Historic Fall Fairs at Biltmore

Biltmore held its first fall fair, known as the Biltmore Estate Exhibition, in 1905.

Seeds of success

Archival photo of Cornelia and Edith Vanderbilt
Archival photographic portrait of Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter Cornelia.

Preparation began earlier that summer when Edith Vanderbilt provided free flower seeds to Biltmore tenants. Even five-year-old Cornelia Vanderbilt planted her own little flower garden before departing for an extended stay in Paris with her parents.

Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle judged the results of everyone’s efforts and prizes were awarded.

Biltmore’s first fall fair yields impressive results

Archival photo of people and produce in front of the Market Gardener's Cottage at Biltmore
Archival image of agricultural workers and estate residents at the Market Garden, photographed in front of an elaborate display of estate-raised produce.

“I anticipate the event this year will surpass the initial results,” Chauncey Beadle informed Edith Vanderbilt in 1906.

Beadle once again judged the results in July, recognizing first through fourth place winners for both flower and vegetable gardens grown by families at cottages in the Farm Village, cottages of the Dairy Foremen, and the farms along the east side and west side of the French Broad River.

“Without doubt, the flower garden of Mrs. Matthias Smith excels in extent and brilliancy any of the flower gardens we visited,” Beadle noted of one winner’s efforts.

Biltmore’s 1906 fall fair

For the Biltmore Estate Exhibition that would occur that fall, Edith Vanderbilt instructed Beadle to give out gardening books as prizes for the winners in July. Beadle kept a list of the books he acquired as prizes for the gardens and to whom they were given, and he had ribbons and cards prepared for the Exhibition.

In early September, Beadle distributed a flyer advertising the exhibition to all estate employees.

Prizewinning categories

Archival photo of Biltmore's fall fair winners at the 1921 NC State fair
Archival photo of Biltmore Estate display at the 1921 NC State Fair.

An impressive list of first and second place winners to whom prizes were awarded in the various classes includes Class “A” (40 categories of vegetables and herbs) and Class “B” (13 categories of field crops). Class “D” covered domestic products such as pickles, preserved fruits, jelly, wine, cakes, loaves of bread, and biscuits.

Various types of needlework such as Hungarian embroidery, Russian drawnwork, shadow embroidery, sewing school models were in Class “F” and a basket class included straw baskets, oak baskets, and rush seats. Estate records indicate that Mrs. Halyburton was top prizewinner in 1906 with 12 first place ribbons and six second place ribbons.

Growing interest in the fall fair

In 1907, James Charles Berry, the estate’s orchards manager and beekeeper, won a book entitled The American Fruit Culturalist. Its inscription reads, “Mr. J. C. Berry by Mrs. Geo. Vanderbilt as a special prize for a well kept garden and house grounds at the bee farm. Special prize Sept, 1907.”

Archival photo of the opening of the 1921 NC State Fair
Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt at the opening of the NC State Fair. They are standing in the right section at the center, with Governor Cameron Morrison between them. There is a uniformed band in the stands to the left and a group of people to the right, October 18, 1921.

Interest in the event continued to grow year by year. Beadle wrote to Mrs. Vanderbilt in September 1908, “I can but repeat the strong interest that is manifest among the tenants and their families regarding the forthcoming exhibition.”

By 1911, Mrs. Vanderbilt extended invitations to the tenants in the farthest boundaries of Pisgah Forest in Henderson and Transylvania counties to participate in the “Annual Estate Fair” as it came to be known.

From oral histories, we know the fairs continued into the 1930s and 1940s, and those who remembered attending them as children and adults have given glowing accounts of the fun and festivities and the camaraderie of the Biltmore farm families.

President of the NC State Fair

Archival image of Edith Vanderbilt and others at the 1921 NC State Fair
Archival photo of Governor Cameron Morrison (center) and Edith Vanderbilt (right) inspecting troops at the NC State Fair, October 1921

In 1921, Edith Vanderbilt was the first woman to be elected president of the North Carolina State Fair. She eradicated gambling to promote educational, family-friendly atmosphere.

It was said of her that “Mrs. Vanderbilt’s record of accomplishment is of such an outstanding character that it points the way to definite service open to other women who are similarly actuated by a desire to aid in community betterment.”

