Once again, today’s blog will feature several photos of the Biltmore Estate. All of the exterior shots were taken by me. The interior ones are mostly stock photos as the Biltmore is still a private residence and the taking of interior photos is frowned upon. I do however admit to taking a few photos in the basement rooms. I did this as inconspicuously as possible, without using a flash.
A single ticket to the estate is a bit pricey but the house and grounds is well worth the cost of admission. Bare in mind that the fee aids in the preservation of the estate for future generations to enjoy. I recommend spending $20 more to extend the one day admission to two days and to cover the cost of the 90 minute audio guide for the house tour. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
WELCOME TO THE BILTMORE, HOME OF THE VANDERBILTS
George Washington Vanderbilt opened the Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895 after six years of construction. The house opened its doors to the public in the 1930’s. The family agreed to do this to increase tourism to the area during the Depression and to help fund the preservation of the estate. It remains a family business.
The Biltmore was a collaborative effort between George W. Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Mr. Olmsted is also known for designing New York’s Central Park. The Biltmore has a total of 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. Originally the tract of land on which the house sits consisted of 125,000 acres. Today the estate is a mere 8,000 acres.
Winter Garden, these rooms were considered quite fashionable in the 1800’s by the wealthy. The sculpture in the center is Boy Stealing Geese by Karl Bitter. The flowers and plants could be switched out depending on the season or holiday.
The Banquet Hall, is probably the most impressive room in the house. The ceiling is seven stories high. At one end of the hall is the organ loft. At the opposite end is the triple fireplace. The long dining table in the center would be used only for guests. The smaller tables near the massive fireplace was for use by the Vanderbilt’s and other family members. Ladies and gentlemen always dressed for the dinner meal. A typical meal had 7 to 10 courses and easily lasted 2 to 3 hours.
The Breakfast Room was where the Vanderbilt’s shared more intimate family meals together. Two paintings by Renoior hang to the right side of the fireplace. They are titled Young Algerian Girl and Child With an Orange.
The Music Room, which I do not have a photo of, wasn’t completed until 1976. An interesting fact that I’ll mention due to the recent release of the World War II movie “The Monuments Men” starring George Clooney and Matt Damon as army officers assigned to save historic artwork from being plundered and destroyed by Adolph Hitler is, the Biltmore played a similar role during the war years by storing precious artwork from the Washington National Gallery of Art to protect it from possible attacks.
The Vanderbilt’s did this in secret as a service to this country. The Music Room had barred windows and steel doors installed to protect its precious stash. Heavy curtains were hung over the doors to conceal them and armed guards stood watch outside to protect the entrance.
The Library, George Vanderbilt’s favorite room in the house. George was an avid reader and hand selected nearly all of the books in his 23,000 volume collection. His interests ranged on subjects from fiction to world history, from religion to philosophy, and more. Many authors were guests of the Vanderbilt’s in this house. The most spectacular feature of this room is its ceiling. The 1720’s painting by Giovanni Pellegrini, The Chariot of Aurora, graces the ceiling. Originally this was a feature of the Pisani Palace in Venice.
Mr. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom has 22 carat gold gilded wallpaper. The claw footed tub is a fixture in the adjoining bath.
Mrs, Vanderbilt’s Bedroom was designed as a ladies retreat for Edith upon her marriage to George on June 1, 1898.
The basement of the house are where the female servants’ bedrooms are located. The male employees would be housed above the stables. Each servant had a comfortably furnished room to herself. The kitchens, pantries and five walk-in refrigerator rooms are also on this level as are the laundry and drying rooms.
The Vanderbilt’s paid their employees’ wages comparable to their counterparts in the finer homes of New York City. Something unheard of in the south at the time. It wasn’t unusual for 3 generations of a family to be gainfully employed by the Vanderbilts. Edith made it a point to know every man, woman and child living on their land by sight and by name. She felt it was her duty to see to the education of their employees children.
A bowling alley, gymnasium and swimming pool can be found here too. The bowling alley was one of the first to be installed in a private residence. A servant standing off to the side at the end of the lane would manually reset the pins and return the ball.
The 70,000 gallon indoor pool was heated and had underwater lighting. A rarity in it’s day as most people of that era did not know how to swim. The pool once held a diving board at its deepest end.
At the beginning of the 20th century it was fashionable to keep fit. The gymnasium was added for that purpose. It was very well appointed for its time. “Needle Baths” along the back wall stimulated the blood after a good workout.
After completing the house tour we walked to the adjoining courtyard and stable building to browse the gift shops. Don couldn’t pass up purchasing a few goodies to satisfy his sweet tooth at the confectionery. We bought pastries at the bake shop to have for breakfast on our departure day. It will be a long travel day so we want to get an early start. This way we won’t need to wash up any breakfast dishes prior to heading out.
Don suggested we have lunch at 12 Bones before returning home to the Suite Pea. Having eaten here once before, it didn’t take any twisting of my arm to get me to agree with stopping. Everything is made from scratch at 12 Bones. The meats are smoked on site. It is by far the best barbecue we’ve ever had but don’t take our word for it, ask President Obama. He eats here whenever he’s in Asheville. If you stop, be aware that the eatery is open Monday-Friday only. Hours are from 11 am-4 pm and there will be a line. Not to worry, it moves along quickly.
To let you know just how good it truly is, Don does not like ribs. He’ll eat them but has never been a big fan of them and never orders ribs when we dine out. Since listening to me carry on about how delicious the short slab Blueberry Chipotle ribs were, he ordered a whole slab for himself. Here’s the before and after photos.
And don’t forget a side of corn pudding, IT IS to die for.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid………………….