Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt bought a home on this site in 1895. The original home was in bad shape, so the Vanderbilts demolished it and built this mansion in its place. It was designed by McKim, Mead and White after the syle of a European country estate. The Vanderbilts, being new money, craved what they were not: noble ancestry. Thus, money was not enough. They strove to acquire the veneer of nobility by living the lifestyle, acquiring the material possessions, and marrying into European lineage as much as possible.
In this mansion, all the furnishings are European, the exceptions being two sofas in the main hall. This, in spite the fact that the most prized furnishings then and now are American antiquities. The building represents the state of the art in modern construction techniques of the time: steel construction, central heating, interior plumbing, electricity, and its own electric generation facility.