Thursday, January 31, 2008

Richard Morris Hunt, Part 3


This past summer I visited the Biltmore estate in BEAUTIFUL Asheville, NC. It was about a 7 hour drive from DC, so I took a long weekend there. Asheville is surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains; really spectacular scenery. Nestled among all this and outside of the small town of Asheville is Biltmore. George Washington Vanderbilt hired R.M.H. to design this monster in 1888 and it wasn't completed till 1895. It still remains the largest house in America at 175,000 SF and is probably the structure that comes to mind when people think of the Gilded Age.
The view from the rear and closeup of the entry

Surprisingly, Biltmore is still privately owned by the Vanderbilt family but as a huge business now and not a private home. No one has lived there since the early 1950s. The day I was there it was packed and they're open all year long! In addition to the house tours ( of which you can take your pick from numerous specialized packages) there is a wineyard and tastings area, numerous restaurants, a petting zoo, a working farm and a luxury hotel ( I stayed at a GREEN B&B in town ). The side garden
Asheville's main industry is tourism from the nearby hiking and the Biltmore estate of course which brings in over 1 million people annually! It's also a college town -so there is a thriving arts community and great restaurants. Really a cute little town!
Detail of the finial on the conservatory, rupenzel's tower ( rear of sculpture court )

I think everyone has seen Biltmore in one way or another - either in the Home Depot ads on tv, in numerous movies ( Biltmore has starred in over 12 movies starting in 1948 ) or in one of the many articles or books about it. Views from the sculpture court, almost looks like a smaller French chateau from here

The house has many 'modern' convienences, including a large indoor swimming pool, ELECTRICITY ( remember the time period! ), en-suite bathrooms for the NUMEROUS guest suites, really nice servants quarters ( a rarity in the day ), a 2-story library, a bowling alley, elevators, forced air heat, fire alarms, intercoms and oddly enough a system of centrally controlled clocks ( for the servants to run on time! ). Biltmore estate was built to be a well-oiled machine - based on the grand country estates in Europe.
Peaking through the garden towards the house and a weird (forgotten?) corner
What really is interesting to see are the servants quarters that have recently been opened to the public. Usually you see only the grand public spaces in house museums such as this -not the servant's bedrooms in the attic! You also get the opportunity to explore the massive kitchens and the sub-basement where the machinery is for the elevator, heat and electric generators, laundry machines, etc.
Entry Court Gates and detail of the stair tower
Unfortunately, you can't take any pictures of the interiors, but they're pretty easy to find if you're curious. The outside and the scenery are so breathtaking as you can see that I took 100s of photos - these are just a few of my favorites.details of lantern and the rear facade from the side

You can see the main website and learn more about Biltmore at


Mary-Laure said...

That place is pretty amazing, I'll check out the website.
I saw the comment you left on Ronda's great All The Best blog and just wanted to let you know that I blog about Paris (and other stuff), where I live. I occasionally mention addresses of shops/favorite places and also feature The Oracle, aka my 7-pound dachshund, a genuine Parisian who answers questions from readers... Yeah, really!

pve design said...

Childhood memories came flooding back to me from your post as we traveled there often and it was a special place and still is.

Be the change..... said...

How lucky you were to grow up down there -it's just BEAUTIFUL, pve! I can't wait to go visit again!

Alex said...

Wow. I didn't know we had chateaux here...