Biltmore House Construction
Construction of Biltmore House was under way in 1889; it was a massive undertaking that included a mansion, gardens, farms, and woodlands. George Vanderbilt engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century: architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). The centerpiece was a four-story stone house with a 780-foot façade—a monument that would rival the surrounding mountains in grandeur. Hunt modeled the architecture on the richly ornamented style of the French Renaissance and adapted elements, such as the stair tower and the steeply pitched roof, from three famous early-16th-century châteaux in the Loire Valley: Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord.
Even after six years, Biltmore House was not complete when George Vanderbilt opened it in 1895; work would continue for years. Its scale continues to be astounding: the house contains more than 11 million bricks; the massive stone spiral staircase rises four floors and has 102 steps. Through its center hangs an iron chandelier suspended from a single point, containing 72 electric light bulbs.