Edith Vanderbilt & Photography

Photography was one of Edith Vanderbilt’s many passions. In turn, her photographs of life at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC help inform our curatorial interpretations today.

With the introduction of roll film and the hand-held camera in the 1880s, photography became truly accessible to casual amateurs for the first time. There are a few distinct ways that we know that Edith embraced this new medium and enjoyed photography throughout her lifetime.

Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod in Biltmore Village during photography excursion
Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod in Biltmore Village, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Photos of Edith Vanderbilt with a Camera

One of the most concrete ways we know of Edith’s interest in photography is thanks to photographs in the Biltmore collection in which she is pictured with a camera in hand. Many of these photos came from one series in particular.

In the winter of 1905-1906, George Vanderbilt’s niece Edith Fabbri and her husband Ernesto visited Biltmore. During their trip, Edith Vanderbilt and Ernesto appear to have gone on a photography excursion on the estate and in nearby Biltmore Village.

Multiple images from this series taken by Ernesto capture Edith with her camera and a tripod.

Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.
Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.

Photos with Edith Vanderbilt’s Handwriting on the Back

Additionally, there are more than a dozen photographs in our archival collection that we know were captured by Edith as her distinct handwriting is on the back of the images.

Not only was she taking these photos, but Edith was also learning to develop many of them herself. She seemed very proud of this skill set, writing on the back of one photograph: “Taken, developed and printed, without help.”

Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt demonstrating her practice of photography techniques
Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt on the Loggia, October 1900. These photos were presumably taken by Edith Vanderbilt.

Multiple Copies of Photos of Family Moments

There are also many photographs we presume to have been taken by Edith, including shots of more intimate family moments. For instance, she was likely responsible for the images of George Vanderbilt with their newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia.

In our archival collection, there are 14 copies of what appear to be essentially the same image from that series. However, each of the copies varies slightly in exposure and cropping, which speaks to Edith’s experimenting with development techniques as she worked to hone her craft.

Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903
Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903. This archival object is currently on display in The Biltmore Legacy as part of our “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” exhibition.

Location of the Edith Vanderbilt’s Darkroom

We know that Edith was developing her own photographs, but we do not know with certainty the location of the darkroom she used.

One archival manuscript includes mention of a “Photograph Room” in the Bachelors’ Wing of Biltmore House. However, we’ve yet to find additional sources to confirm where this space was located and how it was used.

There are also employee recollections of darkroom equipment being present in the Basement, though it is unclear if this was the location of the equipment when Edith lived in Biltmore House or if it was later moved.

Our curatorial team continues to research this topic.

While we may not know the full extent of Edith Vanderbilt’s engagement with the modern hobby of photography, her photographs—as well as others presumed to have been taken by her—offer glimpses into life at Biltmore during the Vanderbilts’ era that we would not have otherwise.

Feature image: Photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod along the banks of the French Broad River, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Preserving the Legacy of Cornelia Vanderbilt’s “Baby Tree”

In honor of the arrival of George and Edith Vanderbilt’s first and only child, a “baby tree” was planted just after her christening.

The Baby Tree: A Cucumbertree Magnolia

The Vanderbilts welcomed Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt in the late summer of 1900. In October of that year, a cucumbertree magnolia, known to botanists as Magnolia acuminata, was planted in Cornelia’s honor.

George Vanderbilt with newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia of Biltmore House, September 30, 1900
George Vanderbilt with newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia of Biltmore House, September 30, 1900

The cucumbertree is a deciduous magnolia with large oblong leaves. Unlike most other magnolias, its flowers are yellowish green and not very showy, causing them to often go unnoticed when they bloom in late May or early June. In its early stages, the green, fleshy fruit roughly resembles a small cucumber, hence the tree’s name.

Biltmore’s botanist, Chauncey Beadle, had collected the scarlet seeds of this indigenous tree found growing along the banks of the French Broad River near the estate. Beadle propagated the seeds in the Biltmore Nursery

In a letter within Biltmore’s archives, Beadle wrote:

“The seedlings resulting from this sowing were planted out in nursery rows, cultivated and pruned and eventually, placed along the roads and paths of the Estate with the exception of one tree, a particularly beautiful and thrifty individual, which remained on [sic] the nursery until chosen for the noteworthy occasion of which this writing bears record.”

The planting ceremony for Cornelia's Baby Tree, October 1900
The planting ceremony for Cornelia’s Baby Tree, October 1900

The Planting Ceremony

The planting of the cucumbertree magnolia, known fondly as the “baby tree” or “Cornelia’s tree,” was a small and intimate event. The Vanderbilt family, Beadle, Dr. Samuel Westray Battle, and a few estate workers were the only attendants.

