Biltmore Estate Unveils Newest Attraction: Historic Horse Barn Explores Agricultural Legacy
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, has long been known for its elegance and opulence, but there’s another side to George W. Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre property. Beginning April 2, 2004, the newly renovated Historic Horse Barn takes guests back in time to experience the agricultural side of the estate with displays of late 19th century farm equipment, resident crafters at work and space perfect for old-time music and dancing. Across the street, visitors discover the Kitchen Garden with its educational plots and the Farmyard where chickens, lambs, calves and draft horses live much as they did a century ago.
The grand opening, April 2, 2004, from 2-5 p.m., features a blacksmith and a woodworker; tours of the Kitchen Garden; staff explaining the roles of the animals in the Farmyard; and the Stuart Brothers' Band with Travis and Trevor Stuart, Rob Mangum and Cary Fridley performing traditional music on fiddles and guitars.
“My great-grandfather envisioned Biltmore Estate as a self-sufficient property that would supply many of its own needs from dairy products and vegetables for the table to wood for the fireplaces,” said CEO and President William A.V. Cecil Jr., Vanderbilt’s great-grandson. “I’m so proud to have this chance not only to continue that agricultural legacy through our current farm and vineyard operations, but also to be able to share a historic interpretation through the Historic Horse Barn. There’s so much more to Biltmore Estate than Biltmore House. It’s really exciting to begin sharing my great-grandfather’s vision for the property as a whole.”
The Historic Horse Barn, built in 1902, offers visitors a look at the agricultural legacy created by Vanderbilt who worked with renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design a working estate in the English tradition. The original estate included a dairy operation, cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, vegetable gardens and even the first scientifically managed forest in America. And the heart of the farm operation was the Historic Horse Barn. Here workhorses and mules were stabled, feed and farm equipment—including Biltmore Dairy wagons—was stored, and the blacksmith worked his craft. The barn also served as a social center for families living on the estate. Edith Vanderbilt’s Sunday school class and cooking and sewing classes met there. In the autumn, harvest fairs took place on the hillside, with ribbons given for fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, needlework and flower arrangements. Children burned off energy with sack races and greased pig contests, while an evening square dance ended the festivities.
In an 1897 article from the Asheville News and Hotel Reporter titled, “Farmer Vanderbilt,” the author wrote: “It is Vanderbilt the farmer, not Vanderbilt of the Chateau, who has proven to be the great benefactor of Western North Carolina. He has shown the Carolinians the productive capacities of their Virgin Soil . . . Anyone who knew the barren hills . . . is struck with amazement at the marvelous change that has been wrought by the wise expenditure of money on the most desirable and beautiful location in the world.”
While farming has been an integral part of the property from the beginning, the operation has gone on largely behind the scenes. Today, the Historic Horse Barn has been restored to communicate the rich farm life that the estate began nurturing a century ago with demonstrations, displays and entertainment. It also embodies the estate’s continuing dedication to preserving an agricultural legacy that now includes a field-to-table program supplying Biltmore’s restaurants with estate-raised produce, beef and lamb; nurturing an ever-growing vineyard; keeping rich bottomland in production; and managing the forest.
The Historic Horse Barn, designed by architect Richard Howland Hunt—son of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt, will host resident crafters at work, entertainment and tours of the nearby Kitchen Garden on select weekends from April-December 2004. The barn will also be open daily for self-guided tours, allowing guests to explore the unique 26,000 square foot barn, learn about the history and evolution of farming on the estate and view farm equipment on display.
The barn will also host Biltmore’s newest retail outlet, the Mercantile. Stocked with unique items that guests might expect to find at a country store, visitor will find American made pottery, kitchen utensils and regional arts and craft items
In addition, the facility is available for group events. The main barn offers a 1,350 square foot covered space perfect for cocktails (up to 200) or dinner (up to 100 seated guests). Two 5,400 square foot grass courtyard areas on either side allow events to spill out with space for up to 1,000 guests reception-style. The Historic Horse Barn includes restroom facilities, a kitchen and power sufficient for most entertainment needs.
For further information, contact The Biltmore Company at 828-225-1333 or toll-free 877-245-0647, or visit Biltmore Estate’s Web site at www.biltmore.com.