1904 Menu Recreation: Oysters on the 1/2 Shell

1904 Archival Biltmore Menu

In Biltmore’s Archives, a cherished diary detailing menus for luncheons and dinners served between Sepember 27 and December 31, 1904 is safely stored. Kept by estate cook Ester Anderson, this book includes menus and the number of guests expected for special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, where both time-honored favorites and unique recipes were listed.

Knowing that tastes have changed over the last century, we asked Biltmore Chef Spencer Hilgeman at Village Social to create recipes inspired from the archival 1904 menu book for a modern Thanksgiving celebration.

In this blog series, we’ll detail Chef Spencer’s recipes and video instructions for an appetizer, entree, and dessert inspired by the very same menu the Vanderbilts enjoyed at their 1904 Thanksgiving Dinner.

Appetizer: Oysters on the 1/2 Shell with a Holiday Sauce Trio

Oyster Shucking Tips: Use a folded towel to protect your hand. When using the shucker, rather than pushing hard, jiggle it like a key to pop the hinge of the oysters. Once open, be sure to remove the muscle from the bottom of the shell for easy eating.

Cocktail Sauce
1/2 Cup Ketchup
2 TBSP Prepared Horseradish
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce

Charred Onion Relish
5 Green Onions, lightly sautéed & choppped
2 TBSP Chopped Parsley
½ Jalepeno, thinly sliced
2 TBSP White Balsamic Vinegar
3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TSP Salt
1 TSP Ground Pepper

Biltmore Sparkling Mignonette
2 TBSP Chopped Parsley
1 TBSP Mirin
1 Shallot Sliced
2 TBSP Champagne Vinaigrette
1 TBSP Honey
2 TSP Salt
1 TSP Ground Pepper
¼ Cup Biltmore Brut Sparkling

Combine ingredients for each sauce into separate bowls, allowing mignonette to chill for two hours. Top a platter of oysters with any or all of the three holiday sauces.

Biltmore Estate Brut

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with Biltmore Brut Sparkling. This refreshing blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offers a good balance of citrus with hints of honey and apricot.

Follow these links for recipes and video instructions for the main entree, Blood Orange Roast Turkey, and for dessert, Apple and Currant Mince Pie with White Cheddar Crust.

Musical November Evenings in the Winter Garden

Candlelight Christmas Evenings is now underway, meaning Biltmore House is filled with firelight and candlelight as well as live music on select evenings. We’re delighted to host the following musical performers in the Winter Garden during the month of November.

Friday, November 4
Arioso of Athens, GA
Flint Hill Handbell Choir of Shelby, NC

Saturday, November 5
The Grove A Cappella Choir of Maysville, GA
Dogwood Duo of Blountville, NC

Sunday, November 6
Starlight Carolers of Asheville, NC
Classic Touch of Weaverville, NC

Monday, November 7
Songspinners of Waynesville, NC
Bruce Lang Duo of Barnardsville, NC

Tuesday, November 8
Hendersonville Chorale of Hendersonville, TN
Bliss of Vero Beach, FL

Wednesday, November 9
Starlight Carolers of Asheville, NC
SilverLight Flute Duo of Asheville, NC

Thursday, November 10
Hendersonville Chorale of Hendersonville, TN
Bliss of Vero Beach, FL

Friday, November 11
Nashville Notes Chamber Singers of Nashville, TN
14 Strings of Charlotte, NC

Saturday, November 12
Highest Praise of Johnson City, TN
Ladies of Lee of Cleveland, TN
Cambia Flute Ensemble of Kingsport, TN

Sunday, November 13
Ridgeview High School of Winter Park, FL
Bittersweet Two of Blountville, TN

Monday, November 14
Bob Jones Academy Elementary of Greenville, SC
Flute Frolics of Boone, NC

Wednesday, November 16
Bel Canto Singers of Charlotte, NC
Windswept Melodies of Asheville, NC

Thursday, November 17
Milligan College Women’s Chorale of Milligan, TN
Duo Dolce of Boone, NC

Friday, November 18
Patriot Pride Honors Chorus of Wake Forest, NC
Shane Parish & Emmalee Hunnicut of Asheville, NC