A 1900 Asheville Daily Citizen article states:

“The spot selected is in a beautiful grassy dell near Biltmore House. The tree itself, now but a sapling of twelve feet in height, is expected to be 60 feet above the ground when little Cornelia reaches the age of 20 years. A few years after that event, it is expected that it will reach a height of 100 feet. It lives centuries, and is one of the prides of our beautiful southern forests.”

The baby tree grew to be massive, standing proudly in the Azalea Garden, just below the junction of the two main paths leading into the garden below the Conservatory and greenhouses.

The second generation cucumbertree magnolia, located in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
The second generation cucumbertree magnolia (center), located in Biltmore’s Azalea Garden

The Baby Tree’s Second Generation

After surviving more than a century, the cucumbertree succumbed to decay. Though a difficult decision, it was removed in September 2008. By that time, the baby tree had lost most of its bark and had just a few remaining branches.

Fortunately, the historical significance of the tree along with the gorgeous color and diversity of its wood grain made its timber ideal for repurposing. The usable wood was custom-sawn into thick slabs and dried to create “high boy” cocktail tables at Cedric’s® Tavern in Antler Hill Village.

Today, the second generation cucumbertree magnolia, which seeded naturally when the original baby tree was still living, can be found thriving in the same exact location in the Azalea Garden, preserving the legacy of this historic tree

Biltmore’s 2022 Christmas Décor by the Numbers

Christmas décor at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, is nothing short of magical. From America’s Largest Home® to Antler Hill Village, our Winery, and beyond, our incredibly talented Floral team members somehow manage to outdo themselves year after year. In honor of the national celebration of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday, the team selected “Winter Landscapes” for this year’s Christmas décor theme. 

Let’s take a look at just how much Christmas décor it takes to bedeck George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate.

Christmas trees in the Banquet Hall
The massive Fraser fir Christmas tree (left) in the Banquet Hall is traditionally the largest in Biltmore House.

Christmas Trees

  • There will be 67 decorated Christmas trees inside Biltmore House for the 2022 celebration.
  • The smallest tree is a tabletop tree in the Morland Room.
  • The largest tree inside Biltmore House is, of course, the Vanderbilt traditional fresh 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall. It requires about 50 staff members to carry in, raise, and secure it.
  • A lit 55-foot-tall Norway spruce encircled by 36 illuminated evergreens decorates the Front Lawn of Biltmore House for Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
  • A total of 45 additional decorated Christmas trees are at other estate locations, including our Winery, Antler Hill Village, and The Inn on Biltmore Estate®. The Conservatory features decorated with “trees” made of potted plants and other natural materials.  
Lights on the floor before being hung
The amount of Christmas décor used in the Banquet Hall requires all hands on deck!

Lights & Candles

  • There are around 45,000 lights and 250 candles inside Biltmore House. Another 850,000 lights illuminate the rest of the estate.    
  • More than 55,000 lights illuminate the Front Lawn tree with an additional 32,000 lights on the surrounding trees and shrubs.
  • Hand-lit at dusk, 400 luminaries line the Esplanade in front of Biltmore House every night for Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
  • About 5,000 lights hanging in our magical waterfall light display in Antler Hill Village. 
Tiny acorn ornaments
This year’s theme of “Winter Wonderland” can be spotted in even the tiniest details of our Christmas décor.

Ornaments

  • The Banquet Hall tree boasts 500 ornaments and 500 LED Edison bulb-style electric lights along with an abundance of gift boxes.
  • There are 13,870 ornaments used on the other trees inside Biltmore House, and that many again around the estate to add sparkle and seasonal interest.
Christmas poinsettias
Did you know that many of the poinsettias and other holiday blooms used in our Christmas décor are grown on the estate?

Poinsettias & Other Holiday Blooms

  • More than 1,960 traditional poinsettias are found amid the Christmas décor throughout the estate, 150 of which are in Biltmore House. 
  • Additional seasonal plants include 4,265 amaryllises, Christmas cacti, bromeliads, orchids, peace lilies, cyclamen, begonias, and kalanchoes.
Christmas wreath on display
All of the wreaths on display in Biltmore House and throughout the estate are handmade by our Floral team.

Wreaths

  • There are 205 fresh wreaths and sprays along with 90 faux pieces around the estate during the season.
  • Wreaths are made of fresh white pine and Fraser fir, ornamented with golden arborvitae, holly, or other natural materials such as twigs and cones.  Artificial bases are decorated with ornaments, berries, faux flowers, and ribbon.
Garland hangs on a mantel
This lush and festive garland decks the halls of Mr. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom this holiday season.

Garlands & Swags

  • Our Floral team cuts fresh evergreens on the property every week to create handmade swags to decorate the Grand Staircase in Biltmore House.
  • Around 1,000 feet of fresh and faux garlands decorate Biltmore House, and around 1,200 feet are used in other areas.
Bows atop Christmas trees in the Tapestry Gallery
Our floral team’s hand-tied bows comprise the majority of the ribbon used in this year’s Christmas décor.

