New York Times as 'not exactly a great belle'! A devout Roman Catholic, she once wanted to be a nun, but the attractions of the social life in New York and Newport were too great a temptation. Virginia stayed with her married sister, became popular, and enjoyed many sports. She had lots of suitors, including H. Maitland Kersey and Bourke Cochran.
She married William K.Vanderbilt in 1899 in a Roman Catholic wedding. He inherited a large fortune and worked as the president of the New York Central Railroad Company.
He was the brother of Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough.
The marriage only lasted ten years. Virginia started a thoroughbred racing stable and set up the Virginia Fair Legacy Fund to rebuild a Catholic school in San Francisco after the earthquake.
In 1930 Virginia hired John Russell Pope to design a French classic limestone house.
This is now owned by the antique dealer Carlton Hobbs.
Soon after this her son William K. Vanderbilt III was killed in a car accident in Newport. Virginia had also had to endure the death of her brother, Charles, in a car accident. She died shortly after her son, aged only 55.