Top 5 Biltmore Family Activities for Summer

Here are our Top 5 Biltmore family activities for summer that are sure to please the entire clan, from grandparents to grandchildren!

Winkie Bar Sundae in a waffle bowl
Try all the ice cream treats, including this delicious Winkie Bar Sundae served in a waffle bowl

5. Ice Cream for Everyone

Did you know that the vanilla ice cream served on the estate is based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe? Now at Biltmore Dairy Bar near Biltmore House and the Creamery in Antler Hill Village, you and your family can enjoy the same rich flavor enjoy by estate guests more than a century ago.

Tip: Get sandwiches and ice cream to go from The Creamery and have a picnic on the nearby Village Green. Celebrate summer with Biltmore wine for the grownups and Biltmore sparkling grape juice for the younger set.

Family biking at Biltmore
Bring the whole family along on your next biking adventure at Biltmore

4. Biking for All Ages

Ready to explore our wide-open spaces? Visit the Outdoor Adventure Center or Bike Barn in Antler Hill Village and rent mountain bikes for rugged trails or comfort cruisers for paved paths. Tandem rentals also available so the younger members of the family can join the fun.

Tip: You can bike all the way from Antler Hill Village to the Lagoon and back on a level, paved trail.

Costumes inside Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
Detailed and luxurious costumes on display at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village as part of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

3. Explore Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Now through September 7, 2020, the whole family can enjoy Downton Abbey: The Exhibition hosted in two locations on the grounds of the estate. This interactive exhibition connects you with the characters, fashions, and historic events depicted in the global hit television show and new feature film.

Tip: Don’t miss this exclusive opportunity to see Downton Abbey: The Exhibition at Biltmore!

Top 5 Biltmore family activities for Summer
Plan a Biltmore visit today to explore our gardens and grounds

2. Play in Our 8,000-Acre Backyard

With 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain backyard, you’ll never run out of places to explore at Biltmore! Enjoy more than 20 miles of hiking trails along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate.

Tip: Visit the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center for a detailed trail map and orientation to the trails.

Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village at Biltmore
Marvel at the wonders of miniature trains during Biltmore Gardens Railway!

1. Biltmore Gardens Railway

One of the absolute must-see elements of the estate this summer is Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring beautiful botanical model train displays in Antler Hill Village. New for 2020, this charming outdoor exhibition features iconic American train stations—each handcrafted in meticulous detail from all-natural materials.

Tip: Experience Biltmore Gardens Railway July 1, 2020 – February 15, 2021.

Biltmore’s Azalea Garden: A Tribute to Chauncey Beadle

A favorite pastime of Biltmore Blooms is visiting the Azalea Garden—one of the largest selections of native azaleas in the country. The 15-acre garden is home to more than 20,000 plants, offering thousands upon thousands of vivid blooms of white, yellow, orange, and every shade of pink imaginable.

Azalea Garden in bloom
Biltmore’s Azalea Garden in peak bloom

But did you know the Azalea Garden was not actually part of the original plan for the estate?

This parade of color is a culmination of the passion of Chauncey Beadle, an avid azalea collector and horticulturist hired at Biltmore in 1890 who later became the estate superintendent.

Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1906
Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1906

Beadle and “The Azalea Hunters”

Beginning in 1930, Beadle, along with fellow botanists and friends Frank Crayton and William Knight—aptly called “The Azalea Hunters”—spent countless hours over long weekends and holidays driving through each southeastern state searching for every species, natural hybrid, form, and color of azalea.

Chauncey Beadle in the Azalea Garden, 1948
Chauncey Beadle in the Azalea Garden, ca. 1948

Beadle maintained his massive personal collection at his farm on the east side of Asheville until 1940, but he knew that he needed to find a home for his azaleas, fondly referred to as his “children,” before he became too old to care for them.

He could think of no better home than the Glen in the valley below Biltmore’s Conservatory and gardens. Edith Vanderbilt Gerry and Judge Junius G. Adams, Biltmore Company president at the time, agreed.

Azalea Garden Ceremony, 1940
Azalea Garden ceremony, ca. 1940

Establishing the Azalea Garden

In honor of his then fifty years of service to Biltmore, the estate held a celebration for Beadle on April 1, 1940, in the Glen, which from that day forward would be named the Azalea Garden. All estate employees and their spouses were invited to the event.

Edith Gerry and Chauncey Beadle, 1940
Edith Vanderbilt Gerry and Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1940

During the ceremony, Edith unveiled a marker that memorializes Beadle’s lifetime of faithful service and gift of his azaleas to Biltmore.

