Biltmore’s Historic Honeymooners

Did you know Biltmore has historically been the site of many honeymoons and romantic occasions?

Perhaps it’s the warm, pink glow of the mountains as the sun sets over the Deer Park, the way the wind carries a sweet perfume from the gardens into the air, or the subtle whisper of a bottle of sparkling wine being masterfully uncorked nearby, but one thing is for sure—love is certainly in the air at Biltmore.

From before construction of Biltmore House was completed all the way to our modern day guests who visit, there is no denying that this historic estate offers a desirable destination for a romantic getaway any time of year.

Get to know some of Cupid’s earliest captives and the historic honeymooners who spent their precious time together at Biltmore many moons ago.

Jay & Adele Burden’s Honeymoon

Jay and Adele Burden honeymooned at River Cliff Cottage on Biltmore Estate, c. 1895
Jay and Adele Burden honeymooned at River Cliff Cottage on Biltmore Estate, c. 1895

One of Biltmore’s earliest guests included newlyweds, Jay Burden and Adele Sloane, George Vanderbilt’s niece. The darling young couple spent their honeymoon with a romantic retreat to River Cliff Cottage at Biltmore in June of 1895, months before Biltmore House was completed.

“Adele, actually Lila Sloane’s older sister, wrote about Biltmore being terribly romantic years before she married Jay Burden—it seems her opinion didn’t change!” says Meghan Forest, Biltmore’s Archives and Curatorial Assistant.

Ernesto & Edith Fabbri’s Honeymoon

Biltmore Honeymooners Ernesto and Edith Fabbri, c. 1896
Biltmore Honeymooners Ernesto and Edith Fabbri, c. 1896

Ernesto Fabbri and Edith Shepard, another one of George Vanderbilt’s nieces, celebrated their nuptials with a honeymoon at Biltmore after their 1896 wedding.

Records indicate that Biltmore remained a special place for the Fabbris as they visited Biltmore six more times together over the next nine years, bringing along their children after they were born.

George & Edith Vanderbilt’s Homecoming

George and Edith Vanderbilt on the South Terrace of Biltmore House, c. 1900
George and Edith Vanderbilt on the South Terrace of Biltmore House, c. 1900

George Vanderbilt was a bachelor when he first moved into Biltmore House. It would only be a few short years before he met his bride-to-be, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser.

After whirlwind courtship abroad, George and Edith were married in Paris in a 15-minute civil ceremony on June 1, 1898. The couple honeymooned in Italy for three months before arriving home to Biltmore in October.

Ever the romantic, a 1910 correspondence shows that George coordinated some modifications to Biltmore House as a surprise for Edith when she returned home from a trip abroad, including adding stairs by the Porte Cochere to provide access to a forest trail.

Willie & Lila Field’s Honeymoon

Biltmore Honeymooners Willie and Lila Field, c. 1902
Biltmore Honeymooners Willie and Lila Field, c. 1902

One of George Vanderbilt’s closest comrades, William B. Osgood Field, was a frequent guest at Biltmore. During subsequent visits, “Willie” was introduced to one of George Vanderbilt’s nieces, Lila Sloane. It seems there was some matchmaking at play as the duo may have been deliberately encouraged to do activities together. The couple became engaged at Biltmore and spent their honeymoon on the estate, as well.

An interest piece about the Willie and Lila Field honeymoon from society columnist “Cholly Knickerbocker” read:

“[George Vanderbilt] is fond of paying this particular kind of compliment to his young relatives, and Biltmore, one of the most fairy-like country seats in this country, has been the scene of quite a number of honeymoons, and of the inauguration of what have turned out to be happy marriages. In this case the selection of Biltmore for the honeymoon will be especially appropriate. For it was there that Willie Field and Lila Sloan first plighted their troth and became engaged.”

Cornelia & John F.A. Cecil’s Wedding

Portrait of the Honorable and Mrs. John F.A. Cecil’s wedding party inside the Tapestry Gallery, c. 1924
Portrait of the Honorable and Mrs. John F.A. Cecil’s wedding party inside the Tapestry Gallery, c. 1924

Wedding bells rang as Cornelia, George and Edith Vanderbilt’s daughter, married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil at All Souls Church in Biltmore Village on April 27, 1924.

No detail was spared in this elaborate celebration that welcomed notable guests from around the globe and intrigued society columns.

