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Biltmore House
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Biltmore House
Location: Asheville, North Carolina, United States
Coordinates: 35°32′22.74″N 82°33′3.42″W / 35.53965°N 82.55095°W / 35.53965; -82.55095Coordinates: 35°32′22.74″N 82°33′3.42″W / 35.53965°N 82.55095°W / 35.53965; -82.55095
Built/Founded: 1889-95
Architect: Richard Morris Hunt; Frederick Law Olmsted
Architectural style(s): Châteauesque
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
NRHP Reference#: 66000586 [1]

Biltmore House is a French Renaissance-style mansion near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. In 2007, it was ranked eighth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.



In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, began to make regular visits with his mother, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt (1821–1896), to the Asheville, NC area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to create his own summer estate in the area, which he called his "little mountain escape", just as his older brothers and sisters had built opulent summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York.

His idea was to replicate the working estates of Europe. He commissioned Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various Vanderbilt family members, to design the house in imitation of several Loire Valley chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois. Wanting the best, Vanderbilt also employed Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, including the deliberately rustic three-mile (5 km) approach road. Gifford Pinchot and later Carl Schenck were hired to manage the forests, with Schenck establishing the first forestry education program in the U.S., the Biltmore Forest School, on the estate grounds in 1898. Intending that the estate could be self-supporting, Vanderbilt set up scientific forestry programs, poultry farms, cattle farms, hog farms and a dairy. The estate included its own village (today Biltmore Village) and a church.[2] The Vanderbilts invited family and friends from across the country to experience the opulent estate. Famous guests to the estate have included author Edith Wharton, novelist Henry James, presidents McKinley, Wilson and Nixon, and Charles, Prince of Wales.

Vanderbilt paid little attention to the family business or his own investments, and it is believed that the construction and upkeep of Biltmore depleted much of his inheritance. After Vanderbilt died of complications from an emergency appendectomy in 1914, his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, finalized the sale of 85,000 of the original 125,000 acres (507 km²) to the federal government (in respect to her husband's wish that the land remain unaltered), which became the nucleus of Pisgah National Forest.


The estate today covers approximately 8,000 acres (32 km²) and is split in half by the French Broad River. It is owned by The Biltmore Company, which is controlled by Vanderbilt's grandson, William A.V. Cecil, III. In 1964, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The dairy farm was split off into Biltmore Farms, run by William Cecil's brother, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, and the former dairy barn was converted into the Biltmore Winery.

Tourist attraction

View of the west side of the house from the Shrub garden

In an attempt to bolster the Depression-driven economy, Vanderbilt's only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, and her husband, John Amherst Cecil, opened Biltmore House to the public in March 1930. Family members continued to live there until 1956, when it was permanently opened to the public as a house museum. Visitors from all over the world continue to marvel at the 70,000 gallon (265 cubic meter) indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, turn-of-the-century exercise equipment, two-story library, and other rooms filled with artworks, furniture and 19th-century novelties such as elevators, forced-air heating, centrally-controlled clocks, fire alarms and an intercom system. It also has pipes under the bass pond that pump debris-filled stormwater under the lake bed. It remains a major tourist attraction in Western North Carolina, with more than 1 million visitors each year.

Besides the house, the grounds also feature approximately 75 acres (30 ha) of formal gardens, a winery and the Inn on Biltmore Estate, a AAA four-diamond 213-room hotel.

The Louis XV Suite was restored and opened to the public in 2009, and plans call for the restoration of the Oak Sitting Room and Second Floor Living Hall in 2012.

See also

Movie roles

The grounds and buildings of Biltmore Estate have appeared in a number of major motion pictures:


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15. 
  2. ^ Cathedral of All Souls: History
  • Hewitt, Mark Alan: The Architect & the American Country House. Yale University Press: New Haven & London 1990, p. 1-10

External links



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