Just look at that picture for a moment and think about what an amazing work of art it is—both on the outside and the inside. The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina is truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word and on my recent return visit I was in awe once again at the majesty and the craftsmanship that oozes from every block, every piece of marble and every tapestry and rug that adorns the 250 room mansion.
George Washington Vanderbilt III saw his dream of a country retreat come to life right before his eyes during the six years of construction. The residence was opened to his family on Christmas Eve 1895 and was the most grandiose home that existed in America.
While there is no photography allowed inside the Biltmore I did manage to snap plenty of pictures outside and I chose to not enhance any of these so you can get the raw feel of the massiveness and grandeur of the estate.
The mansion has 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens and an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley. The grounds surrounding the mansion are equally as impressive. Originally there were 125,000 acres of wooded beauty which housed farms, a dairy, a 250 acre wooded park and multiple gardens that were there to enhance the experience of those living and visiting the mansion.The estate is furnished lavishly with furniture and accessories that are amazing in every aspect. Yes, there were teapots and I so wished I could have photographed those but they will have to remain in my mind’s eye instead. According to the book Biltmore: An American Masterpiece produced by The Biltmore Company the Vanderbilts were one of the best known families in America as well as being among the oldest. Jan Aertsen van der Bilt emigrated from Holland to America around 1650. Most of the descendents lived as farmers on Staten Island and lived fairly modest lives as farmers but during the lifetime of Cornelius Vanderbilt who lived from 1794-1877 the family name became linked with wealth.
Legend tells us that Cornelius parlayed a loan of $100 from his mother into a very successful ferry service which serviced the New York Bay. Eventually with a fleet of more that 100 steamships he became known as “Commodore” and he began investing his second fortune in railroads. He began the family tradition of philanthropy which remains a very strong part of the family today.The estate has remained in the hands of the family and is still privately owned all these years later. The area and estate fell on difficult times in the time of the Great Depression and in March of 1930 the doors of the Biltmore were opened to the public by Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband, The Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in an effort to raise some much needed revenue to continue to preserve and maintain the estate as well as to stimulate tourism in the North Carolina mountains.
There are so many areas to explore at The Biltmore estate including a winery and gardens that were bursting with tulips and spring flowers when I visited. A day is not enough to take it all in and of course the family maintains the hospitality that the Vanderbilts were always known for. Each guest is treated as a honored guest from start to finish and my experience was one that was perfect.
There are many options of tours that can be taken including audio guides, guided house tours, legacy of the land tours as well as an Upstairs-Downstairs tour and a Rooftop Tour. Booking these is very easy and can be done online or at guest services when you enter the grounds. The employees are all there to make your visit the best it can be.
The main reason I wanted to go this time was to tour the Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times exhibit. As a huge fan of the PBS show Downton Abbey I was thrilled to find out that they would be displaying the collection for the first time and that I wold be able to view the costumes of my beloved characters Lord and Lady Grantham, The Dowager Countess, Anna and Mr. Bates to name a few. It was so amazing to be able to see the costumes and read a bit of the history behind them. Of course the Biltmore staff had created the perfect backdrop for each selection. The one costume that I could photograph was placed in the Guest Services building and it was beautiful, don’t you think? This was worn by actress Poppy Drayton who portrays Madeleine Allsopp in season 4 of the show .
If you are ever in the Asheville area you must make The Biltmore a stop on your itinerary. It is simply a magical place and every time I have visited I have come away with a wonderful feeling. My next goal is to visit at Christmas when it is decorated lavishly for the holidays.
We ate lunch at Cedric’s Tavern and dinner was at The Bistro just outside the doors of the Winery. To say that the food was fabulous is an understatement. Our waitress and waiter for both venues made sure our meals were perfect and our experience the best it could be. And to be honest….this didn’t hurt at all to have an early birthday surprise. To plan your trip to The Biltmore–simply click here to go directly to their website. I don’t think you will regret it one bit.