The construction of Biltmore Estate began in 1889 and continued into 1896. The home was officially opened by George Washington Vanderbilt on Christmas Eve 1895 (I almost put 1985…not quite Natalie), George brought his new wife Edith to the home in 1898 after their marriage and their only daughter, Cornelia was born in the house in 1900. The home was meant to be George’s “modest cottage in the mountains” but after a three year shopping trip overseas – the home was completed and came in at 178,926 square feet. The home is the largest privately owned home in the United States.
This was my second visit to Biltmore Estate; my first visit was over sixteen years ago when I was still in high school. The house has opened up quite a few more rooms for the tour since my first visit and of course, this visit also coincided with the Chihuly exhibition that was taking place. The house never fails to impress and I mean, how could it? It has 250 rooms and even seeing a fraction of those rooms on the tour – you’re left daunted by the grandeur.
I have to tell you – the tour we did was a self guided tour and so you wander through the house with other people who have chosen to tour the house. An older couple were perusing the rooms a short way behind us and as we entered the Salon (pictured above with the dramatic drapery ceilings), the gentleman loudly exclaimed “well what kind of ceiling is this? It’s like they’ve strung up the damn bed sheets!” I had to walk a bit faster so they didn’t catch on that I was having a fit of giggles.
I think two of my favorite rooms are the Tapestry Room and the Library – but I’m getting ahead of myself. I couldn’t resist snapping some details shots while we were out on the Loggia taking in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountain views…
Of course – I couldn’t resist capturing the Tapestry Room with a panoramic shot as well. How else are you meant to fit all the tapestries and gorgeous fireplaces in one picture?
The Tapestry Room has gorgeous tapestries gracing the walls (shocking – given the name of the room, right?) and two painted fireplaces that are nestled in between the tapestry. And then there is the Library…oh my… It looks a little like something out of my very favorite movie, Beauty and the Beast. Certainly nothing is quite as exquisite as that library – but the Biltmore’s library contains over 10,000 books in eight different languages, walnut staircases that swirl up to the second floor of books and a ceiling painting called The Chariot of Aurora – brought from Venice by Vanderbilt.
The most stunning part of the house – for me – is the cantilevered staircase that sits to the left of the sweeping entrance and spiral up four floors, with windows offering a view across the lawns and a wrought iron chandelier that is suspending over the center – the bolt holding the behemoth in place has only been changed once in the home’s history. I’m not sure whether that’s impressive, fascinating or a bit of both! Regardless – the staircase is my very favorite thing about Biltmore Estate!
The tour becomes a bit more restricted once you arrive at the second floor of the home – there is a second floor living room and a peek down the hallway…
The tour takes you through George and Edith’s separate bedrooms – that were joined by an oak paneled sitting room that probably holds my entire wee home. I must admit that as I write this post I realize I took sooo many pictures of all the Biltmore rooms! I suppose it’s just one way to try and capture the immensity of it all…
After winding up three stories, the tour takes you back down the glorious staircase and deep into the basements of the house. You make your way through a stone corridor that shows the footings of the house (they took two years to put in place) and into the Halloween Room! This room was actually painted for a New Year’s Eve party and was left with the unique paintings all over the walls… it makes for a unique room.
The basement of the house also plays host to changing rooms, a 70,000 gallon heated swimming pool, a bowling alley, a gymnasium (that would have been state of the art when the home was completed) and all of the main kitchens.
The tour then winds you back up another pretty delightful staircase, adorned with wild animal heads…and into the Bachelor’s Quarters of the house. I didn’t snap too many pictures here but there was a Gun Room, a Billiards Room and of course, a Smoking Room. And then…after one last peek into the Banquet Hall, you’re out the doors and into the Stable area – tour completed!
The house is absolutely stunning – and how could it not be? Created at a time in history literally named The Gilded Age, by a man who had no concept of money – the home is nothing short of fantastical. I know that castles are a plenty in European countries but I think Biltmore Estate is just about as close to an American castle as you’ll find.
I love touring Biltmore Estate and I’d go back in a heartbeat – I always find something new and fascinating to see and if you have never been, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful spot to visit and offers so much more than just a tour of a really large house!