On Saturday November 19th, we loaded up the cars and headed for the Biltmore for Christmas at the Big House. This was the first trip for Samantha, Hailey and Heather and the 2nd trip for Greta. Greta drove over from Winston Salem and Heather followed us up in her car. We had the girls going up and Heather took them home with her. We all had a marvelous time. Started out with lunch at the Deerpark Restaurant which was open for the Christmas Holidays. What a wonderful buffet lunch. Fortunately we got a valet ticket for parking so we didn’t have to park out in the boonies. Samantha and Heather were really enthralled with the house and took lots of pictures as did Greta. The house was quite crowded but not quite as bad as it will be after Thanksgiving. Hailey had a hard time grasping that only one family actually lived in that house. So many bedrooms and sitting rooms and dining rooms.
Anyway here are a few pictures from the house. Hope you enjoy.
In the late 1880s, George W. Vanderbilt, then a young man of 25, came upon the perfect spot in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for a 250-room French Renaissance chateau to be built by his friend, architect Richard Morris Hunt. The great chateau would be called “Biltmore.” It’s the American version of Downton Abbey from the popular PBS series.
Vanderbilt’s decision to locate his mountain mansion near Asheville, NC, led to his purchase of a total of 125,000 acres surrounding the site. Today, Biltmore Estate encompasses approximately 8,000 acres, including formal and informal gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture in America.
While the incomparable beauty of Biltmore Estate is the result of the combined creative talents and vision of all three men—Vanderbilt, Hunt and Olmsted—it is Biltmore House, which continues to be the centerpiece of Vanderbilt’s legacy. This great house remains the largest private residence in America, a National Historic Landmark.
George Vanderbilt officially opened the home to friends and family on Christmas Eve in 1895. He had created a country retreat where he could pursue his passion for art, literature, and horticulture. After marrying the American Edith Stuyvesant Dresser (1873–1958) in Paris during the summer of 1898, George and his new bride came to live at the estate. Their only child, Cornelia (1900–1976), was born and grew up at Biltmore.
History of Biltmore
Construction of Biltmore House was under way in 1889; it was a massive undertaking that included a mansion, gardens, farms, and woodlands. George Vanderbilt engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century: architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). The centerpiece was a four-story stone house with a 780-foot façade—a monument that would rival the surrounding mountains in grandeur. Hunt modeled the architecture on the richly ornamented style of the French Renaissance and adapted elements, such as the stair tower and the steeply pitched roof, from three famous early-16th-century châteaux in the Loire Valley: Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord.
Even after six years, Biltmore House was not complete when George Vanderbilt opened it in 1895; work would continue for years. Its scale continues to be astounding: the house contains more than 11 million bricks; the massive stone spiral staircase rises four floors and has 102 steps. Through its center hangs an iron chandelier suspended from a single point, containing 72 electric light bulbs.
Upstairs on the second and third floors, in addition to luxurious bedrooms, are areas where guests once played parlor games and took afternoon tea. The Fourth Floor features Maids’ Bedrooms and the Observatory with spectacular views from the top of the front of the house. Downstairs, the domestic servants kept the entire house running smoothly with the help of a state-of-the-art domestic nerve center, complete with a main kitchen, two specialty kitchens, large laundry complex, refrigeration systems and pantries.
Fully electric and centrally heated, Biltmore House, at the time of its completion, was considered one of the most technologically advanced structures ever built and is still admired today for its innovative engineering. It used some of Thomas Edison’s first light bulbs, boasted a fire alarm system, an electrical call box system for servants, two elevators, elaborate indoor plumbing for all 34 bedrooms and a relatively newfangled invention called the telephone.
Vanderbilt also wanted his mountain home to provide family and friends with recreational pleasures: an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley and gymnasium are located downstairs.