Biltmore Celebrates 75 Years of Hospitality
Biltmore House first opened its doors to owner George W. Vanderbilt’s family and friends in 1895. Then, on March 15, 1930, the rest of the world got a chance to see inside America’s largest home when John and Cornelia Cecil—Vanderbilt’s son-in-law and daughter—opened the 250-room château in Asheville, NC, to the public. On March 15, 2005, Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, William Cecil, Jr., will commemorate that original opening as part of the celebration of its 75th anniversary.
“My grandparents were proud to share their home with visitors in 1930 and I’m honored to be able to continue offering that same hospitality,” said Cecil, CEO and President. “It’s hard to believe the house has been open to the public for 75 years. We hope that guests today are just as excited about experiencing my great-grandfather’s vision as those first guests were in 1930.”
The house was originally opened to the public in collaboration with the Directors of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. Chamber officials hoped that opening the house to visitors would bring tourism to Depression era Asheville. Today, with the estate receiving approximately one million visitors each year, that hope has been realized.
A study just released by Dr. Tammy Ross Huffman of the Department of Management and Accountancy at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, estimated Biltmore's economic impact on Western North Carolina in 2004 as more than $351 million—nearly a six percent increase over a study released in 2001 by the Center for Business Research at Appalachian State University. Biltmore also contributes to the region by serving as a primary employer with approximately 1,700 employees on the payroll.
“Biltmore Estate has long been a tourism cornerstone for Asheville and Western North Carolina,” said Lynn Minges, Executive Director of the North Carolina Division of Tourism. “The estate attracts visitors to our mountain region where quite a few wonderful tourism destinations can be found including the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Within the Division of Tourism, we're delighted to have partners like Biltmore that make promoting North Carolina such a delight—especially when they’ve been doing it with such great success for 75 years."
In the decades since the estate has opened, the property has grown to include Biltmore Estate Winery—the most visited winery in America; the Mobil Travel Guide Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond Inn on Biltmore Estate; the Explore Biltmore Outdoor Center offering activities including horseback riding, hiking, biking, rafting and the Land Rover Experience Driving School; and the River Bend Farm where the agricultural side of the estate is interpreted.
To celebrate 75 years of welcoming visitors to Biltmore, the Cecil family will once again invite dignitaries and the public to join them at the Front Door of the house for a brief ceremony at 9:30 a.m., on March 15. There will also be a display of 1930 era automobiles along the drive to the house and at 10:00 a.m. estate expert Ellen Rickman, director of museum services, will be in the Stable Hallway signing copies of the just released book Biltmore Estate.
In 1930, Cornelia Cecil welcomed visitors with a short speech, quoted in the Asheville Citizen newspaper: “Mr. Cecil and I hope that through opening Biltmore House to the public, Asheville and Western North Carolina will derive all the benefit they deserve and that the people who go through the house and the estate will get as much pleasure and enjoyment out of it as Mr. Cecil and I do in making it possible. I also want to say that we both feel that in doing this, it is a fitting memorial to my father. After all, it was his life’s work and his creation.”
Completed in 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt, Biltmore House is a 250-room French Renaissance-style château, the largest private residence in the country and a National Historic Landmark. The estate receives approximately one million guests annually from all over the world. Richard Morris Hunt designed the mansion and Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of New York’s Central Park, designed the original 125,000-acre estate (now 8,000 acres). Today, Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, Sr., owns the estate—a for-profit business that receives no outside funding or governmental assistance.
For general information about Biltmore, contact The Biltmore Company, One Approach Road, Asheville, NC 28803 or phone 877-324-5866 or visit the Web site at www.biltmore.com.