The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is a mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II to use as a “summer house”. Completed in 1895, it is the largest privately owned residence in the United States with 178,926 square feet of space.
Vanderbilt purchased almost 700 parcels of land for the mansion, including over 50 farms and at least 5 cemeteries. The original estate consisted of an amazing 95,000 acres. Construction began in 1889. To handle such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite. A 3-mile railroad spur was constructed to bring materials to the building site. Construction of the main house required approximately 1,000 laborers and 60 stonemasons.
Vanderbilt traveled overseas to purchase thousands of furnishings, including tapestries, hundreds of carpets, prints, linens and decorative items, all dating between the 15th century and the late 19th century.
In later years newly imposed income taxes and the fact that the estate could no longer be managed economically, Vanderbilt initiated the sales of 87,000 acres to the Federal Government. This acreage was the basis of the Pisgah National Forest. The estate currently contains 8,000 acres. In 1930, during the Great Depression, the Biltmore was opened to the public until World War II and was reopened in 1956 to the present. 1.4 million visitors tour the mansion each year.
The main house has 250 rooms which includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, an electric elevator, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms and a call-bell system. The Banquet Room is the largest room in the house, measuring 42 feet wide by 72 feet long and 70 feet high with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The table can seat 64 guests. In the basement there is a heated swimming pool, bowling alley, gymnasium, main kitchen, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, walk-in refrigerator, servants’ dining hall, laundry room and additional bedrooms for the staff. Other staff lodgings are on the 4th floor.
The grounds and buildings have appeared in a number of major motion pictures and television series.
We visited the Biltmore Estate on our visit to North Carolina. I was impressed with the formal gardens and with the sheer magnitude of the house itself. Staff lodging in the basement consists of extremely tiny rooms with minimal furniture and no windows. The furnishings in the owner’s portion of the house were impressive and included paintings by well-known, classic artists. There is a private tour of some of the other areas of the house, closed off to regular tourists, for an additional fee; but we did not have time to take it. When we visited we were not permitted to take any pictures; but I have seen photos of tourists taking pictures with their cell phones; so that restriction may have been lifted.
Photo Credit: Free Images
Have you ever toured the Biltmore Estate?