The Preservation Society of Newport County and Paul and Gladys Szápáry have issued a joint announcement regarding the third floor living quarters at The Breakers:
“The Preservation Society of Newport County (“the PSNC”) is taking steps to protect and preserve The Breakers and its extraordinary historic contents for future generations, and to make way for possible future public access to upper portions of the building that have not previously been accessible by the public, including the former servants’ quarters.
In an effort to assess the integrity of The Breakers infrastructure as a whole, the Board of Trustees of the PSNC instructed the staff to determine the reliability of the 120-year old plumbing and wiring in the areas still in use as a residence. A year-long study by a preservation architect and an engineer concluded that the ventilation, electrical, and plumbing systems, while completely safe for museum use, were dangerously outdated for residential use, putting the structure and collections at risk. In view thereof, elements of the historic building’s 120-year old plumbing and electrical systems are being decommissioned on upper floors. The residential occupancy of the Vanderbilt family apartment on the third floor by Paul and Gladys Szápáry, the children of Countess Anthony Szápáry, has correspondingly been voluntarily discontinued.
Countess Szápáry was a grandchild of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who built The Breakers in 1895. Her mother, Countess Gladys Széchenyi, opened The Breakers to the public in 1948 to raise funds for the newly founded Preservation Society of Newport County, continuing her residence in the apartment on the third floor until her death in 1965. During the period between 1948 and 1965, Countess Széchenyi made critical and substantial financial contributions towards the upkeep of The Breakers. Subsequently, Countess Szápáry and her relatives sold The Breakers and some of its contents to the PSNC in 1972. Since then, they and other descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt II have donated many additional valuable and historical items to the PSNC for display at The Breakers, including furniture, art and memorabilia. Countess Szápáry, until her death in 1998, and her family thereafter, have continued to reside in the third floor apartment and been deeply involved with caring for The Breakers and The Breakers Stable as well as other PSNC properties. Vanderbilt descendants Countess Szápáry and Paul Szápáry served on the PSNC Board of Trustees for many years. Both Paul and Gladys Szápáry have volunteered much time and effort serving on various PSNC committees and helping raise money for the PSNC. Their love for and dedication to The Breakers and to the heritage of the extended Vanderbilt family are recognized and deeply appreciated by the PSNC as The Breakers nears its 125th anniversary.