Ribbons & Bows

  • There are 7,370 yards of ribbon in the Christmas décor in Biltmore House and throughout the estate—primarily in the form of hand-tied bows. 
  • Our team uses everything from narrow cording to 8-inch-wide ribbon and they decorate with velvets, metallics, satins, burlap, and printed cottons.
  • It takes 5 yards of ribbon to create the festive bows worn by the marble lions at the front door of Biltmore House.
  • It takes close to 15 yards of ribbon required to make a tree-topper bow for the 16-foot-tall Christmas trees in the Library.
  • Any ribbon that is used year to year is starched and ironed so that it is wrinkle-free and perfect!
Staff help raise the Banquet Hall tree
Congratulations to all of our teams across the estate who assist with making Christmas at Biltmore happen!

Staff

  • Our Floral team consists of 10 full-time and 5 part-time floral designers.
  • Multiple departments across the estate also help implement the grand plans for Christmas décor at Biltmore each year, including our Engineering, Housekeeping, Museum Services, Horticulture, Guest Services, Security, and Events teams.

We invite you to see the beauty of Biltmore’s Christmas décor for yourself. Plan your visit today!

Hosts in Biltmore House: A Brief History

Our Interpretive Hosts are integral to visits to Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. Whether you’re enjoying the main tour route of America’s Largest Home® or exploring via one of our more in-depth, behind-the-scenes tours, these trained storytellers strive to offer an accurate and entertaining interpretation of Biltmore’s history and collections.

But did you know that Interpretive Hosts weren’t always part of the Biltmore House experience? Let’s take a look back at the history of touring Biltmore, which began before the house was even opened.

Archival estate admission ticket, ca. 1920
Archival estate admission ticket, ca. 1920.

Visiting the Gardens & Grounds of the Estate

According to archival correspondence, George Vanderbilt allowed the public to drive on estate roads as early as 1894—before the construction of Biltmore House was even completed!

But it wasn’t until October 1903 that a formalized pass system was developed, which included an admission cost for everyone, except select guests of the Vanderbilts.

The reverse side of these original estate tickets included the following regulations:

  1. The plucking of flowers or breaking of trees or shrubs is forbidden.
  2. It is forbidden to drive over planted areas or the borders of roads.
  3. The taking of photographs anywhere on the Estate is prohibited.

And the admission rates at this time were as follows:

  • 25c for a vehicle drawn by one horse and carrying 1 or 2 persons, or for a person on horseback.
  • 50c for a 2-horse vehicle carrying not over five persons. For each additional person 10c; for each additional horse 25c.
  • 10c for a single person on foot or with a bicycle.

According to our records, not much changed in terms of regulations or pricing for the first 18 or so years after this initial pass system was developed. In 1921, charges for admission were updated as follows: 5 passenger car (4 passengers & driver) $1; 7 passenger car (6 passengers & driver) $1.50.

Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and John A. V. Cecil (center) at the public opening of Biltmore House, 1930
Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and John A. V. Cecil (center) at the public opening of Biltmore House, 1930.

Visiting Biltmore House

In 1930, George Vanderbilt’s daughter Cornelia and her husband John A. V.  Cecil opened Biltmore House to the public. This decision was made in response to requests to increase tourism in the Asheville area during the Depression and to generate income to preserve the estate.

This milestone was a fundamental shift in the way the public was able to experience Biltmore. Previous to this, only select guests of the Vanderbilts were fortunate enough to see the interiors of America’s Largest Home® and the invaluable collection it housed.

“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 in doing this, it is a fitting memorial to my father. After all, it was his life’s work and creation.”

— Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil’s welcome speech at the opening of Biltmore House, March 15, 1930, as quoted in the Asheville Citizen

One of our Biltmore Interpretive Hosts leads a small group tour in the Winter Garden
One of our Biltmore Interpretive Hosts leads a small group tour in the Winter Garden.

Hosts in Biltmore House

In the late 1980s, hosts were introduced to the Biltmore House experience. For the first time, guests were offered accurate information about the collection, the Vanderbilt family, and the house itself.

Today, our Interpretive Hosts undergo extensive training to ensure they have knowledge about every object on display—yet they do not follow a script, making each of their interactions with our guests truly unique.

We invite you to discover all of our wonderful tour offerings at Biltmore House, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience every time, thanks to our talented Interpretive Hosts.

Biltmore’s Bass Pond: Re-Creating the Missing Island

Did you know Biltmore’s Bass Pond originally had two islands within it? One of the islands (or “islets,” as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted referred to them) mysteriously disappeared over the years. However, our horticulture team recently worked to re-create this feature as part of our mission to preserve the estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

About the Bass Pond’s Design

Biltmore’s Bass Pond—referred to as “the lake” in some archival documents—was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape plan for the estate, created more than 125 years ago. Designed to provide still water for the Vanderbilts and their family and friends to go boating, the six-acre body of water was created by damming a nearby creek and enlarging its millpond.