Join us in celebrating the generosity and genius of Chauncey Beadle with a springtime stroll through the Azalea Garden. Plan your visit today!

More than a Hostess: Honoring Edith Vanderbilt

At the age of 25, Edith Vanderbilt married the nation’s most eligible bachelor and assumed her role as lady of America’s Largest Home®, responsible for ensuring the comfort and entertainment of Biltmore’s many guests. And yet, she was so much more than a hostess.

Let’s take a look at some of Edith Vanderbilt’s most incredible efforts and achievements.

School of Domestic Science students
Students of the Biltmore School of Domestic Science, ca. 1901

Biltmore School of Domestic Science

In 1901, Edith Vanderbilt established the Biltmore School of Domestic Science, which trained young African-American women in professional housekeeping. The intention behind this initiative was two-fold: to help satisfy the increasing demand for efficient domestic service in the area at the time, and—more importantly to Edith—to help women with socio-economic challenges to become gainfully employed.

Coursework covered the duties of a maid, waitress, laundress, cook, and housekeeper; if a student showed a preference for a special line of work, she was given the necessary training to develop that skillset. Additionally, the school created a network to increase its graduates’ prospects of finding work:

“The graduating classes form a society for houseworkers. The purpose of this society is mutual help, by raising the respect of the general public for such work and workers…Any positions that are vacant if in good families will be reported, and an effort be made to fill them from among the members of the society.” 

The Home Science Magazine, Volume XX, October 1903March 1904

Archival documents of Biltmore Estate Exhibition
Archival list of 1906 Biltmore Estate Exhibition prize winners and first and second prize ribbons

Biltmore Estate Exhibition

In order to nurture a sense of community among estate employees and their families, Edith organized the Biltmore Estate Exhibition, also referred to as the annual fair, in 1905. She distributed seeds as needed to all of the employees to ensure everyone could participate in the competitions.

Some of the initial categories included vegetables and herbs, field crops, domestic products such as breads and preserves, needlework, and baskets. Categories later expanded to include flowers, hogs, and poultry as well as a miscellaneous category to include eggs, honey, and various other items. Prizes included ribbons and a variety of garden books.

Though Edith was in London during the 1907 event, estate superintendent Chauncey Beadle wrote to her: 

“Not another day shall pass without a full report to you of the Exhibition, which was celebrated in the grove above the Farm Cottages yesterday afternoon with the most auspicious weather that it was possible to have. The attendance and exhibits were very satisfactory, and, I believe all who participated enjoyed the day, the social intercourse and objects which were displayed.”

Thanks to oral histories, we know that the fairs continued into the 1940s.

Biltmore Dairy Moonlight School students
Students of the Biltmore Dairy Moonlight School, ca. 1920s (Photo courtesy of the McCarson Family)

Biltmore Dairy Moonlight School

In 1914, Edith founded the Biltmore Dairy Moonlight School to teach illiterate estate workers how to read and write. Her larger intention was to attack the underlying causes of economic inequality and disenfranchisement. Classes were taught by Colombia University interns and graduates, who were receiving arguably the best teacher training in the nation at the time.

Edith Vanderbilt personally selected the textbook used at the school and even taught a class from time to time:  

“It is an interesting picture: one of the world’s richest women… teaching dairy workers how to read and write in a horse barn in the mountains of North Carolina.”

– “Aristocracy and Appalachia: Edith Vanderbilt and Her Moonlight School” (2011) by Wilkie L. Whitney

While Biltmore’s was certainly not the first moonlight school, the model Edith pioneered was so effective, it inspired the foundation of many similar programs across North Carolina—all with the support of Edith as their most vocal advocate.

Edith Vanderbilt and Red Cross
Edith Vanderbilt (second from right) and her fellow Red Cross volunteers, ca. 1917–1919 (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress: American National Red Cross Collection)

Red Cross Efforts during the Great War

When the United States became involved in the first World War, Edith Vanderbilt was splitting her time between Biltmore and Washington, DC—but no matter where she was, she always found ways to support the Red Cross during this turbulent time.

While in Asheville, she sponsored a golf tournament to raise funds for the Red Cross.

The trophy was the gift of Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt, the rules providing that all entrance fees went to the Red Cross, and that no trophies should be given unless donated.

