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 William Kissam Vanderbilt, II

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William Kissam Vanderbilt, II

Railroad executive, accomplished yachtsman, pioneer automobile racing driver and promoter, explorer and philanthropist. Son of William Kissam Vanderbilt I ( 1849-1920 ), and Alva Erskine Sterling Vanderbilt, later Belmont, ( 1853-1933 ); great-grandson of 'Commodore' Cornelius Vanderbilt ( 1794-1877 ), founder of the family fortune.
Educated at St. Mark's School, in Massachusetts, and Harvard University, he entered the employ of the family's New York Central Railroad in 1903; securing the position of vice president in 1912, and becoming acting president in 1918. An early motor racing enthusiast, he won the land speed record on the Daytona Beach Race Course in 1904; that same year he launched the 'Vanderbilt Cup' ~ the first major trophy in auto racing. This Vanderbilt was the first suburban automobile commuter; driving between his office in New York and his country estate, 'Deepdale', at Great Neck, Long Island. In 1907 he founded a corporation to build the Long Island Motor Parkway ~ the first modern paved highway designed exclusively for automobiles, and the first to use overpasses and bridges to eliminate intersections. Serving in the United States Navy in 1917-1918, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Reserve; later receiving his master's certificate, endorsed for all oceans and unlimited tonnage. Vanderbilt began yachting at the age of sixteen with sailing craft at Newport, where his parents spent the summer seasons, later graduating to motor vessels. Acquiring the 213-foot Diesel yacht 'Ara', in 1922, he would travel over 135,000 miles on many voyages, spending much of his time collecting marine specimens during his explorations. In 1931 he took possession of a new 264-foot Diesel yacht, the 'Alva', named after his mother, which required a crew of forty-three. In July of that year, this carefree railroad executive, commenced, on this, the most powerful private yacht in the world, a cruise around the globe. During this period William K. Vanderbilt II was developing a country estate on forty-three acres at Centerport, Long Island, designed by Whitney Warren, architect of the Grand Central Terminal and other buildings owned by the Vanderbilt family interests. Named 'Eagle's Nest', the estate consisted of a sprawling mansion that preserved architectural elements from his father's dwellings, a swimming pool, private golf course, sea plane hangar, and a marine museum housing specimens and artifacts collected on his many voyages. On Vanderbilt's death, from a heart ailment in 1944, 'Eagle's Nest' estate was bequeathed to Suffolk County along with an endowment, and is now open to the public as the 'Vanderbilt Museum'.
Bio. Compiled and written by Robert Bruce.



  • Maintained by: R. Bruce
  • Originally Created by: Peterborough "K"
  • Added: 11 Jul 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6598347
  • R. Bruce
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Kissam Vanderbilt, II (2 Mar 1878–8 Jan 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6598347, citing Vanderbilt Mausoleum, New Dorp, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, USA ; Maintained by R. Bruce (contributor 46568831) .