Our legacy continues

Although we no longer hold a fair, fall is still a wonderful time to visit Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

In addition to enjoying Biltmore House and its historic gardens, you’ll enjoy learning more about our agricultural heritage with a stroll through Antler Hill Village & Winery to Antler Hill Barn and Farm—followed by delicious field-to-table dining options at any of our estate restaurants.

Featured image: Edith Vanderbilt (left) and Cornelia Vanderbilt at the North Carolina State Fair, October 1921

Lights, Camera, Biltmore: A Magnificent Movie Location!

Lights, camera, Biltmore! A magnificent movie location since the golden age of Hollywood, Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, has starred as a majestic backdrop for more than a dozen unforgettable feature films.

The continued appeal of this National Historic Landmark as a movie and television filming location is clear: the sprawling 8,000-acre estate includes Biltmore House–a majestic French Renaissance-style chateau that can easily be seen as a castle–plus acres of formal gardens and miles of rolling hills and scenery, all conveniently located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Discover six of the most notable movies filmed at Biltmore Estate throughout the years:

A Biltmore Christmas (2023)

Front lawn of Biltmore House decorated for Christmas
Biltmore’s timeless Christmas celebrations hit the big screen in Hallmark Channel’s “A Biltmore Christmas,” premiering in 2023.

Deck the halls and grab the popcorn because Biltmore is coming to Hallmark Channel this Christmas season with the premiere of A Biltmore Christmas, starring Bethany Joy Lenz and Kristoffer Polaha.

Viewers are sure to get into the holiday spirit with this time-traveling romance set during our most beloved and storied season—Christmas at Biltmore—and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Fun Film Fact: A Biltmore Christmas marks the first time that Biltmore Estate has served a central role in the storyline of a film.

The Swan (1956)

West view of Biltmore House above the Lagoon.
The western view of Biltmore House above the Lagoon has been featured in many films, including “The Swan” and “Being There.”

In this classic Hollywood drama, actress Grace Kelly portrays a princess attempting to secure an advantageous marriage to secure the throne taken from her family during Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule.

Biltmore House appears extensively throughout the film as the exterior of Kelly’s palatial home with one particularly iconic scene taking place along the Lagoon and French Broad River.

Fun Film Fact: Although it was not featured in the film, one of Biltmore’s most notable treasures is a game table and chess set once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. Learn more about this and other fascinating objects in Biltmore’s collection.

Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Bass Pond Bridge in autumn
Biltmore’s iconic Bass Pond Bridge was featured in “The Last of the Mohicans.”

The producers of this award-winning drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis were searching for locations that resembled the old-growth forests of New York’s Catskill Mountains as they might have appeared at the beginning of the 19th century.

Luckily for Hollywood, Biltmore’s elaborate grounds were planned by Frederick Law Olmsted–the father of American landscape architecture–nearly 100 years earlier and included forest land and mature trees suitable for the producers’ cinematic needs.

In addition to the sweeping fields and forests, the movie features a scene in which a carriage crosses the estate’s signature red brick Bass Pond bridge designed by Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.

Fun Film Fact: When filming extended into the fall, the production crew used organic green paint in several locations to create the illusion of summer foliage.

Forrest Gump (1993)

Guest running along sunflower-lined paths of Biltmore Estate.
Run, Biltmore, run! The winding road that leads to Antler Hill Village was featured in “Forrest Gump.”

With settings ranging from Greenbow, Alabama, to the jungles of Vietnam, you may wonder how Biltmore was included as a movie location in this beloved 1993 Tom Hanks classic.

During one scene where Forrest Gump is running across America, he was actually running along the road which leads to The Inn on Biltmore Estate® and Antler Hill Village & Winery!

Richie Rich (1994)

Facade of Biltmore House, America's Largest Home
Biltmore House served as the sprawling estate of the world’s richest comic book family in “Richie Rich” when this iconic 90s movie was filmed at Biltmore Estate.

Richie Rich featured many interior shots of Biltmore House, and some rooms were left largely unaltered during filming–even paintings of Vanderbilt family members were prominently featured.

Although the estate does not feature the Rich family’s signature dollar sign topiaries on the lawn or a Mount Rushmore-inspired family portrait looming over the gardens, this delightful comedy remains a family favorite for all ages.

Hannibal (2001)

Aerial view of Biltmore's Antler Hill Barn
Antler Hill Barn was one of the filming locations for the movie “Hannibal.”

