We’re back for our last viewing of the Biltmore House before we move on to more Christmas outings……..now let’s see where did we leave off? Oh yes, George Vanderbilt was moving into his new home which included 250 rooms with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and 3 kitchens. There also was the ultra modern electric elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms and a call-bell system! On Christmas Eve 1895, the house was complete and George invited his friends and family to his remarkable new home! Can you just imagine what they thought?
Then, in 1898, George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in Paris, France. He was a bachelor when he built this house! Oh My! Their only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, was born at Biltmore in the Louis XV room in 1900, and grew up at the estate. So, let’s look at a few more rooms before we head up that marvelous staircase! In my previous post we saw the formal dining room and here we are in a much smaller intimate dining area. If you didn’t read the previous posts and want to catch up, so you are in the know, they are here and here.
And then back through the gallery one last time……….with all those tapestries George collected……..
The second floor is accessed by the cantilevered Grand Staircase of 107 steps spiraling around a four-story, wrought-iron chandelier holding 72 light bulbs. OK, let’s go up!
The second floor consists of a formal hall and portrait gallery………….
Beyond that is Vanderbilt’s gilded bedroom. His bedroom connects to his wife’s Louis XV-style, oval-shaped bedroom in the north tower through a Jacobean carved oak paneled sitting room with an intricate ceiling.
and then the Nursery………
This was one of the 43 bathrooms opened for viewing……. How many servants does it take to clean this house?
The third floor has a number of guest rooms with names that describe the furnishing or artist that they were decorated with. The fourth floor has 21 bedrooms that were inhabited by housemaids, laundresses, and other female servants. The male servants stayed in rooms above the Stable……….
Now, down the back stairway to the basement of the home….. This, I am sure, is where the real action is! Not quite as well lit is it?
And through some tunnels…………….
Guests of the estate could enjoy other activities that were found on the basement level, including an indoor 70,000-gallon heated swimming pool with underwater lighting. It also boasted one of the nation’s first bowling alleys installed in a private residence, and a gymnasium with once state-of-the-art fitness equipment. The service center of the house is also found here. It is the largest basement in the US, with the location for the main kitchen, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, and walk-in refrigerators that provided an early form of mechanical refrigeration. The servants’ dining hall, laundry rooms and additional bedrooms for staff were also on this level.
And on to one of my favorite parts of the home…….the kitchens! Here is the walk-in refrigerator………….
I call this the can room……….
and of course, they had made a replica of Biltmore House in gingerbread for us in the Pastry Kitchen! The lions were guarding out front of this chateau also!
Here is where all of the flowers and decorations are brought and put together…….. I can only imagine what a hub-bub this would have been at the holidays!
And one of the female servants room on this floor is open for viewing….
The Billiard Room is decorated with an ornamental plaster ceiling and rich oak paneling and was equipped with both a custom-made pool table and a carom table (table without pockets). The room was mainly frequented by men, but ladies were welcome to enter as well. Secret door panels on either side of the fireplace led to the private quarters of the Bachelors’ Wing, where female guests and staff members were not allowed. The wing includes the Smoking Room, which was fashionable for country houses, and the Gun Room, which held mounted trophies and displayed George Vanderbilt’s gun collection.
Out the back entrance we go! Once outside the estate we are going back to some of the decorated areas that we saw in the daytime. It is just awesome!
Sadly, George Vanderbilt paid little attention to the family business or his own investments and it is believed that the construction and upkeep of Biltmore depleted much of his inheritance.
With the impact of the newly imposed income taxes, and the fact that the estate was getting harder to manage economically, Vanderbilt initiated the sale of 87,000 acres to the federal government. After Vanderbilt’s unexpected death in 1914 from the complications of an emergency appendectomy, Edith completed the sale to carry out her husband’s wish, that the land remain unaltered and the property became the nucleus of the Pigsah National Forest.
In an attempt to bolster the estate’s financial situation during the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband, John Cecil, opened Biltmore to the public in March 1930 at the request of the City of Asheville. They hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism. Biltmore closed during World War II and in 1942, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were moved from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to the estate for safe keeping.
After the divorce of the Cecils in 1934, Cornelia left the estate never to return; however, John Cecil maintained his residence in the Bachelors’ Wing until his death in 1954. Their eldest son, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, occupied rooms in the wing until 1956. At that point Biltmore House ceased to be a family residence and has continued to be operated as a historic house museum.
Younger son, William A. V. Cecil, Sr, returned to the estate in the late 1950s and joined his brother to manage the estate when it was in financial trouble and tried to make it a profitable and self-sustaining enterprise. He eventually inherited the estate upon the death of his mother, Cornelia, in 1976, while his brother, George, inherited the then more profitable dairy farm which was split off into Biltmore Farms. In 1995, while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the estate, Cecil turned over control of the company to his son, William A.V. Cecil, Jr.
The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and remains a major tourist attraction in Western North Carolina with 1.4 million visitors each year!
I hope you have enjoyed the tour of the Biltmore Estate at Christmas as much as we did! See you soon with another Christmas adventure!