Saturday, November 19
North Greenville University Singers of Tigerville, SC
Carolina Style Chorus of Hickory, NC
Cambia Flute Ensemble of Kinsport, TN

Sunday, November 20
First Presbyterian Chamber Singers of Spartanburg, SC
Cedarwind Duo of Mars Hill, NC

Monday, November 21
Bob Jones High School Choir of Greenville, SC
Bob Jones Academy String Quartet of Greenville, SC

Tuesday, November 22
Forsyth Country Day School of Lewisville, NC
Belmont Duo of Asheville, NC

Wednesday, November 23
Greensboro Youth Chorus of Greensboro, NC
Braidstream Two of Asheville, NC

Friday, November 25
Cecelia’s Day of Anderson, SC
Sons of Lafayette Male Voice Choir of Lafayette, GA
Bittersweet of Blountville, TN

Saturday, November 26
Classical Conversations of Mallard Creek of Charlotte, NC
Cecelia’s Day of Anderson, SC
Bittersweet of Blountville, TN

Sunday, November 27
Cantemus Women’s Choir of Kingsport, TN
Blue Ridge Harp Duo of Polkville, NC

Monday, November 28
Providence High School of Jacksonville, FL
Bittersweet of Blountville, TN

Tuesday, November 29
Asheville High School of Asheville, NC
Duo Dolce of Boone, NC

Wednesday, November 30
Song O’ Sky of Asheville, NC
Trillium of Asheville, NC

The Right Thing at the Right Time: A Philanthropic Legacy

Biltmore forester Carl Schenck once wrote:
“Personally, I can say that Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt detest publicity, preferring to do the right thing at the right time without beating a drum about it.”

Indeed, George and Edith Vanderbilt demonstrated an unswerving commitment to helping those less fortunate. Whether it was on the estate, within the local community, or in other parts of the country, their charitable gifts reflect their passions for literacy, education, and the arts.

Jackson Square Branch, New York Free Circulating Library, 1893.

Jackson Square Branch of the New York Public Library

George’s commitment to providing educational opportunities to all, regardless of income, began at a young age. In 1887, he hired architect Richard Morris Hunt, who later designed Biltmore House, to design and build the Jackson Square Branch of the New York Free Circulating Library System.

George paid to have the branch furnished and fully stocked with books at a time when free libraries were rare; individuals usually had to pay a fee to borrow books, which prevented many from having access.

American Fine Arts Society

In 1889, a group of young artists in New York City set out to create an organization that would provide educational and financial support to up-and-coming artists. George was one of eight initial benefactors who each donated $5,000 to what would become The American Fine Arts Society. The society’s new building opened in 1892, adjoined by a grand exhibition gallery which George built at a cost of $100,000.

Many assumed the society would then rent the gallery for exhibitions. Instead, at a celebration in the gallery on December 29, 1892, he surprised those attending by announcing he was handing over the gallery’s deed to the society as a Christmas and New Year’s gift.

“The gift of the gallery… is an example of what a public-spirited man can do if he has wealth at his disposal….He has stood by the Fine Arts Society from the start, and encouraged the triple alliance of architects, artists, and art students …” 
– The New York Times, January 1, 1893

The exhibition gallery, named The Vanderbilt Gallery in George’s honor, still exists today.

Teachers College

George was also a proponent of the Industrial Education Movement, a reform movement aimed at providing skilled teachers and schools to educate poor urban children.

Teachers College, mid 1890s

A wealthy New York socialite named Grace Dodge wanted to create a college in New York City that would not only instruct teachers on how to educate children, but also focus on psychological and emotional needs, a revolutionary concept at the time. She asked George for assistance, and he agreed to help by paying the salary of the first director of Teachers College.

George later served on the school’s Board of Trustees. In 1893, Teachers College joined forces with Columbia College (known soon after as Columbia University), and the next year, the school opened its new campus on land George donated. Teachers College, Columbia University was the first and remains the largest graduate school of education in the nation.

