A springtime stay at Biltmore
Estate History 02/25/15
Written By Jean Sexton
While George Vanderbilt put great thought into every detail of Biltmore, there’s one aspect of the home he placed in importance above all others: gracious hospitality. Biltmore was designed for guests, with their comfort and enjoyment at the center of the home’s design and daily operation.
Edith Vanderbilt's sister Pauline Dresser Merrill
A springtime stay
Edith Vanderbilt’s youngest sister, Pauline Dresser Merrill, was a frequent guest. An avid letter writer, Pauline gives us a view into what life at Biltmore was like for guests through her correspondence.
Fresh off a stay in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Teddy Roosevelt (which she described as “the biggest thing imaginable”), Pauline arrived at Biltmore with her children in March, 1905. Also present was another sister, Natalie Bayard Brown, and her son, John Nicholas.
First page of Pauline's 1905 letter to her friend on Biltmore House stationery
We have details of Pauline’s visit thanks to a letter she sent to her friend, Mrs. T.S Viele of Buffalo, New York.
Pauline stayed in the Louis XVI Room. She began her day with breakfast there, then either joined her children for a ramble around the estate grounds—taking advantage of the spring weather—or “read and read and read” on the Loggia until having “luncheon” in the Breakfast Room.
Furnishings in the Louis XVI Room (please note: this room is no longer open to guests)
Visiting in March, Pauline remarked that the views from the Breakfast Room perfectly framed the mountains in the distance and each day brought new colors in the hills and new buds and blossoms on the trees.
Afternoons were spent either exploring estate grounds, embroidering, or reading until tea time in the Tapestry Gallery at 5 p.m. Afterward, there was more free time for reading before preparing for dinner, served at 8 p.m. sharp in the Banquet Hall. Pauline explained that the grand dining table was too big for everyday use, so a smaller table was set up in front of the fireplace and liveried footmen served the meal in formal style.
Afterward, the dinner party would repair to the Billiard Room for a “lemon squash” or other beverages until around 10 p.m.
All in all, she wrote that guests enjoyed idyllic stays at Biltmore. “So the days pass and life does not seem much of a problem, for the guests in all event,” she summarized.
Cousins John Nicholas Brown and Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906
Despite all the “material comforts” as she called them, the real value in the visit was the family time.
“It is a keen pleasure to me to be with my two sisters and their children and feel again that good fellowship which we have not been able to realize for eight years,” she writes.
Biltmore, after all, was a family home, where the spectacular spring surroundings served as backdrop for unforgettable memories made together.
Plan your Biltmore visit today
Spring at Biltmore offers delights for all ages
Join us February 8–May 27, 2019, for A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age and discover all the excitement of a 1900s house party hosted by the Vanderbilts! Purchase tickets for this special exhibition online and receive our custom Exhibition Audio Guided Tour—created exclusively to enhance your visit during A Vanderbilt House Party—for free!
From April 1–May 23, return for Biltmore Blooms, our annual celebration of spring in our historic gardens and across the estate.
Featured image: View of Biltmore House and Pergola in spring