Archival bass pond image
Archival image of the Bass Pond with both original islands visible, ca. 1895.

Olmsted wrote about the Bass Pond islands in a January 29, 1891 letter to George Vanderbilt:

“There were four reasons for designing the islets near the north margin of the lake: first, the effect of them would be to enlarge the apparent extent of the water… and there would at least be more effect of intricacy and mystery; second, [because of] the steepness of the ground almost everywhere at our proposed water-line on the main shore… the islands, being low and flat, are intended to serve was a disguise and relief to this circumstance; third, the islands will save cost of construction; fourth, they are needed as breeding places for shy waterside birds, many of which will only make their nests in the seclusion of thickets apparently inaccessible.”

Team re-creating the new island
Our team sourced the clay-based soil for the new island from another estate location.

Re-Creating the Missing Island

During the early months of 2022, our horticulture team began the preliminary work to install the missing island. First, they drained the Bass Pond so that the water level was below the height of the new island. Then, the pond was dredged and our crew disposed of the old sediment and material. Finally, our team brought in clay-based soil from another location on the estate to re-create the island.

Transporting plants in the bass pond
Transporting the selection of plants to the newly established island was a project in and of itself.

Landscaping of the island took place in May 2022. Six members of our horticulture team transported iris, Cliftonia, and Juncus to the island via several rowboat trips. The selection of plant material was in line with Olmsted’s original intention for the islands’ purpose. Juncus, for example, is a water-loving grass that offers habitat for wildlife, in particular the shy waterside birds referenced by Olmsted in his letter to George Vanderbilt.

New Bass Pond island almost complete
Our team intentionally selected plants that would remain true to Olmsted’s original vision.

On your next trip to the estate, we invite you to linger along the shores of the Bass Pond. Consider strolling there via the Azalea Garden Path after your Biltmore House visit. Marvel at its historic boat house and waterfall. And of course, watch the newly re-created island for those shy waterside birds—just as Olmsted intended.

Re-Creating Biltmore’s Missing Bass Pond Island

Cedric the St. Bernard: Biltmore’s Very Good Boy

Cedric, a smooth coat St. Bernard, was a loyal companion to George Vanderbilt. Though we aren’t sure exactly how George came to own Cedric, we do know he was brought to the estate from Point d’Acadie, George’s summer home in Bar Harbor, sometime around the opening of Biltmore House in 1895. Cedric was likely 1-3 years old at this time.

Cedric, George Vanderbilt, and honeymooners Jay Burden and Adele Sloan, George’s niece, June 1895. This is one of the earliest photos of Cedric in the Biltmore House collection.
Cedric, George Vanderbilt, and honeymooners Jay Burden and Adele Sloan, George’s niece, June 1895. This is one of the earliest photos of Cedric in the Biltmore House collection.

Archival records reveal that Cedric received a lot of leeway around the estate. Correspondence from Biltmore House guests indicates that he had free reign on the first floor. He could often be found sunning on the Loggia or laying in the Library. He’s also seen in a number of pictures taken outdoors during Biltmore’s early days.

Cedric sunbathing on the Loggia, ca. 1900. The massive St. Bernard was known lounge and sometimes snooze in various locations through the first floor of Biltmore House.
Cedric sunbathing on the Loggia, ca. 1900. The massive St. Bernard was known to lounge and sometimes snooze in various locations through the first floor of Biltmore House.

Cedric was a true member of the Vanderbilt family and was treated as such. In addition to a couple of close friends and employees, Cedric was one of the few attendees at a private ceremony during which George and Edith Vanderbilt oversaw the planting of a commemorative tree to honor the birth of their daughter Cornelia in 1900.

George Vanderbilt, Cedric, and Cornelia Vanderbilt being held by her nanny at the planting of Cornelia's “Baby Tree
George Vanderbilt, Cedric, and Cornelia Vanderbilt being held by her nanny at the planting of Cornelia’s “Baby Tree”, October 1900. The photograph was likely taken by Edith Vanderbilt.

By 1901, there was a whole family of St. Bernards living at Biltmore, all adored by the Vanderbilts and their guests alike. In a letter to his wife, Joseph Hodges Choate, the American Ambassador to Great Britain and Biltmore House guest, wrote:

“I shall not attempt to describe the house, which is obviously the finest in America, but the dogs are truly magnificent … I wish you could see these great St. Bernards—five of them, father, mother and three children, all big and splendid.  They seem to fill the billiard-room and are most affectionate.”

Cedric dozing in the Library of Biltmore House, ca. 1896. The beloved St. Bernard was known to sprawl out and relax where ever George Vanderbilt was.
Cedric dozing in the Library of Biltmore House, ca. 1896. The beloved St. Bernard was known to sprawl out and relax where ever George Vanderbilt was.