– “Carolina Mountains Having Great Season,” The Times Dispatch, 19 August 1917

While in Washington, DC, she volunteered with the Red Cross as part of a Canteen Unit, which provided hot coffee, light refreshments, and mail services to troops at railroad junctions. True to form, Edith was recognized for going above and beyond at her Canteen’s encampment:

“Mrs. George Vanderbilt is quite wonderful, so cool and collected and executive. She took her motor and went off shopping, bought some extra equipment, a table for the tent to hold the telephone, some camp chairs, a rake to rake up the trash, a pump to pump the water into the cauldron, a mail bag, stamps, wire baskets; besides, she organized the post-office.”  

Presidents and Pies: Life in Washington 1897–1919 (1920) by Isabel Anderson

Edith Vnaderbilt State Fair
Edith Vanderbilt arriving at the first State Fair during her tenure as president, ca. 1921

First Female President of the North Carolina Agricultural Society

In 1920, Edith Vanderbilt was elected the first female president of the North Carolina Agricultural Society as well as the 60th State Fair. Her first address in the role was one for the books.

“Anti-suffragists who have feared woman’s entrance into politics found themselves happy today when Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt made about the smartest 15-minute speech to a joint session of the general assembly heard within the historic walls of the state house in a long time…explaining in the outset that it would be like the modern skirt, to the extent that its length would cover the subject and its brevity attract attention. She was right.”

– “Woman Makes First Address to Legislature,” The Charlotte Observer, 3 February 1921

Under her leadership, the State Fair focused more on agriculture as opposed to sideshows. Edith traveled and wrote widely to promote the event and help attract exhibitors. She also led initiatives to improve the fairgrounds.

She would ultimately be re-elected to lead the 1922, 1923, and 1924 fairs, and then continued to serve on the executive committee following her tenure as president.

Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt
Edith Vanderbilt (center) and her daughter Cornelia (left of center) greet guests arriving in Biltmore Village, ca. 1924

More than a Hostess

Beyond her duties as wife, mother, and lady of the house, Edith Vanderbilt felt a great responsibility towards her community. She was passionate about education, agriculture, and literacy. She was active in civic affairs at the local, state, and national level. Perhaps most impressive, she used her privilege to support those in need and the causes in which she so strongly believed.

Cheers to this extraordinary woman!

Feature image: Edith Vanderbilt gathering letters from soldiers while volunteering for the Red Cross, ca. 1918 (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress: American National Red Cross Collection)

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden: A Brief History

Each spring, thousands upon thousands of beautiful and brightly colored tulips fill the formal flowerbeds of Biltmore’s Walled Garden. Their vivid hues—this year, boasting shades of yellow, purple, pink, red, orange, and white—are a favorite part of the season for many guests.

But preparation for the show actually begins long before warmer weather arrives. According to Parker Andes, director of Horticulture:

Planting for spring in the Walled Garden begins months before you see the results. One reason we get continuous color is because we plant several varieties of up to six bulbs per hole!

In honor of this seasonal celebration, let’s take a look at the history of tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden.

Archival image of Biltmore Walled Garden
The Vegetable and Flower Garden (now the Walled Garden), cica 1895

The Vegetable and Flower Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted originally envisioned the Walled Garden as a multipurpose space, providing fine fruits and vegetables as well as fresh flowers for Biltmore House. The design was inspired by English kitchen gardens, which were often walled to protect them from wind and wild animals.

George Vanderbilt, however, did not share this vision. Instead, he thought the Walled Garden should be one of “ornament, not utility.” While fruits and vegetables were grown there intermittently, most of them were gradually phased out over time.

Archival image of Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden, circa 1930

The Earliest Hint of Tulips

It is difficult to say exactly when tulips made their debut in the Walled Garden. However, one letter in our archives tells us the blooming bulbs have been planted there for almost a century.

On April 14, 1922, Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle wrote to Cornelia Vanderbilt:

The tulips in the walled garden are so glorious that we are trying out an experiment of sending you a box today by express for Easter. We shall hope they will bring you something of their original beauty and charm to make Easter even more wonderful. Spring is very much advanced here, even the yellow rambler roses are opening. 

The showy flower was perhaps chosen for the dramatic beds of the Walled Garden as an homage to the Dutch heritage of the Vanderbilts—and the term “Biltmore.” The name selected for the family’s country retreat derives from “Bildt,” the town in Holland where George Vanderbilt’s ancestors originated, and “more,” an Old English word for open, rolling land.

Tulips have served as a status symbol for the Dutch since the height of “Tulipmania” in the mid-1600s when speculation on rare bulbs created an investment bubble and the price of one bulb was equal to ten years of income.

Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden delight guests year after year

The Tradition Continues

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden have long been a favorite element of the season. Even before Biltmore House opened to the public in 1930, the Vanderbilts allowed some public access to the area a few days a week during spring so that locals and out-of-state visitors alike could enjoy estate gardens in bloom.

This tradition continues today with Biltmore Blooms, our seasonal celebration of the estate’s ever-changing progression of springtime color. Plan your visit today and join us as we delight in the more than 80,000 tulip bulbs that lend their dramatic color to the Walled Garden. 

From Gardener’s Cottage to Gallery

One of the first residences completed on the estate, the Gardener’s Cottage served as the home of Biltmore’s first head gardener. This historic house was designed by the firm of Richard Morris Hunt, who served as architect of Biltmore House.

Gardener's Cottage
The Gardener’s Cottage is located within Biltmore’s Walled Garden, adjacent to the Conservatory.

Today, the Gardener’s Cottage is transformed into our For Your Home Gallery. Honoring the Vanderbilt’s legacy of timeless style and gracious living, our gallery offers a curated selection of our licensed products—exclusively designed for Biltmore and inspired by various elements of the property.

Interior shot of Gallery
From the prints on the walls to the fine details in the furniture, all gallery items are inspired by the estate.

The Inspiration & Design Process

It all starts with a visit to the estate. Our industry-leading manufacturing partners send their distinguished designers to seek inspiration from Biltmore—from the architecture and archives to the historic gardens and grounds.

Inspiration & Design process
Our Imperial Dragon Lamp was inspired by a dragon-fish fountainhead along the Pergola.

The designers then process their insights to create a rendering that captures their vision for the product. This rendering may go through many versions to ensure the piece is functional, appealing, and suited for today’s homes and lifestyles. Renderings receive Biltmore’s stamp of approval prior to production.

Interior of Gallery
Take your time as you stroll through this historic home, soaking in each stunningly unique feature.

The final result is a beautiful furnishing that has a unique connection to Biltmore and meets the highest craftsmanship and quality standards. We invite you to visit the estate and discover these exclusive items amid their source of inspiration: America’s Largest Home® and its 8,000-acres of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty.

Outdoor furniture in front of Biltmore House
Luxurious outdoor furniture with the magnificent façade of Biltmore House.

Can’t visit right now? Select items are also available for purchase at biltmoreshop.com/gallery.

Feature image: An archival image of the historic Gardener’s Cottage from the Biltmore House collection.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition by the Numbers

In honor of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition—on display at Biltmore now through April 7, 2020—let’s take a closer look and add up some of the elements of this immersive estate experience.

Costumes from Downton Abbey
Showcased at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village

58 costumes on display

This tally includes 53 costumes from the television series—plus 5 costumes from the recent feature film. Notable pieces: both of Lady Mary’s wedding gowns and both of Lady Edith’s wedding gowns.

44 ½ minutes of video from 16 segments

Video segments and compilations are played throughout the exhibition itself, including a 5-minute introduction film as well as a 6-minute farewell film.

Guests at exhibition
Take a deeper dive into Downton Abbey

35 display drawers and glass cases

The interactive display drawers and showcases feature a variety of props from the series—from books, letters, and postcards to gloves, necklaces, and tiaras.

The Crawleys' Dining Room
Marvel at the Crawleys’ Dining Room

6 of the series’ most recognizable sets

Get a remarkably up-close look at Mrs. Patmore’s Kitchen, the Crawleys’ Dining Room, Lady Mary’s Bedroom, the Servants’ Stairs & Hallway, the Servant’s Dining Room, and Mr. Carson’s Pantry.

Downton Abbey characters
Rediscover your favorite characters

21 characters highlighted

These profiles are largely featured in the exhibition’s “Great Hall of Character Stories”—an interactive hallway where you can get better acquainted with those associated with Downton Abbey.

22 days of installation

While plans to bring this exhibition to Biltmore began long before, it took the better part of a month to prepare the infrastructure and physically install the exhibition in its entirety.

Exterior of Amherst at Deerpark
Exterior of Amherst at Deerpark

10,860 square feet spanning 2 estate locations

Multimedia presentations in the ballroom of Amherst at Deerpark (8,260 square feet) combined with costume displays at The Biltmore Legacy (2,600 square feet) make for one not-to-be-missed experience.

Plan your visit today and join us for Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.

Who Runs the House: Differences in Domestic Service

In honor of Biltmore playing host to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, we’ve recognized some of the similarities—and differences—between these two great houses.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into one of the primary differences in how American and English households of the era were managed. It all boils down to one simple question: Who runs the house?

