If you have been to Europe, you have certainly seen some beautiful castles and estates. There are few castles or estates in America, and the Biltmore is probably the largest private estate in our country. It was built by George Vanderbilt and opened on Christmas Eve 1985. Its 178,926 square feet of floor space now sits on 8,000 acres and is still owned by the Biltmore family, but open to the public. Mr. Vanderbilt was fond of French Renaissance chateaus and commissioned Mr. Richard Hunt to design one for him in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He also commissioned Mr. Frederick Olmstead to design the grounds and gardens. He included a village on the estate. Biltmore Village was designed by Hunt and Olmstead on the property with a church, farms, shops and a dairy. The village is just below the home, but sold in 1921.
George Vanderbilt loved the Blue Ridge Mountains and wanted to make his retreat there. The home took five years to complete and employed over a thousand workers. He was an avid traveler, mostly in Europe, and he furnished the home with art and furnishings from all over the world. He was a bachelor when he first began the task and later married Edith. They had one daughter, Cornelia and her ancestors currently oversee the estate. George Vanderbilt had an untimely death from complications of an appendectomy when he was only 51 and Edith was left to handle the estate. During the depression, the estate was first opened in 1930 by Cornelia to the public to help pay for the upkeep and to stimulate tourism in Ashville. Thankfully, it is still a living, historical museum, giving pleasure to the thousands of people who visit it each year.
This amazing home has four acres of floor space, 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, banquet hall, billiard room, music room, tapestry gallery, gymnasium, and library among the 250 rooms. There are paintings and etchings, most of which were personally chosen by George and Edith.
The estate still has several gardens, a farm, and now a winery. The gardens and grounds were designed by Frederick Olmsted. Mr. Olmstead established the first forestry education program in the U.S on the estate. There is a three mile driveway approach and a pond with a waterfall, as well as hiking trails, and a river running through the property.
Currently, the estate has a farm yard, several restaurants, and a hotel on the property at Antler Hill Village. You can access both the home all of the estate for one entrance fee. At first glance the fee seems extravagant, however the value is well worth it. We could have spent a week there. I just think of what it must have been like to live or visit there during its heyday.