Young Men’s Institute

In 1892, Prof. Edward L. Stephens, principal of Asheville’s first public school for African-American students, had a vision to create an organization similar to a YMCA to support Asheville’s African-American community. He approached George, who was in the process of building Biltmore House at the time, for assistance.

George was moved by Prof. Stephens’ plans and agreed to loan the institute $32,000 to fund the construction of a building, which became known as the Young Men’s Institute. Completed in 1893, the YMI was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, who also collaborated with architect Richard Morris Hunt to create Biltmore House and other estate buildings.

Young Men’s Institute , mid 1890s

The YMI offered a variety of services to the black community, including a kindergarten, night school for adults, library, dormitory, and athletic facilities. It also served as a social and spiritual center and included commercial spaces on the ground floor. Among the early businessmen renting spaces were a doctor, pharmacist, barber, and restaurant owner.

The Young Men’s Institute is now home to the YMI Cultural Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Vanderbilts’ other charitable efforts include the School of Domestic Science, which Edith founded in 1901 to train young African-American women in professional housekeeping, and the Moonlight School at Biltmore Estate, founded in 1914 to teach illiterate estate workers how to read and write, among others.

Today, we continue the Vanderbilt philanthropic efforts to promote education with the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil Scholarship Fund. Established in 1995, the scholarship was created to assist the dependents of Biltmore employees with the rising costs of higher education. We also collaborate with local organizations such as Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Eblen Charities to assist those in our community with hunger, heating, and housing needs.

Top Right: Jackson Square Branch, New-York Free Circulating Library, 1893. Image from
King’s Handbook of New York City, New York, 1893.
Right: Columbia Teachers College, mid 1890s
Left: Young Men’s Institute during the late stages of construction, mid 1890s

A Christmas Getaway for the Whole Family

It’s no secret that Christmas at Biltmore is one of the Southeast’s most storied holiday destinations. Families come from far and wide to experience seasonal festivities on the estate, inspired by century-long traditions.

But how exactly does one plan a getaway that will fill every member of the family—from the grandparents to the youngest child—with Christmas joy, without losing that personal sense of Yuletide peace? We’ve got a few suggestions…

Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration Visit

The entire family can enjoy a hearty breakfast at Village Social in Antler Hill Village for the perfect start to a day of exploration. Then head over to Biltmore House & Gardens for a Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration self-guided visit and be dazzled by America’s largest home decorated for the holiday season.Breakfast Room

Worried that the youngest may be too antsy during the two-hour stroll? Bring Cedric’s Sniff-and-Seek Treasure Hunt to keep them occupied or make a game of our Christmas décor: count the Christmas trees, find the largest and the smallest among them, or the first family member to spot a kissing ball wins!

Afterwards, everyone can enjoy the Rooftop Tour, though youngsters may need to be carried as no strollers are allowed. But have no fear—it is surely worth it! As the leaves have dropped, this tour offers unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountain vistas that made George Vanderbilt fall in love with the area.

After the visit to Biltmore House, Mom and Grandma can enjoy a light lunch at the Bake Shop before heading to our century-old gardens to enjoy seasonal seminars at A Gardener’s Place. Learn about Wonderful Winter Wreaths, Terrific Tabletop Topiaries, or stay for both demonstrations, offered back-to-back. Afterwards, the ladies can treat themselves to a peaceful stroll through the glass-roofed Conservatory, filled with seasonal poinsettias along with thousands of exotic plants that bring a touch of the tropics to Appalachia.Poinsettias in the Conservatory

All the while, Dad and Grandpa can head down to Antler Hill Village with the kids, where they can experience the timeless tradition of visiting with Santa. There’s plenty to do in the area to keep them busy—from the kids getting their energy out at Pisgah Playground or learning about friendly animals at the Farmyard to handicrafts and craft demonstrations at the Barn that will fascinate grown men and children alike.  Santa

Mom and Dad can enjoy a romantic evening in Antler Hill Village with an intimate Candlelight Winery Tour followed by a quiet dinner for two at Bistro.

While Mom and Dad get a kid-free evening, Grandma and Grandpa get a special evening with the grandkids: dinner at the more casual Stable Café and a visit to Toymaker’s shop where the kids can pick out their own old-fashioned toy or game.


