Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina and founded in 1895 by billionaire George Vanderbilt, it receives 1.4 million visits a year.
George Vanderbilt, a member of one of the most prominent clans of the New York aristocracy, visited Asheville for the first time in 1888, a small North Carolina town at the foot of the blue mountains of the Blue Ridge . He accompanied his mother, to whom the doctor had recommended going there for its pure air, since she was suffering from respiratory problems. Young George, then a coveted 25-year-old bachelor, immediately fell in love with the place for the breathtaking beauty of its landscape. He then decided to build a house there where his family and friends could escape the bustle of the big city. But it wasn’t going to be just any house. Biltmore , as I would baptize it, was to bethe largest private residence in the United States. Today it is a tourist destination through which more than a million people pass a year.
After that first visit with his mother, Vanderbilt began to acquire land in the area, accumulating no less than 50,000 hectares. To design the lavish home, he hired the services of architect Richard Morris Hunt , who designed a 250-room mansion reminiscent of old French palaces. Around it, in addition, he would transform the old rustic lands into a bucolic natural garden, an adaptation that he commissioned to the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted .
Construction began the year after Vanderbilt’s first visit, in 1889, and following a construction process that employed an army of workers, the Biltmore officially opened its doors to friends and family in 1895.
Three years later, in a discreet ceremony in Paris, George Vanderbilt married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser , ten years his junior and a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, what would later become New York. The happy couple welcomed the arrival of their daughter Cornelia into the world in 1900, a real social event at the time.
Thirteen years later, however, tragedy loomed over the family . Following an operation for appendicitis in Washington, the founder of Biltmore, George Vanderbilt, died in early March 1914. He was 51 years old.
Biltmore Gardens, with the mansion in the background
His widow continued to live in the mansion. In 1930, Biltmore was opened to the public as a way to attract tourism to the area amid the severe economic depression that the United States was experiencing at the time. During World War II , it also served as a warehouse to safeguard dozens of works of art from the National Gallery of Art in Washington from a possible attack. Although much of the huge piece of land acquired by George Vanderbilt was sold, more than 3,200 hectares of manicured forests and gardens remained.
The mansion and estate have grown into a large company employing 2,000 people
Today, the Biltmore continues to dazzle with its sheer size and glitz of its numerous visitors, 1.4 million people in fiscal 2015. The mansion and estate have grown into a large company employing 2,000 people and whose CEO is a grandson of John Cecil and Edith Stuyvesant, William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil Jr. At $ 60 a normal adult ticket , with it you have access not only to the house and the extensive gardens, but also to a wine cellar , shops, restaurants and a farm.
The spectacular view of the front of the house and the esplanade in front of it make the Biltmore an American Versailles .
Its interior is no less dazzling. In addition to its spacious living rooms and bedrooms, it has a library with 10,000 volumes, 65 fireplaces , an indoor pool, gym and bowling alley, among other facilities, and among its works of art there are paintings by Renoir and John Singer Sargent , and even tapestries 16th century.
“At the time the Biltmore House was completed, it looked ahead of its time,” says a company spokeswoman, LeeAnn Donnelly. It had interior plumbing, electricity, two elevators, and other modern amenities. According to Donnelly, “Mr. Vanderbilt was an innovative and curious intellectual and his home reflected that.”