George Vanderbilt gifted St. Bernards (believed to have been sired by Cedric) to friends and family.  In 1902, George’s friend the Right Rev. William Croswell Doane lost his faithful St. Bernard named Cluny, so George gave him a puppy named Balder. A few years later, George and Edith also gave a St. Bernard puppy to their nephew John Nicholas Brown, who named the dog Cedric.

Cornelia with one of her St. Bernards on the Esplanade of Biltmore House, ca. 1903. Cedric was the first of at least four generations born on the estate. The St. Bernard pictured is likely one of his grown pups.
Cornelia with one of her St. Bernards on the Esplanade of Biltmore House, ca. 1903. Cedric was the first of at least four generations born on the estate. The St. Bernard pictured is likely one of his grown pups.

Sadly, Cedric died in 1902 at Buckspring Lodge, where he was buried. To commemorate the occasion, Biltmore House guest Charlotte Pendleton wrote a poem in his honor, entitled Cedric: A Sonetto in Rondo, in the Nonsense Book.

Cedric on the Rampe Douce of the Esplanade in front of Biltmore House. This photograph accompanied a poem in the Biltmore House Nonsense Book honoring Cedric when he passed away in 1902.
Cedric on the Rampe Douce of the Esplanade in front of Biltmore House. This photograph accompanied a poem in the Biltmore House Nonsense Book honoring Cedric when he passed away in 1902.

Cedric Sonetto in Rondo

The Moses of your canine race

On Pisgah’s sapphire heights you strayed

Among her pink beds low you laid

Upon the high and lovely place;

You down to die where there is space,

Amid cathedral pine arrayed

With plumed crest and views that braid

Their columned stems with waving grace.

For your great body to lie down

Most fully housed, walk spreading skies

On beds of spicy needles, brown,

Fragrant; couched in majesty,

Rapt in deep solitude, a woven gown

Of shrouded mystery.

Measuring more than 33 inches around, Cedric’s original leather collar attests to the impressive size and heft of the Vanderbilts’ favorite breed.
Measuring more than 33 inches around, Cedric’s original leather collar attests to the impressive size and heft of the Vanderbilts’ favorite breed.

Today, we honor the legacy of Cedric the St. Bernard, Biltmore’s very good boy, with his eponymous restaurant: Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village. On your next estate visit, be sure to check out the many photographs of Cedric on the tavern’s walls as well the display of his impressive leather collar.

Biltmore’s Blacksmith: Striking While the Iron is Hot

Did you know America’s Largest Home® has a resident blacksmith?

A typical day for Biltmore blacksmith Steve Schroeder is spent demonstrating traditional techniques, telling stories to our guests, and answering their questions in the estate’s original smithy shop at Antler Hill Barn.

Biltmore blacksmith Steve Schroder learned the trade by apprenticing under our previous blacksmith Doc Cudd.

Blacksmith to Blacksmith

During one of his demonstrations, Steve met a guest who was a fellow blacksmith from New Jersey. The guest showed Steve a piece of his own: a metal key ring featuring a golf ball-sized rose with about 40 tiny petals.

Blacksmithing is the art of forging metal to create hardware, ornamental objects, and more.
Blacksmithing is the art of forging metal to create hardware, ornamental objects, and more.

Steve was impressed by the rose design and asked the guest about his process. To his surprise, the guest offered to stay at the smithy shop for what ended up being more than an hour to explain the method to Steve as he tried it out.

“That’s one of the great things about blacksmiths,” Steve explains. “We’re very open about sharing projects and we’re happy to teach each other different techniques. There are no secrets in blacksmithing.”

Blacksmiths use a variety of tools such as a hammer, an anvil, and a hot cut, which helps create indentations in the metal.
Blacksmiths use a variety of tools such as a hammer, an anvil, and a hot cut, which helps create indentations in the metal.

The Rose Hook Process

  1. The upper portion of the rod is heated—as it is throughout the process—and then hammered (above) until it is incredibly thin.
  2. The rod is twisted in the middle to define the stem.
  3. The flat, upper portion of the rod is placed over a hot cut and struck with a hammer to create indentions along one side, defining the individual petals.
  4. The upper portion is bent into a P-shape.
  5. The P-shape is tightly coiled, revealing the rose design.
  6. The lower portion of the rod bent to create the hook element.
Our blacksmith’s early rose hooks are on display near the second floor fireplace in Village Hotel.
Our blacksmith’s early rose hooks are on display near the second floor fireplace in Village Hotel.

Perfecting the Petals

Steve worked diligently to improve his rose hook technique over the next few months. During that time, news of the fascinating project caught wind around the estate. As result, eight rose hooks were soon installed in the comfortable seating area next to Village Social, located within Village Hotel.

Steve peels back the petals of the roses using pliers while the metal is still red-hot to create the blooming effect.
Steve peels back the petals of the roses using pliers while the metal is still red-hot to create the blooming effect.