Candlelight Christmas Evenings Visit

Let Grandma and Grandpa indulge in gourmet omelets and waffles at the Chef’s Breakfast Buffet at The Dining Room at The Inn for an elegant, serene start to the full day. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can take the kids to the Taste of the South Buffet at Deerpark Restaurant. Savor farm-to-table breakfast favorites sure to please every palate with live, local music in the background, setting a pleasant tone for the day.

Have the ladies and gents go their separate ways for the afternoon. Grandma, Mom, and the girls can treat themselves to Sugar and Spice Pedicures, a special seasonal offering at The Spa at The Inn. After the pampering, enjoy a light lunch with a breathtaking view of the estate at the Library Lounge at The Inn. The ladies can then head to The Biltmore Legacy for the Fashionable Romance exhibit to view 60 years of Vanderbilt family wedding fashion, including the first-ever display of Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding veil.

Fashionable Romance exhibit in LegacyGrandpa, Dad, and the boys can spend this time exploring our 8,000-acre backyard. Get any gear needed for the day’s adventure at Antler Hill Outfitters, then grab a quick bite at The Kitchen in Village Hotel before heading to the Outdoor Activities Center. Choose to spend the day learning the techniques of shooting clay targets with a high-quality shotguns in a Sporting Clays Lesson or learning expedition-style driving and navigating off-road obstacles with a lesson at our Land Rover Experience Driving School.

Regroup with the entire family in the evening for a delicious dinner of pub and robustly-flavored American and global cuisine at Cedric’s Tavern. Named after the Vanderbilts’ beloved Saint Bernard, the restaurant has a statue of the dog with young Cornelia Vanderbilt near its entrance—a photo op everyone will love.

Then head over to Biltmore House for a Candlelight Christmas Evenings self-guided visit, where firelight, candlelight, and thousands of miniature lights reflect countless ornaments adorning Christmas trees, mantels, wreaths, and garlands in America’s largest home.candlelight

If the kids get restless or stir-crazy, the Winter Garden offers mesmerizing choir performances featuring traditional carols.

Travelling with the entire family can be tricky—especially during the holiday season—but it doesn’t have to be. With such a vast array of happenings and activities, Christmas at Biltmore is a family getaway that truly offers something for everyone. Join us for an experience that everyone is sure to remember for many Christmases to come.

Biltmore Becomes a Port Authority

If you think the phrase “any old port in a storm” also applies to port-style wines, think again: the pleasure of sipping a fine port makes it worth the effort of selecting something truly special.

The origin of Port

As the name suggests, Porto or Port originated in Portugal—a country with a long grape-growing and wine-producing history. Port is a type of fortified wine, similar in some respects to sherry, Madeira, Marsala, or vermouth.

While most fortified wines are created by adding some type of distilled spirit (such as brandy) after fermentation, distilled spirit is added to Port wines during fermentation, which effectively kills the actively fermenting yeast. Without yeast to consume it, residual sugar levels in the wine remain high, providing Port with its characteristically sweet flavor.

Biltmore winemakers pour Ventageo for a special eventBecoming a “Port authority”

As with Champagnes and wines of other protected designations of origin, Port can only be labeled such if it originates in the Douro River region of Portugal.

When our winemakers began the lengthy process of crafting this style of wine at Biltmore, they knew it would have to be labeled “dessert-style,” which is the legal wording for Ports that are not from the Douro.

“Although our new port-type wine cannot be labeled Port,” said Heather Jordan, Biltmore Wine Marketing Director, “it is handcrafted here at Biltmore from the traditional Portuguese grapes that would be grown in the Douro region, including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Tinta Amarela, and Souzão.”

Our winemakers carefully selected these varietals from our California vineyard partners who also supply outstanding fruit for some of our Biltmore Wines and the producers of some of the finest American port-style wines.

“They’ve created a wonderful tawny port,” Heather said, “which refers to the aging process. The tawny designation means that the port has been barrel-aged for at least two years and some oxidation has occurred, deepening the rich notes of nuts and caramel that you’d expect to taste in a more mature port.”

