In my travels I’ve been in quite a few of the stately mansions built by the Gilded Age 1%–the Frick House in Pittsburgh, the Ringling house in Sarasota. But in the lofty world of the rich, these guys were low-levels, mere wanna-be’s. When it comes to the REAL uber-rich Robber Barons, the 1% of the 1%, the Vanderbilts were near top of the heap.
George Vanderbilt, the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, was born into the lap of luxury. In 1888, then 26, he spent some time at the health spas in Asheville NC, liked the area, and decided to construct a “country retreat” in the surrounding mountains. “Biltmore” took six years to build. Centered in 100,000 acres of pristine mountain forest, it had 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.
After George Vanderbilt died in 1914, the Biltmore Estate went to his daughter Cornelia, who later moved in with her husband John Cecil. In 1930 the city of Asheville convinced them to open the house for public viewing, hoping it would boost the tourist economy during the Depression. It was advertised as “America’s Biggest Home”. During World War II, art work from the National Art Gallery was stored here for safekeeping. In later years a winery and Inn were added to the grounds. Today, the Biltmore is the biggest tourist attraction in Asheville.
Here are some photos from a visit.
The estate house
It is decorated in the style of a French chateau
The water garden
The view from the veranda
The statues were all imported from Italy and France
Looking down towards the Garden
The Palm House greenhouse
Inside the Palm House
A stroll through the gardens
Walkway through the woods
The Bass Pond