Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 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, and of significant gardens in the jardin à la française and English Landscape garden styles in the United States. In 2007, it was ranked eighth in 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, North Carolina, 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.
Vanderbilt's idea was to replicate the working estates of Europe. He commissioned prominent New York architect Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various Vanderbilt family members, to design the house in the Châteauesque style, using several Loire Valley French Renaissance architecture chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois, as models. The estate included its own village, today named Biltmore Village, and a church, today known as the Cathedral of All Souls.
Wanting the best, Vanderbilt also employed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, with the immediate gardens in the Garden à la française style, beyond those in the English Landscape garden style. Beyond these were the natural woodlands and agricultural lands with the intentionally rustic three-mile (5 km) approach road passing through. Gifford Pinchot and later Carl A. 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. His wife, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, also enthusiastically supported agricultural reform and promoted the establishment of a state agricultural fair. In 1901, to help provide local employment, the Vanderbilts started Biltmore Industries, which made furniture modeled after the furnishings of the estate. The Vanderbilts invited family and friends from across the country to the opulent estate. Notable guests to the estate over the years have included author Edith Wharton, novelist Henry James, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, and Presidents McKinley, T. Roosevelt, and Wilson.
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 in 1914 of complications from an emergency appendectomy, his widow, Edith Vanderbilt, completed the sale of 85,000 of the original 125,000 acres (507 km²) to the federal government. This was to carry out her husband's wish that the land remains unaltered, and that property became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.
The estate today covers over 8,000 acres (3,200 ha) 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, Sr., and run by his son, William A.V. Cecil II, the great-grandson of George Washington Vanderbilt. 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. He converted the former dairy barn into the Biltmore Winery.
Campgrounds or Cabins within 50 miles
Cottages within the area.
|Catawba Falls Campground Old Fort, 828-668-4831 Wi-Fi available|
|Springmaid Mountain, Spruce Pine 828-297-0725|
|Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, Marion 828-652-7208|