Biltmore is a Romantic Getaway for the Ages

Romantic sunset view of the Deer Park from Biltmore's Library Terrace
Romantic sunset view of the Deer Park from Biltmore’s Library Terrace

Whether it’s warming up together by the fireside at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, taking a mini tropical vacation inside the Conservatory, marveling at the grandeur and history inside Biltmore House, sharing a sweet treat in Antler Hill Village, or spending time exploring the gardens and grounds at dusk, we can say confidently that Biltmore’s reputation as a romantic getaway for sweethearts has aged like a fine wine.

No matter the time of year, we invite you to find, rekindle, or celebrate your love at Biltmore. For the ultimate romantic getaway, join us as an overnight guest at our four-star Inn, cozy Village Hotel, or one of our private historic Cottages and enjoy the beauty of this “fairy-like” country estate as George Vanderbilt intended.

Reflections of The Gilded Age at Biltmore

Reflections of the Gilded Age at Biltmore takes on new meaning with the recent focus on the era in pop culture with the release of Sir Julian Fellowes’ latest production, The Gilded Age, and the 2022 theme for “fashion’s biggest night out,” the Met Gala.

Best known for Downton Abbey, the lavish PBS Masterpiece series detailing the lives of the fictional Crawley family and their ancestral home that kept viewers spellbound for six seasons and one feature film, Fellowes now turns his focus to the other side of the Atlantic for a look at a similar time in America.

“Gilded Glamour” hits the red carpet at the 2022 Met Gala, where attendees “embody the grandeur—and perhaps the dichotomy—of Gilded Age New York,” according to Vogue.com.

What is the Gilded Age?

“The Gilded Age is an era in American history from the 1870s to the turn of the century. It was marked by rapid economic expansion, particularly in industries such as railroads and manufacturing,” said Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s Curator of Interpretation.

“Families such as the Vanderbilts rose to new social prominence during this time, marking their ascendance with some of the grandest homes and most glittering parties the country had ever seen,” Leslie said.

Photograph of George Vanderbilt, a scholar, collector, and patron of the arts who came of age during America’s Gilded Age
Envisioned as a private oasis for family and friends, George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore House would become known as America’s Largest Home®. In addition to the house, this circa 1910 photo shows a view (L-R) of the Italian Garden, Esplanade, Front Lawn, and Stable Complex designed and landscaped by Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted.
George Vanderbilt and Cedric the St. Bernard with newlyweds Adele and Jay Burden at Biltmore. Adele was George’s niece, the daughter of his sister Emily Vanderbilt Sloane. The couple married on June 6, 1895, in what was reported to be one of the costliest American weddings held at the time, and began their honeymoon at a cottage on the estate grounds, several months before Biltmore House was officially ready for guests.

Gilded Age Fashions

Fashionable ladies of the Gilded Age, such as Edith Vanderbilt, followed magazines like Les Modes for the latest stylings from couture design houses in Paris and London. Thanks to our archives at Biltmore, we know that the Vanderbilts favored designers like Jeanne Paquin, Jacques Doucet, and the House of Worth.

From strolling in the gardens at Biltmore to attending “fancy dress” balls, every ensemble worn by the ladies and gentlemen of the era would have been perfectly tailored and adorned with elegant accessories.

Below you’ll find archival photos of the stunning Gilded Age fashions actually worn by the Vanderbilts and their friends which were recreated from archival photos and notes for A Vanderbilt House Party exhibition displayed at Biltmore in 2019.

Gilded Age fashions of Edith Vanderbilt, recreated by CosProp, London, for Biltmore’s 2019 exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.
Gilded Age fashions of Edith Vanderbilt, recreated by CosProp, London, for Biltmore’s 2019 exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.
Recreation of a House of Worth gown worn by George Vanderbilt’s sister, Florence Vanderbilt Twombly, for Biltmore’s 2019 exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.
Gilded Age fashions of Jay and Adele Burden, recreated by CosProp, London, for Biltmore’s 2019 exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.
Glamorous fashions on the cover of the April 1912 and inside of the February 1913 issue of Les Modes magazines in Biltmore’s collection.
Gilded Age fashions of Edith Vanderbilt, recreated by CosProp, London, for Biltmore’s 2019 exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age series

The Gilded Age showcases the highs and lows of a wide cast of characters ranging from old New York and Newport families to the newly wealthy members of their society–and everyone in between.

