Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Biltmore Estate

As I mentioned yesterday with my downtown abbey inspired bunting, I would be sharing the real life downton home in the state of North Carolina on our road trip that I have slowly been sharing.

We drove into the Biltmore Estate later in the afternoon and were honestly just going to try to look at the grounds and the outside of the house. We were stopped at the gate and told that you cannot even get to the house or winery without a ticket. The entire road around the house is more than 11 miles. That is just on the estate. It is 4 miles between the house and the winery/restaurant area they call antler village.

It worked out in our favour that we were a little later in the day as buying our ticket after the house closed allowed us to wander around the grounds and take photos of the garden, go to antler village and come back the next morning to do the tour of the house. We were headed home the next day for our 11 hour drive home and didn't want to be hanging around Asheville for too too long.

I am sharing some of our photos today and a little bit we learned about this truly fascinating estate. Driving through after the house closed also made the grounds quiet. Quiet like they would have been when you were living there as the hundreds of tourists had gone home for the day. There is something to be said for not always being the early worm, which we definitely are not.

words cannot describe how large this house is when you drive up. figuring in that i was standing on top of a bridge of sorts and to get to the front of the house was probably a 5 minute walk. the bus sitting out front gives you an idea for comparison. the poplar trees on either side were planted in 1895.

This house was the plan of George Vanderbilt. The construction of this home began in 1889 and the house was opened to his family on Christmas Eve of 1895.
The home is 4 acres of living space, no measly square footage measurements here.
There are 35 bedroom of which we saw 7 or 8, 43 bathrooms of which we saw 4, and 65 fireplaces.
When doing the tour inside they are extremely strict and absolutely no sneaking photos of any sort. There are roped walkways you share with hundreds of other people for the day and cleaning people at every turn.

a little fact about me. i used to be and in some way still am obsessed with gargoyles. this house had too many to count and i cannot even imagine the detail that would have went into crafting them out of stone with little machinery. almost made me want to revisit my collection that creeped out so many people. 

George Vanderbilt only lived to the age of 51 dying in 1914 and the family only primarily owned this home before opening it to tours until 1930 to help offset costs of running the estate in the depression. The descendants of George Vanderbilt still own this home and the running of the estate.

the gardens around the estate are exceptional. seriously i could have walked them for days and if i lived close enough would have a yearly pass to do just that.
the concept of forestry and protecting/owning areas of land for preservation was an idea born at the biltmore estate by the original landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead who's other credits include Central park in NYC

there were fountains everywhere with so much detail.
my handsome chauffeur of vintage road tripping and general partner in crime

these bronze turtles were massive. i was going to get in the empty fountain but chickened out at the last minute in fear of armed men on horse taking me away

espalier trees everywhere. oh how i would love to try to grow one

the plant conservatory

walking through these covered pathways of grapes just made me think, my god this would be gorgeous in the winter with ice and snow

The following 4 photos are from the same source as the construction photo and just give a small idea of the inside of the home. For today's interior design enthusiasts the house is gaudy and ostentatious but oh how you just cannot believe the detail and workmanship in this home. The gold wallpaper in Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom, the gigantic indoor swimming pool with original underwater lights, the original tapestries that line the wall and the kitchen with original set of copper pots.

So many of the details like the lighting are something that you do see now being recreated in stores like restoration hardware. it is amazing to see the real thing and in it's original form. the entire home feels dark as they keep the feel that one would have had walking through this home in the 1900's. i cannot imagine having to conduct daily life in a home of this size but then life just wasn't the same as it is now and receiving guests was your job and as host/ess it was a job you needed to do exceptionally well.

a waterfall on the 4 mile drive to the winery. the winery was started in the 70s on the estate and the new antler village which includes restaurants and an inn has been open since 2010. of course all good things become commercial but it was well done and didn't feel like you went from history to a mall

and nature is just everywhere when your estate is thousands of acres.

Hope you enjoyed your small tour, we did.

Have a great day,



  1. Oh Meg, this brought back so many memories. About 12 years ago I was on a business trip to Atlanta and my assistant and myself drove up to Ashville from Atlanta to tour the Biltmore Estate. We not disappointed. AS you entered the home, I guess it was the solarium was filled with poinsettia's as it was decorated for Christmas. It was stunning. Downstairs they had some shops with a lot of Christmas items for sale and goodies to purchase to eat. We spent all day there and really enjoyed touring the grounds, winery and home. Oh to have lived then, with all the beautiful things.
    Loved seeing the pictures in this post. It's kinda like Hearst Castle in California, built the same way. If your ever in CA please take a tour there, you will not be disappointed.
    Many thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Meg, You truly captured the beauty and essence of the Biltmore with your photography! We visited 4 years ago. The home, gardens and grounds are amazing. It truly was self sufficient and employed many people from surrounding towns. The house was massive! I couldn't imagine living in a place that big. I would be scared on a stormy night in that massive house. I'm glad it was preserved for generations to enjoy. it truly is an American castle.

  3. Love the Biltmore's about 15 minutes from where I live. It's unbelievable how gorgeous everything is and your pictures have captured it just perfectly!

  4. Your photos are amazing - the ones I took when we visited pale in comparison. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I do hope you will come back. The policies have changed and you can now take all the inside photos you want.


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