However, Steve is quick to point out that the hooks installed in Village Hotel don’t reflect one of his biggest revelations in perfecting his technique, one that actually came from his wife Kylie.

“I explained to her that I was having a hard time keeping the petals open in the coiling process,” he says. “She suggested I use pliers to pull the petals back for that nice blooming effect.”

The design of the rose hook has slightly evolved over the years. Loving care and attention to detail goes into each iteration.

Striking While the Iron is Hot

Steve knew early on there was potential for his products to be sold on the estate—and Village Hotel guests were asking if the rose hooks were available for purchase on a daily basis.

While Steve didn’t want to sell the product until he thought it was in its best possible form, he knew that he had to “strike while the iron is hot.” (Yes, that is a blacksmith pun, and yes, Steve is full of them.)

We invite you to watch our blacksmith work and learn more about the craft in Antler Hill Barn. Hours vary seasonally.
We invite you to watch our blacksmith work and learn more about the craft in Antler Hill Barn. Hours vary seasonally.

Finally, after a few months and a few hundred roses, Steve felt confident enough in the design—more specifically, in his ability to replicate the design over and over—and the product hit the shelves of The Barn Door.

And the rose hooks are selling just as fast as Steve can make them. He brings a handful of rose hooks to The Barn Door every morning and they’re gone by the afternoon. In the first two weeks, the shop sold more than 50 hooks, making it their best-selling item.

Our blacksmith’s rose hooks sell out incredibly quickly and because of the nature of the craft, they’re only available on the estate.
Our blacksmith’s rose hooks sell out incredibly quickly and because of the nature of the craft, they’re only available on the estate.

As a result of this estate collaboration, the product’s footprint is almost non-existent. When a batch of rose hooks is ready, Steve simply walks them next door to be sold—no additional carbon emissions, packaging, or waste involved. The rose hooks don’t even have price tags.

On your next visit to the estate, be sure to make time to visit our blacksmith Steve Schroeder at Antler Hill Barn, then pop in The Barn Door to take home a truly unique piece of Biltmore.

Date Activities for Summer at Biltmore

There’s no better place to enjoy a summertime date with your sweetheart than Biltmore. Our 8,000-acre estate has a variety of activities for couples—whether you’re looking for a romantic offering or just a unique way to spend quality time with your special someone.

Couple hiking in Biltmore's 8,000-acre backyard
Plan your Blue Ridge Mountain escape at Biltmore today!

4. Reconnect amid Mother Nature

One great Biltmore date option is to explore our Blue Ridge Mountain backyard. Located in Antler Hill Village, our Outdoor Adventure Center offers a wide range of activities for reconnecting amid Mother Nature. Choose from a Private Carriage or Horseback Trail Ride, Sensory Journey Hike, River Float Trip, and more.

Couple tasting Biltmore wine
Whether you’re in the Tasting Room or the Wine Bar, our knowledgeable wine experts are on hand to guide your selections.

3. Savor Handcrafted Vintages at Our Winery

What could be more romantic that sipping award-winning wines? Another fantastic date option, a visit to our Winery is perfect for the novice and connoisseur alike. Explore our vast portfolio of reds, whites, and roses in our Tasting Room or unwind at the Wine Bar where you can savor finest reserve and sparkling wines.

Legends of Art & Innovation is on display in Amherst at Deerpark®, Biltmore’s event space located in the heart of the estate.
Legends of Art & Innovation is on display in Amherst at Deerpark®, Biltmore’s event space located in the heart of the estate.

2. Discover Legends of Art & Innovation

A date option that’s also a fully immerse experience, our newest exhibition is a multi-sensory event that illuminates the remarkable lives of renowned artists and their timeless masterpieces. Legends of Art & Innovation features Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color now through July 10 and Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius beginning July 14.

A rejuvenating couples treatment at our petite spa facility is the perfect way to end a day of estate exploration with your sweetheart.
A rejuvenating couples treatment at our petite spa facility is the perfect way to end a day of estate exploration with your sweetheart.

1. Stay Overnight for a True Getaway

We invite you to stay overnight at one of our distinctive lodging options to transform your Biltmore date into a true getaway. Choose from the four-star luxury of The Inn, the casual comfort of Village Hotel, or the premium privacy of one of our Cottages. An added perk? Overnight stays include access to pampering treatments of The Spa Biltmore.

The Line House Cottages: A Brief History

Like all of the Cottages on Biltmore Estate™, our new Line House Cottages offer guests a step back in time to the Vanderbilts’ era—but unlike our other cottages, these cozy historic homes also provide a special glimpse into the estate’s agricultural heritage.

Archival image of the estate, c. 1906. The Line is in the foreground with the Barn to the left and the Main Dairy (what is now the Winery) in the center. Biltmore House is visible in the distance.
Archival image of the estate, c. 1906. The Line is in the foreground with the Barn to the left and the Main Dairy (what is now the Winery) in the center. Biltmore House is visible in the distance.

