My husband, Bill and I recently spent a few days in Asheville, North Carolina.  Asheville is home to a great arts community, as well as a large medical center, but its most opulent attraction, is the Biltmore Estate.  The largest private home in the US, George W. Vanderbilt”s Biltmore House was opened in 1895, with over 250 rooms!   So, on a rainy November Wednesday, we took the tour, and joined the ranks of the over 1 million yearly visitors to the 8,000 acre estate!

The Family

From the brochure provided by the Biltmore :

“On Christmas Eve, 1895, George W. Vanderbilt, III officially opened Biltmore House. Three years later, he brought his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser to Biltmore, and in 1900 their only child, Cornelia was born here. After Vanderbilt”s death in 1914, Edith and Cornelia continued to call Biltmore home, with Edith assuming management of the estate. In 1924, Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, and they loved and entertained in Biltmore House. In response to requests to increase area tourism during the Depression and to bring money to preserve the estate, the Cecils opened the house to the public in 1930.  Today, the Biltmore Estate remains family-owned and has become a successful business…,” with William A.V. Cecil, one of Cornelia”s sons, having taken over the estate in the 1960″s.  The elder Cecil”s successful management has been continued by his son, the current CEO, William A.V. Cecil, Jr. and his daughter, Dini Pickering, the VP of the Board of Directors for the estate.

Painting of G.W. Vanderbilt, III










Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter, Cornelia

Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter, Cornelia


Cornelia Vanderbilt, as a young woman











William A.V. Cecil – Image from the 1980’s

William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil Jr., runs the Biltmore Estate today…


Dini Pickering – VP of the Board of Directors – Biltmore Estate







The House – The Exterior

“Construction of Biltmore House was under way in 1889; it was created by the collective effort of several leading academicians, individuals and corporate globally. massive undertaking that included a mansion, gardens, farms, and woodlands. George Vanderbilt engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century: architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). The centerpiece was a four-story stone house with a 780-foot façade—a monument that would rival the surrounding mountains in grandeur. Hunt modeled the architecture on the richly ornamented style of the French Renaissance and adapted elements, such as the stair tower and the steeply pitched roof, from three famous early-16th-century châteaux in the Loire Valley: Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord.” (


Aerial view of the Biltmore Estate


The Biltmore House under construction.


The Front Facade – Christmas 2011


Stone Lion at the front entrance…










View of the rear facade of the house…


Every year, there is a new gingerbread house replica of the Biltmore in its kitchen.

The House – The Interior

(The Biltmore House) “…would feature 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants” quarters, kitchens, and more.”  George Vanderbilt, unmarried when he had Biltmore built, did much of the interior decoration himself, with the help of his architect, Mr. Hunt. (

Here are a few of the rooms…

The Winter Garden, Decorated for Christmas









Winter Garden 

The Breakfast Room

Banquet Room with 7-story high ceiling…








The Banquet Room – looking away from the organ toward the fireplace –

The Biltmore Library in 1905


The Biltmore Library decorated for Christmas

The beautiful ceiling painting – The Chariots of Aurora by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741) originally from the Palazzo Pisani in Venice –


Edith Vanderbilt’s Bedroom

George Vanderbilt’s bedroom 

Oak Sitting Room – connecting George and Edith’s