Vanderbilt Magazine

A Guide to Places Made Famous by Cornelius Vanderbilt and His Heirs

By Seth Robertson

As many times as Cornelius Vanderbilt’s name and famous moniker appear around campus, it’s easy to forget that he never actually laid eyes on the university he helped found. Nor, in fact, did he see many of the other places built with his money. The Commodore accumulated so much wealth during his lifetime that it took several generations of heirs to spend the vast fortune.

And spend it they did. The buildings they constructed, particularly those used as private residences, were among the largest and most extravagant the world has ever seen. And that’s to say nothing of the lavish furnishings within them.

What follows is a guide to some of the places that reflect the Vanderbilts’ enduring legacy. Numerous structures remain standing, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while others fell victim to the wrecking ball long ago. Still others live on, not because of any family connection, but because of the cachet of the Vanderbilt name itself.

NOTE: Jerry E. Patterson’s The Vanderbilts (1989, Harry N. Abrams) and various online resources were used to compile this list.


Nationwide, more streets, parks, towns, buildings and other locales with the Vanderbilt name exist than could possibly be included here.

But for those looking to go off the beaten path, consider a few of them:

  • Vanderbilt Beach in Naples, Florida: a beach created by a property developer who was reportedly friends with the Vanderbilt family
  • Vanderbilt, Michigan: a small community that owes its existence to the Michigan Central Railroad, which was owned by the Vanderbilts
  • The Commodore Hotel in Portland, Oregon: a former art-deco hotel that has since been converted into apartments
  • Vanderbilt Park in Denver: a city park named in honor of the family
  • The Commodore in Brooklyn, New York: a bar that features its own “Commodore” cocktail (a piña colada with an amaretto float)

See photos submitted by fellow ’Dores at some of the Vanderbilt family-related locales featured in this story—and find out how to submit your own pics.