“It is interesting to see the differences and the similarities between the British world of Downton Abbey, its American counterpart in The Gilded Age, and our own story here at Biltmore,” said Leslie.

This silver Tiffany & Company tea set was gifted to George Vanderbilt by his mother to serve guests on his private train car.
The grand Banquet Hall table set as ut would have been for a grand Gilded Age gathering at Biltmore House during the Vanderbilt era
The soaring Pellegrini Ceiling in the Library at Biltmore House. Depicted is “The Chariot of Aurora.”

Plan a Visit Biltmore!

Experience George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Gilded Age estate for yourself with a visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Featured image: Cornelia and Edith Vanderbilt in riding clothes, with horses and a St. Bernard, at Biltmore, ca. 1917

Planning a Visit to Biltmore During COVID-19

Due to the evolving nature of public health mandates, information contained in this blog has changed. Please visit our Health & Safety section for the most up-to-date information.

To say that traveling during COVID-19 holds a lot of uncertainty is an understatement. As many people are planning safe travel for themselves and their loved ones, there are countless considerations that for most, would have never crossed our minds a year ago: What are the local mandates? Will there be hand sanitizer available? Will we be able to keep six feet away from others?

If you’re considering a visit to Biltmore, we would be delighted to welcome you to our 8,000-acre oasis. Rest assured each phase of Biltmore’s reopening has been thoughtfully planned to support a safe, enjoyable experience in this renowned setting.

To help with your Biltmore visit planning, we’re providing guidance on what to expect when traveling to America’s Largest Home® during COVID-19.

Safety First

Sanitizing stations and social-distancing indicators have been added throughout the estate.

“The collective well-being of our guests, employees, and community is very important to us, and we are committed to public safety standards that bring us all peace of mind.” – Bill Cecil, President & CEO of Biltmore and great-grandson of George and Edith Vanderbilt

At Biltmore, we understand that safety is a top concern for you and your family as you plan a trip because it’s the top concern for us as well. During these times, we must all do our part to keep each other safe, which in turn allows us to remain open and welcome our guests.

A few key changes you’ll notice that are becoming more common in this “new normal” include requiring face coverings for all guests and employees indoors (this is mandated in North Carolina), signage and reduced daily capacity to help with social distancing, and updated clear bag policy for Biltmore House. For a full list of the health and safety measures we have in place, visit our updates at Health & Safety.

Planning Your Visit

Walled-Garden-Guests
Guests safely enjoying Biltmore’s Walled Garden.

All guests, including Passholders, will need advance reservations for entry to Biltmore House. This isn’t a new policy, but it is vital for helping us limit capacity and manage comfort and distancing between guests inside the historic home. We always recommend purchasing your admission and making your reservation in advance prior to your visit.

To make planning your visit a bit easier, we suggest scheduling your day around your reservation time because that is your time slot for entering Biltmore House. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have a morning reservation, you may plan to start the day with your house tour followed by exploring the gardens, grounds, shops, and Antler Hill Village & Winery afterward.
  • If your reservation is mid-day, you may opt to come early to explore the gardens and grounds before your house entry and then finish your day with a visit to Antler Hill Village & Winery.
  • If your reservation is in the afternoon or evening, you might enjoy starting your day in Antler Hill Village before making your way to the house and gardens area.

With 8,000 acres explore, it can be easy to underestimate how much time to spend at Biltmore. We suggest planning to spend a minimum of 4-6 hours discovering all that the estate has to offer. And, don’t forget, you can always come back the next day with a discounted ticket upgrade, an overnight stay, or an upgrade to a Biltmore Annual Pass.

Being There

Guests enjoying this year’s Biltmore Gardens Railway display in Antler Hill Village

Biltmore has long been recognized for our attention to detail, and we know this means more now than ever before.”– Bill Cecil, President & CEO of Biltmore and great-grandson of George and Edith Vanderbilt
While some things have changed, our commitment to providing gracious hospitality to our guests remains the same. We know that these are stressful and uncertain times, and we are so grateful to our guests who return the spirit of gracious hospitality back to our employees with extended patience and flexibility.

In a recent article on The Points Guy, writer Nick Ewen recapped his personal experience visiting with his family in July. “Across the entire grounds, Biltmore had taken time to layout clear markers to ensure separation between guests.” He then notes that “the estate has taken clear steps to protect guests and has created an environment that minimized our risks while still creating a memorable experience for me and my family…”

Guests order take-out from the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

As we continue our phased reopening, you will see changes to what is open on the estate as well as the hours of operation. We strongly recommend visiting Biltmore.com/welcome prior to arrival to check on the most current information on what is available during your visit, and to learn whether certain activities, including complimentary wine tastings at the Winery, require additional reservations.

