American Palaces: The Age of Opulence

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Duration 01:10:21


Francis Morrone is an architectural historian and the author of thirteen books, including The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (with Henry Hope Reed). The former art and architecture critic for the New York Sun, Morrone was named one of the thirteen best tour guides in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. He is the recipient of the Arthur Ross Award of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, the Landmarks Lion Award of the Historic Districts Council, and New York University’s Excellence in Teaching Award.



The Age of American Palaces

The Age of American Palaces ran from the 1890s through the 1920s: a time when the nation’s oligarchs built improbably splendid mansions and gardens in a golden age of building craftsmanship and landscape gardening. In this lavishly illustrated lecture, we will look at four of the most stupendous examples: The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island; Biltmore, in North Carolina; Vizcaya, in Miami; and Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, California.

History of American Palaces

We will also look at the people who built them: the clients (Cornelius Vanderbilt II, George Washington Vanderbilt, James Deering, and William Randolph Hearst), as well as the architects and landscape architects (Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Paul Chalfin, Diego Suarez, and Julia Morgan). What do these palaces—all of them now open to the public—have to say to us today?



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sherry bauman

Age of Opulence

What an interesting and wonderful lecture by someone who really loves the subject. What a charming man. Super interesting facts and pictures presented. Just a WOW from beginning to end. Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge.

2 years ago
Mary Collins


I really enjoyed this presentation! Fast paced, informative, lots of beautiful pictures. Highly recommend

2 years ago
David Wilber

American Palaces

Wonderful topic; terrible presentation. The lecturer focused more on the owners than the palaces. We saw the overview of Hearst Castle for ten seconds, then were treated to several minutes of a California map while the speaker droned on about Hearst, his wife, his mistress, his friends, etc. Then, of course, he ran short of time and rushed through the photos of the castle. The presentations of the other palaces were similar. I was fascinated that in every instance, he included everyone’s middle name, married name, family members’ names and lineage ad nauseum.

Please do not invite him back.

2 years ago
Terrence Quinn

This was a fascinating lecture by a lecturer who is obviously extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his topic. I was enthralled the entire time. He is a rich source of architectural history and should be invited back. His stories about the personal lives of the Vanderbilts and Hearst added to the presentation. Thank you for an enjoyable hour.

2 years ago
Dick Grote

Why is camera pointed up his nose?

Great topic. But the speaker is out of focus and the camera is pointed so that we’re looking up his nose during the whole talk. Worse (almost) is that the image is blurry and never quite in focus. The technical quality is abysmal.

2 years ago
jeffrey goldstein

Very Enjoyable Presentation

Informative and great pics – Well done!

2 years ago
Lynne Ward

Wow! Wonderful houses

Excellent lecture by a charming and knowledgeable lecturer. There was a wealth of slides showing the gorgeousness of these ‘palaces’. Have made a list of them in order to visit once traveling becomes easier.

2 years ago
Eric L Hoover


This lecture was not only informative but was enlightening yet quite educational as well. Please come back and lecture again!

2 years ago

American Palaces

Very enjoyable and riveting. Looking forward to more lectures like this one.

1 year ago
barbara ann.fields

Good, Informative Lecture

I learned so much about the houses but I would like to k ow more about the peoples who did the actual work and their treatment and pay.
Thank you for the lecture and I look forward to seeing one of these houses some day.

1 year ago
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