We visit Biltmore

Trip Start Apr 18, 2007
Trip End Oct 16, 2007

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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Monday, September 17, 2007

Nice suuny day as we set off for Biltmore - the largest home in America - built by George Vanderbilt who inherited a fortune from his shipping and railroad mogul father. It looks rather like a French châteaux and (unsurprisingly) is MASSIVE. Three stories and a mega-basement and incredible views over the low-lying mountains. It took 6 years to build back in 1890s and is just gratuitously large.

We're glad he had it built as it is a marvel to tour around - but we imagine this type of building won't be built again, partly because the skills aren't available but mostly because the very rich want to put their money into charitable Trusts not personal homes. We couldn't see Bill Gates using his money this way.

Here's the Wiki and there's pictures above.

Biltmore House is a French Renaissance-inspired chateau near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1888 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at 175,000 square feet. Still owned by Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.

In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, began to make regular visits with his mother to the Asheville area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to create his own summer estate in the area, as his older brothers and sisters had built opulent summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York.
Vanderbilt's idea was to replicate the working estates of Europe. He commissioned Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various family members, to design the house in imitation of several Loire Valley chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois. Wanting the best, Vanderbilt also employed Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, including the deliberately rustic three-mile Approach Road, and Gifford Pinchot to manage the forests. Intending that the estate could be self-supporting, Vanderbilt set up scientific forestry programs, poultry farms, cattle farms, hog farms and a dairy. The estate included its own village (today Biltmore Village) and even a church. Family members and friends invited from all over the United States and beyond came to experience the opulent estate with the splendor of Olmsted's sweet-smelling gardens, rich foods at the 64-seat banquet table, and the stunning beauty of Vanderbilt's mountainous grounds. Famous guests through the years include author Edith Wharton, novelist Henry James, Presidents McKinley, Wilson, Nixon, and Charles, Prince of Wales.
Vanderbilt paid little attention to the family business or his own investments, and the construction and upkeep of Biltmore depleted much of his inheritance. After Vanderbilt died of complications from an emergency appendectomy in 1914, his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, finalized the sale of much of the original 125,000 acres (506 km²) to the federal government (begun by Vanderbilt before his death), which became the nucleus of Pisgah National Forest.
The estate today covers approximately 8,000 acres (32 km²) and is split in half by the French Broad River. It is owned by The Biltmore Company, which is controlled by Vanderbilt's grandson, William A.V. Cecil, II. In 1963, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.v The Biltmore Estate is a fun educational way to spend a Saturday.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed a pizza while watching the excellent wide flat-screen TV.
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