Close-up view of Ventageo labelIntroducing Ventágeo

“Ventágeo is a first for us,” Heather said. “It is a very traditional port-style wine, and the name combines elements of the Portuguese word for wind with the first letters of George Vanderbilt’s name to create a word that suggests voyage and travel.”

Ventágeo honors George Vanderbilt’s journeys around the globe and the treasures—including fine wines—he carefully chose for his private estate. Intense, handcrafted flavor featuring rich layers of sun-dried stone fruit drizzled with hints of caramel and ripe berries makes Ventágeo a stunning finish for any meal or special moment.

Featured image: Ventágeo in the Champagne Cellar

First image: Winemaker Sharon Fenchak gives guests a preview of Ventágeo at our Vineyard Harvest Celebration in October

Final image: A closer look at the Ventágeo label

Decorating Biltmore’s most massive mantel

For our grand annual events such as Biltmore Blooms and Christmas at Biltmore, America’s largest home is decorated according to a broad theme. This year’s theme of “Hearth and Home” is beautifully illustrated by the special attention paid to the many fireplaces and mantels throughout Biltmore House during the Christmas season.

From lavish Bohemian-style beading on the fireplace surround in the Breakfast Room to magnificent garlands with elegant gold tassels in the Library, our Floral team has created a breathtaking holiday display to amaze all the guests who visit from early November to early January.

Banquet Hall fireplace decorated for Christmas at Biltmore

In the Banquet Hall—always a showcase of seasonal spirit during Christmas at Biltmore—the triple fireplaces are decked in grand style. United by a massive limestone mantel, the fireplaces feature a double swag of greenery bursting with bright bows, twinkling lights, and decorative winter boughs. The swags frame Karl Bitter’s detailed carving entitled “The Return from the Hunt” that illustrates a scene from Wagner’s epic Tannhäuser opera. (In the photo above, you’ll note that the heavy garland is decorated in layers to add depth and richness. At the stage seen here, the lights are not in place and the bows will be further refined into rosettes. Floral will also load the greenery with frosty branches and other elements of botanical interest.)

According to Eugenia Halyburton Chandler, daughter of estate employee James A. Halyburton, the Banquet Hall triple fireplaces were an especially important part of the estate’s Christmas festivities during the 1920s and ‘30s. As a child, Eugenia recalled how Cornelia’s husband John Cecil—dressed as Santa Claus—would hide inside one of the triple fireplaces on a ledge above the opening. During the Christmas party for estate employees, Mr. Cecil would pop out and delight all the children in attendance.

In the image below, you see the completed garland aglow for Christmas at Biltmore and Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Enjoy this merriest time of the year now through January 8, 2017.

Decking Our Halls Is A Year-Round Process

From miles of garlands and hundreds of wreaths to thousands of lights and decorations on more than 50 trees inside America’s Largest Home®, our annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration is guaranteed to put you in a festive holiday mood!

But where does it all come from each year? How and when does it start? We asked members of Biltmore’s Floral team to give us a behind-the-scenes look at creating such a spectacular holiday happening.

A design storyboard featuring sample ornaments, ribbon, and photos for inspiration

A year of planning

“All the Christmas decorations you see this year began to take shape more than 12 months ago,” said Lizzie Borchers, Floral Displays Manager. “Our team spends several early December mornings walking through Biltmore House before guests arrived. We evaluate what’s great and what we might do again in another room,” Lizzie said. “We already know the following year’s theme, and our designers are eager to choose the rooms they want. Sometimes it’s like a bidding war—they have to sell me on their ideas.”

The selection process

Rooms are decorated according to an annual theme that changes each year, and the Floral team also takes cues from style elements of the room such as the predominant colors, art and furnishings, or the way in which the room was used.

The Library, for example, might feature books among its decorations while the Main Kitchen could include wreaths of dried bay leaves or other culinary ingredients.

Creating the designs, selecting the decorations, and deciding whether fresh plants or other ancillary materials should be included takes months of careful planning and review by the lead designer for each room, with input and assistance from the entire team.
Design sheets and ornaments for inspiration

As they decide on specific rooms for which they’d like to take responsibility during the December walk-through, team members choose some ornaments as they go; others are chosen from Biltmore’s warehouse a few months later.

