Thursday, June 19, 2008

Biltmore Estate

The point of our recent trip was to see the Biltmore Estate.

Neither of us had ever been there.

The Biltmore is said to be America's largest house and I daresay it is. I suppose it is our only palace.

We ventured forth on Friday morning, after having breakfast at Shoney's.

This is a view of Biltmore house from the side:

Biltmore was opened in 1895 after six years of construction. It was built by George Vanderbilt, who died in 1914. He was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made his fortune in shipping and railroads.

We were told the grandfather had $100 million when he died, and George's father doubled that in 10 years. That is something like $46 billion in today's dollars.

The Biltmore has acres of gardens:

By the time we spent two-plus hours in the house, which has no air conditioning and thousands of people walking through it, we were too hot to really take in the gardens well.

This is the front door to the estate:

I could not take pictures inside, but the exterior was fair game. I was completely entranced by some of the stone work. Take a look at the detail on this carving:

Inside we saw a couple of Renoir paintings, 400-year-old tapestries, oodles of antique furnishings, and lots of extravagances. In the basement, there is a bowling alley - the servants set the pins up back then - an indoor swimming pool and a gym room. The other half of the basement housed the kitchen, pantry, related rooms and small bedrooms for the help.

The library was several stories and packed full of books. The guide said George Vanderbilt read 3,013 books in his lifetime. He kept a list.

The Vanderbilts had separate his and her bedrooms. In all there are 65 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms.

It took about 35 servants to keep the place up.

The house is about 395 feet by 195 feet, I think we were told. You could put our house in one of the sitting rooms.

The house sits on 8,000 acres, which is what remains of the original 125,000 acres. Mrs. Vanderbilt sold the property to the federal government for $5 an acre and it is now the Pisagh National Forest.

The tour involved a lot of steps (five flights) and I did not see elevators, so I am not at all convinced it is handicapped accessible.

The estate is still in the Vanderbilt family. It has been open to the public since 1930.

After we left the house, we drove to the winery on the property. After a tour there, we ended our day.


  1. I've been meaning to see the Biltmore Estate, so I'm anxious to hear if you feel it was worth the hefty entry fee. No A/C? Wow...I'm surprised given the art inside. I'd have thought that they would want to protect it from the humidity.

  2. Wow, that's amazing. Not how I'd spend my money if I were loaded, but to each his own.

  3. June - I suppose in this day and age the $45 entry fee was worth it. However, I suggest going when it is a little cooler - May or October, perhaps. It was simply too hot to take it all in. It requires much walking.

  4. Ooooh... I'd love to have a house like that. Hahaha!

  5. I've heard so much about Biltmore but never been there. Thanks for the tour!


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