William K. Vanderbilt

William K. Vanderbilt
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William K. Vanderbilt was the second son of William Henry Vanderbilt, from whom he inherited $60 million, he was for a time active in the management of the family railroads, though not much after 1903. He was known by his friends as "Willie K" and was active in various speed sports including horse racing and motorboats at an early age. It was his driving that was enraging the locals. Fifty residents of Newport petitioned the police to impose speed limits, and in 1900, Newport police issued Vanderbilt a summons to appear in court to discuss his driving habits. City leaders established Newport's first speed limits for automobiles ``and other self-propelled vehicles'' -- 6 mph in central areas and 10 mph elsewhere. ``Arrest me every day if you want to,'' Vanderbilt was quoted as saying. ``It's nothing to pay fines for such sport.'' In response he along with other wealthy enthusiasts formed the National Automobile Racing Association. Turning his attention from Newport for Long Island he established the nation's first international auto race, an event that would help popularize motorcars. Later, he helped build the nation's first road designed exclusively for automobiles, the Long Island Motor Parkway. This reinforced concrete road also was the first highway to use bridges and overpasses to eliminate intersections. Called ``Long Island's Appian Way'' in promotional material, it was a road ahead of its time.

His sons William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr. (1878-1944) and Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884-1970) were the last to be active in the railroads, the latter losing a proxy battle for the New York Central Railroad in the 1950s. After the death of his brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1899 he was generally regarded as head of the Vanderbilt family.

Like other members of his wealthy family, he built magnificent Vanderbilt houses. His homes included Idle Hour (1900) on Long Island, New York and Marble House (1892), designed by Richard Morris Hunt who also designed his 660 Fifth Avenue mansion (1883), in Newport.

William Kissam Vanderbilt died in Paris, France in 1920. His remains were brought home and interred in the Vanderbilt family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island, New York.


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