Located just steps away from the Barn and Farmyard in Antler Hill Village, the Line House Cottages are original estate structures, part of what was once referred to as The Line.

George Vanderbilt, his friend Stephen H. Olin, and two dogs walking towards the Farm Village (what is now Antler Hill Village), c. 1906. The Line is on the far left and the Barn is center-right. The four larger houses on either side of the Barn were reserved for management.
George Vanderbilt, his friend Stephen H. Olin, and two dogs walking towards the Farm Village (what is now Antler Hill Village), c. 1906. The Line is on the far left and the Barn is center-right. The four larger houses on either side of the Barn were reserved for management.

According to archival records, The Line consisted of eight nearly identical cottages. Dozens of estate employees and their families called these cottages home over the years, many of whom worked as milkers at the Dairy.

The beautifully updated living room in each of the Line House Cottages is the perfect place to unwind after a day spent exploring all the estate has to offer.
The beautifully updated living room in each of the Line House Cottages is the perfect place to unwind after a day spent exploring all the estate has to offer.

Today, these turn-of-the-century farmhouses have been reimagined as exclusive lodging options for our overnight guests, offering premium comfort and convenience along with privacy and four-star amenities.

The upstairs bedroom boasts double-window seating with ample natural light to illuminate the vintage Biltmore photographs displayed above the upholstered headboard.
The upstairs bedroom boasts double-window seating with ample natural light to illuminate the vintage Biltmore photographs displayed above the upholstered headboard.

Each of our 970-square-foot Line House Cottages can comfortably sleep four and offers:

  • Two bedrooms, each with a queen-size bed
  • Two bathrooms, each with a walk-in shower
  • Formal living room
  • Full eat-in kitchen
  • Covered front porch with pastoral views
  • Back patio for outdoor dining and entertaining
Imagine yourself part of this relaxing scene, sipping your morning coffee from your rocking chair on the front porch, having just woken up on George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate.
Imagine yourself part of this relaxing scene, sipping your morning coffee from your rocking chair on the front porch, having just woken up on George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate.

With soothing, pastoral views of our working Farmyard, these homes are a short stroll from Antler Hill Village & Winery, estate trails, and the four-star luxuries offered at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. We invited you to discover our newest lodging offering and book your stay at one of our Line House Cottages in gorgeous Asheville, NC today.

Due to the historic architecture of our Vanderbilt-era Cottages, they are not accessible for guests with limited mobility.

The Grandest Guest Rooms: Restoring the Louis XV Suite

Our Museum Services team works year-round to preserve the dream of George Vanderbilt and the visionaries who helped him create Biltmore. Let’s take a closer look at one of their largest projects to date: restoring the Louis XV Suite—the grandest guest rooms in Biltmore House.

About the Louis XV Suite

The Louis XV Suite is a retreat consisting of four guest rooms: the Damask Room, the Claude Room, the Tyrolean Chimney Room, and the Louis XV Room. It is located on the second floor of Biltmore House and is included as part of the Biltmore House tour route during the cooler months of the year.

The beautifully restored Damask Room boasts large windows that display captivating vistas in three directions: east, west, and south.
The beautifully restored Damask Room boasts large windows that display captivating vistas in three directions: east, west, and south.

Damask Room

One of 33 guest bedrooms in Biltmore House, the Damask Room was named for silk damask draperies and distinct damask-style wallpaper. Situated at the southwest corner of the house, this room features commanding views of the South Terrace, Italian Garden, Deer Park, and the splendid mountains beyond.

Biltmore’s Museum Services team, which includes curators, conservators, and collections specialists, spent more than three years on this extensive restoration.
Biltmore’s Museum Services team, which includes curators, conservators, and collections specialists, spent more than three years on this extensive restoration.

On the walls hangs a reproduction of the room’s original wallpaper, a complicated design that replicates on paper the look of a fine damask fabric. Small fragments of the original paper were found underneath door moldings. Our curators were able to match these fragments to full-sized samples of the wallpaper that had been placed in storage more than a century ago, enabling them to have an accurate reproduction made by Charles Rupert Designs, a company in Vancouver that specializes in surface-printed historic wallpapers.

On display in the Damask Room is a breakfast setup including Vanderbilt china, demonstrating that guests could choose to have breakfast in their rooms if preferred.
On display in the Damask Room is a breakfast setup including Vanderbilt china, demonstrating that guests could choose to have breakfast in their rooms if preferred.

Biltmore’s conservators spent many weeks cleaning the antique marble and gilt fireplace and mantel in the Damask Room, in addition to conserving numerous pieces of American and English mahogany furniture for this room.

The striking wallpaper in the Claude Room, reproduced from the original, is the same pattern that is used in the Damask Room, but in a different color palette.
The striking wallpaper in the Claude Room, reproduced from the original, is the same pattern that is used in the Damask Room, but in a different color palette.