Sketch of Biltmore House
Archival sketch of Biltmore House Façade, drafted prior to construction

George Vanderbilt’s vision for Biltmore was heavily influenced by the model of similar English estates, much like Downton Abbey; however, the American interpretation of this system had its differences to the British one.

Though they often hired British staff to manage Biltmore House, in the United States it was the standard for the head housekeeper to be in charge over the staff, rather than the butler.

Downton Abbey Bell Board
Bell Board from below stairs in Downton Abbey, as seen in our newest exhibition

At Downton Abbey, it’d be hard to imagine Mr. Carson, the butler, serving beneath Mrs. Hughes, the head housekeeper—though she certainly illustrated that she was more than capable of influencing him.

At Biltmore, head housekeeper Emily Rand King, affectionately known as Mrs. King although she was unmarried, ran almost everything downstairs at Biltmore just as Mr. Carson does at Downton Abbey.

Biltmore House Call Box
Detail of Call Box in the Butler’s Pantry in Biltmore House

“Mrs. King was the boss,” said Winnie Titchener-Coyle, associate archivist. “That’s one of the differences—in the U.S., women could have that high-level managerial role.”

While Mrs. King didn’t oversee the butler’s work per se, she certainly had more responsibilities than that of a head housekeeper in a British household—Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Hughes, for instance.

“Mrs. King administered salaries and had to have her own budget,” Winnie said. “She supervised staff, and she managed household supplies and linens, cleaning supplies and tools.”

Biltmore House Butler's Pantry
The Butler’s Pantry of Biltmore House, as seen on our Through the Servants’ Eyes Tour

Plan your visit for now through September 7, 2020 to discover Downton Abbey: The Exhibition—on display at both Amherst at Deerpark and The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village.

We invite you to learn more about the staff of Biltmore House—as well as the staff of Downton Abbey—with our new Through the Servants’ Eyes Tour during your next visit to Biltmore.

Feature image: Servants’ Hall in Biltmore House, where staff could relax and socialize when not on duty

Top 5 Winter Activities for Overnight Guests

While winter is Biltmore’s most peaceful season, it still offers plenty to do for overnight guests! Whether you’re interested in escaping the cold or exploring the estate, here are our top 5 winter activities:

Red Wine & Chocolate tasting setup
Our Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting is offered daily at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m.

5. Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting

One of Biltmore’s most popular Specialty Wine Experiences, our Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting is a lovely opportunity to stay warm. Sip your way through a number of our red varietals paired with locally produced artisan chocolates from French Broad Chocolate and discover why each is a heavenly match.

Afternoon Tea setup
Afternoon Tea is served daily from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.

4. Afternoon Tea

Another way to chase away the chill is with the elegant charm of Afternoon Tea at The Inn. Inspired by Vanderbilt family traditions, this lovely experience offers a welcome moment of leisure spent enjoying a delightful assortment of teas, English finger sandwiches, scones, fruit, cheeses, and tea pastries.

West facade of Biltmore House in snow
Guided Hikes take place Thursday–Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

3. Guided Hikes

If you’re feeling adventurous despite the lower temperatures, bundle up for one of our Guided Hikes—offered exclusively to overnight guests. Choose from the moderate to fast-paced Trail Blazers or the more relaxed River Stroll and spend time enjoying the long-range views that winter brings to Biltmore.

Biltmore Blacksmith at work
Blacksmith Demonstrations are offered Thursday–Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2. Blacksmith Demonstrations

While strolling through Antler Hill Village, be sure to make your way to the Barn to see our incredible Blacksmith Demonstrations. Not only is it fascinating to watch our blacksmith work—it’s also quite cozy in the Smithy Shop. For a memento of your visit, check for hand-forged items at The Barn Door shop located next door.

Downton Abbey The Exhibition at Biltmore
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is open daily from 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

1. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

And finally, the must-see event at Biltmore this winter is Downton Abbey: The Exhibition. Showcased in two estate locations, discover multimedia presentations, interactive elements, and multiple sets from the series, as well as a stunning display of more than 50 costumes from the series’ six-season run.

Stay overnight at one of our distinctive properties to ensure you have enough time to experience all of the top activities the estate has to offer this winter. For the ultimate escape, consider one of our special overnight packages.

Top 5 Downton Abbey-Related Activities at Biltmore

From November 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020, Biltmore is hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, an immersive, must-see event that pays homage to the show.

The multimedia display in Amherst at Deerpark includes holograms, video, and life-size imagery—plus some of the series’ most recognizable sets, including Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and the gossip-fueled servants’ quarters.