Some ornaments are new, purchased at the Atlanta Gift Mart each March. Each designer then develops a kind of storyboard featuring a sample basket of ornaments and detailed design sheets to show Lizzie the look and feel of their plans. The designs are tweaked and approved as early as possible so the team can begin locating or creating any additional pieces needed to complete the scene.

Meanwhile, the Christmas trees are stored upright in Floral’s warehouse (sometimes called the tree farm) in spots reserved specifically for them. By early summer, team members have gone over all the tree lights to make sure they are in good condition and they’ve placed orders for plants such as fresh poinsettias to arrive at the proper time. For the next few months, the remaining decorations needed for each area are created.

Grand Staircase Christmas tree in Biltmore House

Putting it all together

During the entire month of October, our Floral Displays team is busy decking the halls and rooms of Biltmore House. Guests enjoy watching Christmas at Biltmore come to life and tell us it often inspires ideas for their own homes.

Featured image: a vintage children’s book inspires Christmas decorations at Biltmore

A renaissance for Roussanne

Receipts in Biltmore’s archives document that George Vanderbilt purchased and consumed wine on a regular basis, both at Biltmore and during his travels. Records of some trips, including one to Europe in 1891, are especially comprehensive. From receipts it’s clear that Vanderbilt enjoyed a variety of wines and that they were almost always of French origin.

With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to one of Biltmore’s newest wines. Meet Roussanne—a standard in the Rhône region of France and now a rising star in the U.S.

White grapes on the vineMaddening & majestic

Described as both “maddening and majestic” by some growers, the late-blooming Roussanne is notoriously difficult to ripen and often yields less fruit than other varietals. Named for its rusty appearance when mature, Roussanne may include shades of rust, gold, and green grapes in a single cluster, signifying multiple levels of ripeness which, in turn, may affect the flavor of the finished wine.

Once cultivated mainly in Europe, Roussanne now seems to be thriving around Santa Barbara, which tends to experience cooler temperatures than the rest of California’s wine regions. This inherent coolness combines with Pacific breezes and fogs to extend the growing season, allowing Roussanne to ripen completely without developing too much sweetness during the heat of late summer.

What to expect

Cool-climate Roussanne wines open with an intriguing floral aroma reminiscent of herbal tea. The taste features a complex richness associated with stone fruits such as peaches and apricots, and a surprisingly “oily” texture gives Roussanne a mouth-feel similar to red wines rather than white ones.

When our winemakers discover exceptional grapes such as Roussanne grown by our California partners, they are inspired to create distinctive wines for the Limited Release series. Handcrafted in small lots, this series allows you to experience their skillful artistry in each bottle.

Biltmore Estate Limited Release Roussanne

Our Limited Release Roussanne

Refreshing and easy to drink, our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Roussanne features flavors of lime, kiwi, lemon, and tangerine. It pairs well seafood, including spicy dishes such as the traditional bouillabaisse of southern France. It also provides a nice complement to Asian cuisine, which can be a challenge for most wines.

For our Vanderbilt Wine Club members, we have crafted a delicious Biltmore Estate Limited Release Roussanne-Viognier

blend available exclusively to them. The two varietals combine to create a delightfully rich, full-bodied wine featuring good tannin structure plus flavors of red berries and vanilla.

Fall Garden Maintenance at Biltmore

As fall beauty begins to blanket the estate, our dedicated garden crew is busy preparing the grounds for cooler temperatures. Of course, the blowing and raking of leaves is a seemingly never-ending task among the crew this time of year, but here’s a peek into a few of their other duties.

Gardener cleaning out Italian Garden pools

After their summertime glory, Marc Montrell (pictured) is working to gather fading lilies from the Italian Garden ponds over the next few weeks. Along with all of our raked leaves across the estate, they will be composted. Many of our guests ask what happens to the koi during this time, but they actually remain in the ponds and hibernate over winter!