Biltmore: The Birthplace of American Forestry

When George Vanderbilt began planning his grand estate in Asheville, North Carolina, more than a century ago, he envisioned a self-sustaining home and stewardship of the land and its resources for years to come. Though it is hard to imagine now, portions of the lush forest surrounding Biltmore House was once overworked farmland and overcut woodland.

Over forested Asheville
Poor Woodland, c. 1892; © The Biltmore Company

The Birthplace of Modern Forestry Management

Following the recommendation of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt hired trained forester Gifford Pinchot—who later served as first chief of the United States Forest Service and founder of the Society of American Foresters—to develop a forest management plan for his land holdings, which eventually totaled approximately 125,000 acres.

Pinchot’s scientific forestry plan (the management and conservation of forest lands) was the first of its kind in the United States and served as a national model. In turn, George Vanderbilt was the first American landowner to implement scientific forestry on a large scale.

In 1895, the same year as the opening of Biltmore House, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck succeeded Pinchot and expanded the forest management plan over the next 14 years, including the development of a comprehensive management plan for Vanderbilt’s vast Pisgah Forest holdings. During his tenure at Biltmore, Dr. Schenck also founded the Biltmore Forest School—the first school of forestry in the United States—graduating more than 300 of the nation’s first professionally-trained foresters.

White Pine Planting Asheville, North Carolina
White Pine Plantings, c. 1929; © The Biltmore Company

America’s First Managed Forest

The contributions of Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot and Dr. Carl Schenck transformed what was once a landscape of overused terrain into America’s first managed forest on such a large scale, improving the health of the land while producing sustainable wood and other resources, establishing the birthplace of American Forestry.

Edith Vanderbilt American Forestry
Edith Vanderbilt (far left) and Cornelia Vanderbilt (second from right) attending Pisgah National Forest dedication to the memory of George Vanderbilt, c. 1920; © The Biltmore Company

In May 1914, Edith Vanderbilt, completed her late husband’s wishes of selling an 86,000-acre tract of Biltmore to be managed by the U.S. government as public lands, creating one of the first national forest east of the Mississippi River: Pisgah National Forest. In an excerpt from a letter declaring her family’s interest in preserving the property, Edith stated:

“Mr. Vanderbilt was the first of the large forest owners in America to adopt the practice of forestry. He has conserved Pisgah Forest from the time he bought it up to his death, a period of nearly twenty five years, under the firm conviction that every forest owner owes it to those who follow him, to hand down his forest property to them unimpaired by wasteful use.”

“I make this contribution towards the public ownership of Pisgah Forest with the earnest hope that in this way I may help to perpetuate my husband’s pioneer work in forest conservation, and to ensure the protection and use and enjoyment of Pisgah Forest as a National Forest, by the American people for all time….”

Biltmore Estate American Forestry Today
Views from Biltmore today.

Biltmore’s Forestry Legacy Continues

Today, Biltmore Estate and its resources continue to be managed by those original guiding principles to ensure future vitality, honoring George Vanderbilt’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship.

Nearby, the Cradle of Forestry is a 6,500-acre Historic Site within Pisgah National Forest, set aside to commemorate the beginning of forest conservation in America and the lasting contributions of George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Dr. Carl Schenck.

10 Fast Facts About Biltmore

Get to know George Vanderbilt’s magnificent 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, with this list of Biltmore facts.

Portrait of George Washington Vanderbilt
Photograph of George Vanderbilt, a scholar, collector, and patron of the arts who came of age during America’s Gilded Age

Nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore House is the largest privately owned home in the United States, and was the Gilded-Age vision of George Washington Vanderbilt.

10 Fast Facts About Biltmore

  1. George Vanderbilt was born in 1862 in Staten Island, New York. He was the grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt.

  2. After visiting Asheville in 1888, George Vanderbilt began the process of building his country home. Construction began in 1889 and Biltmore House was first opened to friends and family on Christmas Eve, 1895.