The estate has a variety of additional offerings that connect to the exhibition. Here are our top 5 picks:

Costumes from Downton Abbey on display
The limited-time exhibition continues in Antler Hill Village with costumes on display at The Biltmore Legacy.

5. Costumes at The Biltmore Legacy

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition itself extends to The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village where more than 50 official costumes from the series’ six-season run—worn by actors such as Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith—will be on display.

Afternoon Tea
Served in The Dining Room at The Inn, Afternoon Tea transports you to the Vanderbilts’ and the Crawleys’ era.

4. Afternoon Tea at The Inn

Afternoon Tea is a delightful traditional that was enjoyed by the Vanderbilts and the Crawleys alike. The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate® offers a unique take on this service daily. Enjoy fine cheeses, sweet and savory canapés, and a selection of teas from one of the world’s finest purveyors.

Tea sets
Our charming estate shops offer a wide range of Downton Abbey-inspired items, including a variety of lovely tea sets.

3. Downton Abbey-Inspired Products

For a limited-time, shops throughout the estate are offering a variety of Downton-inspired items. Browse fashions such as fascinators, jewelry, scarves, hat pins, and more—inspired by the styles worn by characters in the show. Tea sets, books, and additional accessories relating to the era are also available.

Biltmore Sub-Basement
Our newest tour takes you into rarely seen areas of Biltmore House, such as fascinating parts of the Sub-Basement.

2. Through The Servants’ Eyes Tour

Developed exclusively to coincide with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, Through the Servants’ Eyes is a brand new behind-the-scenes tour. Hear the fascinating stories of those who worked and lived on the estate while visiting rarely seen servants’ areas including the Boiler Room, Butler’s Pantry, and beyond.

The Inn and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate
With so much to see and do at Biltmore during this exciting time, stay overnight to ensure you have time to experience it all.

1. Special Overnight Packages

Both The Inn on Biltmore Estate® and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® offer exclusive Downton Abbey: The Exhibition overnight packages to ensure you have time to see and do it all. Packaged stays include admission to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, admission to Biltmore House, Afternoon Tea, and more.

Moving into America’s Largest Home

Almost a century and a quarter ago this month, George Vanderbilt moved into Biltmore House.

Have you ever moved into a custom-designed new home? If you have, you know that the punch list never seems quite buttoned-up on moving day. Little details seem to linger even after the last box is unpacked—and it was no different for the owner of America’s Largest Home.

Archival image of Biltmore House under construction, May 8, 1894
Archival image of Biltmore House under construction, May 8, 1894

Ground was broken in 1889, and during the course of the six years that followed, George Vanderbilt had been in close touch with his supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, Biltmore House lead architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Hunt passed away in August 1895, just months before completion of the house, but Sharp Smith was able to complete the plan.

Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889
Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889

When he came to stay for periods of time at the construction site, George Vanderbilt stayed in what was called the Brick Farm House, a property he purchased from Asheville entrepreneur B. J. Alexander in 1889. Sharp Smith renovated the property, which included a mill and farm buildings, so that it was comfortable enough to accommodate Vanderbilt and his project team when they visited to check on the estate’s progress.

In the months leading up to the official opening, carpentry and cabinetry were among the final touches. With George Vanderbilt’s move-in scheduled for October, archival information shows that Richard Sharp Smith hired 16 additional cabinetmakers to speed up progress.

Biltmore House contractors, including Richard Sharp Smith (second from right), circa 1892
Biltmore House contractors, including Richard Sharp Smith (second from right), circa 1892

On his first night at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt slept in the Bachelors’ Wing because his bedroom wasn’t finished. There was another issue, too, described in the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted:

When the water was turned on in the stable… to get ready for the servants to occupy, it was found that it would not go up to the second floor where the servants [sic] rooms are.

The problem was soon fixed and water flowed a few days later, but there were still a few outstanding details to hammer out. With family and friends expected for Christmas 1895, Sharp Smith hired an additional 10 cabinetmakers in December. While almost all the carpentry was finally completed in 1896, additional cabinetry projects extended into 1897.

View of front façade of Biltmore House
View of front façade of Biltmore House

Today, when you visit Biltmore House, you can see first-hand the incredible attention to detail that went into every aspect of the house. But as you might imagine, even this architectural masterpiece was subject to the challenges faced in any home-building project. By seeing the vision of the project through until the end, George Vanderbilt and his design and construction team created a landmark with enduring quality that we still enjoy today.