Gardener John Smith pruning roses

There are still many gorgeous blooms in the Rose Garden, but there is a lot of pruning and “deadheading” to be done over the next couple of weeks. A preliminary trim to mid-height is done in late November, with the final cutting in late winter when the roses are dormant. Gardener John Smith (pictured) notes that this method may not apply in other gardens, at Biltmore’s Rose Garden acts as it’s own ecosystem, protected by the stone walls which retain heat and offer protection from the wind.

Clare Whittington watering evergreen trees in front of Biltmore House

The Garden crew recently planted winter evergreens such as Blue Spruce, Hemlock and Magnolia trees in the large pots along Biltmore’s front door. Gardner Clare Whittington (pictured) notes that watering these potted trees must be done frequently, and are constantly monitored during freezing temperatures in the winter.

No matter what time of year guests visit, this wonderful team works hard to ensure the gardens and grounds are beautiful. Visit the Gardens & Grounds section of our website for more information about what’s featured throughout the year.

Christmas at Biltmore: Adding it all up

Decorating America’s largest home for the holiday season is certainly no small task. Christmas at Biltmore is one of the Southeast’s most storied Yuletide destinations and we know that expectations are set pretty high.

Yet the beauty of Biltmore adorned for the season never disappoints, a remarkable testament to the expertise of our Floral staff. Each January, before the holiday decorations are taken down, our designers and reserve team start planning for next Christmas.

Designs and arrangements vary from year to year, meaning every wreath, ornament, and bow is selected or created precisely for its intended location that holiday season.

The amount of imagination and preparation required is staggering, not to mention the sheer volume of décor. So besides a talented crew and a full year, what exactly does it take to create Christmas at Biltmore?

Christmas Trees

  • The 2016 celebration boasts 62 decorated Christmas trees inside Biltmore House. 
  • The largest tree in Biltmore House is the Vanderbilt traditional 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall. It takes about 50 Biltmore staff members to carry the tree through the house and raise it safely and securely into place.
  • An illuminated 55-foot-tall Norway spruce stands on the Front Lawn of Biltmore House, along with 20 other lit evergreens.
  • A total of 44 additional decorated Christmas trees can be found at other locations across the estate, including Antler Hill Village & Winery, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, and our restaurants.
  • The Conservatory is decorated with “trees” made of potted plants and other natural materials. Over 30 live trees and shrubs are used to decorate other estate buildings.

Lights and Candles

  • About 30,000 lights and 150 candles are used in Biltmore House. More than 135,000 LED and mini lights twinkle across the estate. 
  • The Front Lawn tree is illuminated by 55,000 lights. An additional 20,000 are used on the surrounding trees and shrubs. 
  • Lit at dusk, 300 luminaries line the driveway and Esplanade in front of Biltmore House.


The Banquet Hall tree is trimmed with 500 ornaments, 500 LED Edison style light bulbs, and 500 wrapped gift boxes. There are 13,000 ornaments decorating the other trees inside Biltmore House and another 13,000 used in other areas of the estate.

Poinsettias and Other Blooming Plants

There are over 1,000 traditional poinsettias on display as well as over 1,000 other bloom plants including amaryllis, Christmas cactus, orchids, peace lilies, cyclamen, begonias, and kalanchoe.


Our wreaths are made of fresh white pine and Fraser fir, ornamented with golden arborvitae, holly, or other natural materials like twigs and cones. Artificial bases are decorated with ornaments, berries, faux flowers, and ribbon. There are 360 fresh wreaths and sprays along with 130 faux pieces throughout the estate during the season.

Kissing Balls

There are 100 orbs made of fresh white pine and Fraser fir or dried and faux materials decorating the estate.


A total of 7,527 feet of fresh white pine and Fraser fir garlanding adorns the estate, all of which is replaced weekly for freshness and fragrance. An additional 1,200 feet for faux garlanding is used in Biltmore House with another 1,500 feet used across the estate.

Ribbons and Bows

There are 500 bows used in Biltmore House and about 1,000 used in other areas of the estate. Base materials vary from narrow cording to 8-inch-wide ribbon, decorated with velvets, metallics, satins, burlap, printed cottons, and more.