Claude Room

Like many rooms in Biltmore House, the Claude Room was named after one of George Vanderbilt’s favorite artists, the French painter Claude Lorrain. Several prints after paintings by Claude Lorrain originally hung in this room and are displayed here again. A master of 17th-century landscape painting, Claude presented nature as harmonious, serene, and often majestic. In 18th-century England, his works inspired new trends in landscape design. He also influenced later generations of landscape painters, including J.M.W. Turner.

As with many of the unrestored rooms in Biltmore House, the Claude Room was used by our teams for supplemental storage prior to restoration.
As with many of the unrestored rooms in Biltmore House, the Claude Room was used by our teams for supplemental storage prior to restoration.

Among the noteworthy pieces of furniture from George Vanderbilt’s collection displayed in this room are an imposing ivory inlaid commode with attached mirror from Northern Italy that dates to the early 18th century, an English chest of drawers with an inlaid sunburst motif and a fall front concealing a writing surface and inner compartments from the same period, and an Italian Baroque-style kneehole desk in ebony and rosewood inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl.

An original drawing in our archives shows how architect Richard Morris Hunt incorporated the tile stove into the Tyrolean Chimney Room’s impressive overmantel.
An original drawing in our archives shows how architect Richard Morris Hunt incorporated the tile stove into the Tyrolean Chimney Room’s impressive overmantel.

Tyrolean Chimney Room

The focal point of the Tyrolean Chimney Room is the overmantel, constructed from an antique tile stove known as a kachelöfen that George Vanderbilt most likely purchased in his travels through Europe. Stoves like this were used in central and northern Europe from the Middle Ages to heat castles, palaces, and ecclesiastical buildings. Eventually, they came to be used in the residences of the wealthy. Created in the 18th century, it is comprised of tin-glazed earthenware tiles hand-painted with exquisite floral designs.

As part of this room’s restoration process, Biltmore’s objects conservator carefully repaired the chimney’s original floral design.
As part of this room’s restoration process, Biltmore’s objects conservator carefully repaired the chimney’s original floral design.

The wallpaper in this room is an exact reproduction of the original, a simple but elegant floral design with delicate gold striping in the background. Our team contracted with Atelier d’Offard, a small company in Tours, France, that specializes in traditional block-printed wallpapers, to create an exact reproduction.

The vibrant fabric in the Tyrolean Chimney Room is one of the most elaborate fabrics found in America’s Largest Home®.
The vibrant fabric in the Tyrolean Chimney Room is one of the most elaborate fabrics found in America’s Largest Home®.

The cut and uncut silk velvet in beautiful shades of ivory, red, and green has been reproduced for use in this room. Prelle, a silk workshop in Lyon, France that has been in the same family for more than 250 years, wove this fabric on century-old Jacquard looms in the exact same manner as the original fabric purchased by George Vanderbilt.

The Louis XV Room features mesmerizing views of the gardens and terraces to the east and south as well as a balcony overlooking the Esplanade.
The Louis XV Room features mesmerizing views of the gardens and terraces to the east and south as well as a balcony overlooking the Esplanade.

Louis XV Room

The suite’s namesake and perhaps the grandest guest room in Biltmore House, the Louis XV Room takes its name from the French king. During most of his reign (1715–1774), French interiors were characterized by rococo design elements, including rounded forms, C-shaped curves, bright clear colors set off by white and gold, and light fanciful carving of foliage, shells, and other naturalistic motifs. Many of these same motifs were incorporated into the architectural scheme and furnishings in this room, as the Louis XV style was still very popular in the late 19th century.

Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband John Francis Amherst Cecil with their oldest son George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil as an infant, ca. 1925.
Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband John Francis Amherst Cecil with their oldest son George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil as an infant, ca. 1925.

Amid the elegant surroundings of the Louis XV Room is where George and Edith Vanderbilt’s only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, was born in 1900. Cornelia then chose this room to give birth to her two sons, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil and William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil in 1925 and 1928, respectively.

From large pieces like wall coverings to small accents like furniture trim, our Museum Services team handles every element of restoration projects with loving care.
From large pieces like wall coverings to small accents like furniture trim, our Museum Services team handles every element of restoration projects with loving care.

Restoration of this room included the reproduction of the original gold and red silk cut velvet, which was hand-woven by Tassinari & Chatel in Lyon, France. Like Prelle, Tassinari & Chatel has specialized in the manufacture of fine silk fabrics for more than 200 years and has an international reputation for the quality of its fabrics. This fabric is used for wall covering and drapery. In addition, Biltmore’s conservation staff conserved all of the furnishings in the room, including Louis XV-style seating furniture and a Louis XV-style bed, as well the marble mantel, gilded rococo wall sconces, and an elaborate gilt mirror hanging over the fireplace.