Asheville’s Biltmore Mansion: A century of American opulence

vanderbilt-biltmore-postcard-1950s

vanderbilt-biltmore-postcard-1950s

The Biltmore Estate is an enormous private estate (and tourist destination) tucked away in Asheville, North Carolina. The crown jewel of the property is Biltmore House, a French Renaissance chateau-style mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II from the years 1889 through 1895.

The reason construction took six years? That was how much time was needed to achieve an unparalleled level of luxury — in fact, Biltmore remains the largest privately-owned house in the country. There are 250 rooms spread over four acres of floor area — 178,926 square feet — and includes 43 bathrooms and 35 bedrooms.

For more wonderful details and construction images, be sure to check out one reporter’s account of visiting the estate just before it opened: A castle in the clouds: The Vanderbilt Mansion, Biltmore (1895).

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (3)

The Biltmore (1900)

Whoever has enjoyed the privilege of viewing the beautiful chains of the Blue Ridge — the Great Smoky Mountains spreading for fifty miles or more to the west of Asheville, and to a more limited extent the Black Mountains, with the monarch Mt. Mitchell to the east, and the Balsam Mountains to the south-west; the many who have benefited by the dryness and general salubrity of the climate; the lovers of rippling waters and nature’s mystic moods.

All these will readily understand why a scion of the great railway magnates, and a world-wide traveler, has chosen these southern woods to build his Biltmore manor and to surround it with one of the greatest private parks in existence.

1938-biltmore-pond

First visiting Asheville about ten years ago, Mr Geo. W. Vanderbilt found great benefit in his health, and in a later year, while sitting one day on the veranda of the Battery Park Hotel, he asked one of the native mountain guides to take him to the summit of a distant ridge that seemed to command all the great mountain vistas.

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Today, Biltmore House marks the site. The top of the peak was leveled — carted away to fill up a gap nearby, and the extensive plateau was created, now occupied by the gothic-renaissance mansion, the stables, the esplanade and tennis court. The buildings measure 700 feet in length, 192 feet at greatest width; from basement to turret 190 feet.

The materials used are chiefly sandstone, marble, steel and mahogany. There is a banquet hall or music room, with a grand organ and orchestra loft, the art gallery, the library, the tapestry room, the winter garden, the parlors, dining rooms, ordinaries and the marble halls There are some twenty-five guest chambers, each with a private bath. In the basement is a Turkish bath, with a marble plunge, 50×50 feet, and electric illumination from beneath as well as above.

1938-Biltmore, Asheville, Buncombe County (2)

The house is furnished with valuable paintings, tapestries, rugs and bric-a-brac, with many artistic pieces that once belonged to kings and nobles. Jlr. Vanderbilt’s bedstead is an old heirloom, with carved posts and a throne-like canopy. His natural gifts and fondness led him to make renewed excursions to Europe in search of more treasures of art and antiquity. Biltmore estate comprises 120,000 acres, including the hunting reserve on Mt Pisgah and the Rat. The several departments of horticulture, forestry, agriculture, dairy, piggery, poultry, farm, etc.. are in the hands of experts.

Under the direction of Frederick Law Olmstead, the veteran landscape architect, 10,000 acres have been converted into a magnificent park, bordered for five miles by the romantic French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers.

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Here abound ideal drives over mountain and plain, rivulets and lakes, picturesque retreats Every spot in sight of the visitor is cultivated with flowers, shrubs, vines, trees and plants, to grow in time into a unique model of a park. The public is admitted to the park on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons upon individual passes that can be procured at the estate’s office at Biltmore Station.


Biltmore, as seen in the New York Tribune (1902)

biltmore-ny-trib-1902


The famous Biltmore Estate (1910)

1902-Biltmore House


ALSO SEE: A castle in the clouds: The Vanderbilt Mansion, Biltmore (1895)


The Biltmore mansion and estate, Ashville (1938)

1938-Biltmore, Asheville, Buncombe County (1)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (2)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (4)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (6)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (5)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (7)

The Biltmore Estate - North Carolina - in 1900 (8)

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