Vanderbilt was a good man. When an estate employee sent his young son out to get a Christmas tree for their home, the boy unknowingly chopped down a prized spruce tree Vanderbilt had growing in his garden. The boy’s father was greatly distressed to learn what his son had done, but when they went to Vanderbilt, he merely told the family to enjoy the tree. The music room, on the other hand, was a mystery. At the back of the great hall, in one of the finest locations in the house, the room was originally never finished. It was closed off and existed as bare brick walls until finally completed in 1976 and put on the tour.
After Vanderbilt’s death, Edith sold much of the land to the U.S. government, and in 1930 opened the estate for tours. Today the estate is owned by George Vanderbilt’s great grandson, William A.V. Cecil, and comprises 8,000 acres. Tours go from the bottom to the top of the great house, and a winery has been established that produces exquisite wines for sale.
Cornelia, the daughter and only child of George and Edith Vanderbilt, married into the Cecil family in 1924, perhaps against her wishes. Two sons were born, then in 1934 she divorced her husband, abandoned her family, the estate, the country, her former life, and moved to England. She married a man much older, then another man much younger, dyed her hair colors like orange and pink, changed her name, and it was said she never saw her mother again, or returned to America until her death in 1976, when her body was placed in the Vanderbilt mausoleum on Staten Island, N.Y.
She was much like the unfinished music room — a mystery.