  3. Biltmore House was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and is America’s Largest Home® spanning 175,000 square feet, which is more than four acres of floor space. The 250-room French Renaissance chateau includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

  4. Adjacent to Biltmore House are 75 acres of formal and informal gardens designed by renowned American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

  5. George Vanderbilt married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in Paris in 1898. Their only child, Cornelia Vanderbilt, was born in the Louis XV Room of Biltmore House in 1900.

  6. Biltmore was a pioneer in sustainable land use practices in 1895 and has long operated its farm and field-to-table program. Biltmore is also credited as the Birthplace of American Forestry. Today, Biltmore continues to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy of preserving the land and protecting the environment through many ecological, recycling, and alternative energy programs.

  7. While the current acreage of Biltmore Estate is approximately 8,000 acres, the acreage during George Vanderbilt’s lifetime was approximately 125,000 acres and included property later sold to the federal government to create Pisgah National Forest, one of the first national forests east of the Mississippi.

  8. With 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain estate to discover. today’s guests enjoy Biltmore’s scenic backyard with outdoor activities like biking, carriage rides, hiking, horseback riding, and more. The private estate grounds feature over 22 miles of trails to explore.

  9. George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, began planting grapevines in the early 1970s, paving the way for the establishment of Biltmore’s Winery in 1985. Today, our winery is an integral part of a Biltmore visit and is America’s most visited winery. Biltmore’s award-winning wines are available for purchase at estate shops, on biltmoreshop.com, and in select retailers nationwide.

  10. On exhibit inside Biltmore House is the Vanderbilt family’s original collection, art, furniture, and more. With an emphasis on preservation, it’s no surprise Biltmore prides itself on having an in-house conservation department.
Architectural details of Biltmore House
Architectural details of Biltmore House

A mission of preservation

Today, Biltmore is still family owned and operated under George Vanderbilt’s mission of preservation through self-sufficiency – a philosophy embraced before the first stone was ever placed.

Over the years, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village & Winery, which includes Antler Hill Farm; overnight accommodations, including The Inn on Biltmore Estate–our Forbes Four-Star property, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, and our historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and a licensed products division.

Ready to learn more?

Since 1895, Biltmore has welcomed guests from all over the world to experience the splendor of George Vanderbilt’s visionary estate.

No matter the season, an 8,000-acre oasis awaits you. From historic gardens and grounds to outdoor adventure, behind-the-scenes tours, dining, shopping, and wine tastings, there is something for everyone.

Learn more about Biltmore by planning your visit.

Springtime Project: Olmsted Basket

Biltmore’s gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as his last great commission. Gentleness, charm, and naturalness are keynotes of Olmsted’s style.

The picturesque and pastoral elements of Olmsted’s gardens can be recalled in our miniature landscapes, which our Floral Team uses throughout Biltmore House and other areas of the estate as a way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside.

How to Create a Biltmore “Olmsted Basket

1. Gather Your Materials

To create this small garden you must first choose a container, plant materials, and accessories that complement each other and your setting.

  • Container or basket: Your container can be a basket, ceramic bowl, brass dish, or wooden box; anything deep enough to hide multiple pots and give you room to create. If you use an open weave basket, line it first with sphagnum moss so the foil and mechanics won’t show.
  • Assorted plants: The size of the pots are determined by the size of your container, but 4″ pots are most commonly used. It’s best to use plants with similar requirements such as light, water, humidity, and temperature. We recommend using some tall and low plants, some upright and some spreading to add depth. Ensure the pots should have drainage holes to protect from soggy roots.
  • Creative accessories: Use natural materials such as moss, rocks, twigs, gourds, and berries to create interest with different textures. 
  • Additional supplies: floral poly-foil or other watertight liner for your basket, floral foam, and sphagnum moss or other natural materials to use as filler

2. Designing Your Basket

  • Prepare your plants by watering them well and allowing to drain.
  • Next, line your basket carefully with florist’s poly-foil or other material to create a watertight container.
  • Begin arranging plant pots in the basket, using floral foam to stack and wedge them into position.
  • Take care not to overcrowd the plants and allow for a rambling, natural feeling with varying heights.
  • Arrange moss to cover foam or pots that may be showing and add visual interest with varied texture.
  • Add finishing touches with accessories such as rocks, twigs, or berries.

3. Display Your Arrangement

  • Choose the perfect spot inside your home to display your Olmsted-inspired creation.
  • Water with care as required by each plant. Tip: Some plants may need to be removed for watering.

From room accents to tabletop centerpieces, these long-lasting designs are a perfect way to brighten up your space.