In the chilling sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, an ensemble cast, including Oscar-winning actors Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins, and Gary Oldman, offered dramatic performances against the stunning backdrop of Biltmore.

Featuring the estate as the home of the reclusive Mason Verger, the thriller incorporated many different locations such as the arched Lodge Gate and the façade of Biltmore House, some of the grand rooms on the first floor, and several outlying buildings including Antler Hill Barn, which had not yet been restored at the time of filming.

Additional movies filmed on Biltmore Estate:

Aerial view of Biltmore Estate.
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, makes for a magnificant movie location.

Although Biltmore was created to provide a restful retreat from the outside world, sometimes the bright lights and top stars of film and television come calling when they require a setting like no other!

Here are additional movies filmed either in part or entirely on Biltmore Estate:

Tap Roots (1948)

Being There (1979)

The Private Eyes (1980)

Mr. Destiny (1990)

My Fellow Americans (1996)

Patch Adams (1998)

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)

On the record with Biltmore’s Oral History Program

The filming of these movies has become part of Biltmore’s ongoing history, and memories related to the process have been added to our collection of oral histories to be preserved as such. The recollections of staff involved in what will become iconic moments in Biltmore’s on-screen legacy have been captured alongside hundreds of other records detailing associations with Biltmore from the early 20th century to the present.

Explore Our Favorite Outdoor Rooms

Every season offers a wonderful reason to explore our favorite outdoor rooms at Biltmore, but summer is an especially perfect time to do so.

Frederick Law Olmsted

Known as the “father of American landscape architecture,” Frederick Law Olmsted had definitive ideas about landscape design.

You can see many of his innovative ideas in New York City’s Central Park and here at Biltmore, which was his last professional project before his death in 1903.

Enjoy the outdoors, by design

View of the Approach Road in spring
The Approach Road, which Olmsted designed to achieve a “sensation passing through the remote depths of a deep forest,” only to have “the view of the Residence, with its orderly dependencies, to break suddenly, fully upon one.” Photo credit: The Biltmore Company.

For the magnificent estates he landscaped, Olmsted preferred longer-than-usual approach drives and separate garden spaces or “outdoor rooms” that were distinct from one another with no blending of styles.

The methods Olmsted used for creating special spaces are very noticeable in spring and when the gardens and grounds begin to bloom with color.

Explore our favorite outdoor rooms

When Biltmore employees were asked to share their favorite outdoor rooms around the estate, their answers were a tribute to all that Olmsted envisioned to enchant the Vanderbilts and their guests more than a century ago.

Italian Garden

Italian Garden at Biltmore
The Italian Garden is spectacular in summer

Parker Andes, Director of Horticulture, has a favorite spot tucked away in the Italian Garden.

“There’s a terra cotta cherub fountain in the last little turf area near the end of the garden,” said Parker. “Most people miss this treasure because they don’t walk all the way down there.”

Spring Garden

The Spring Garden at Biltmore
Some of the earliest blooms at Biltmore appear in the sheltered Spring Garden

Cathy Barnhardt, former Floral Displays Manager for Biltmore, is now retired and enjoying the estate as an Annual Passholder.

“The Spring Garden is like a little valley that opens up off the beaten path. The grass gets green there first and flowers bloom early,” said Cathy. “It’s a great place to spend time with your family.”

Azalea Garden

Kids in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
Guests of all ages love discovering Biltmore’s “outdoor rooms” like the Azalea Garden

Another special location mentioned by several staff members is a bench at the top of the Spring Garden. From this vantage point, you can look down into the Azalea Garden and also have a view of the distant mountains.

Another not-to-be-missed favorite outdoor room is the Azalea Garden with all its varieties, colors, and sweet fragrances of azalea to enjoy.

Explore our favorite outdoor rooms
Stone steps in the Azalea Garden invite further exploration

“Although the Azalea Garden wasn’t part of Olmsted’s original plan, it makes perfect use of a wooded space,” noted Parker. “The blooms are spectacular in late spring, so be sure to take time to walk down the stone steps—another technique Olmsted used to divide outdoor rooms—and stroll down the path there, noticing the stream lined with wild flowers and unusual conifers.”

Bass Pond Boat House

Boat House at the Bass Pond is a hidden gem of Biltmore
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

Below the Azalea Garden, Hope Wright of A Gardener’s Place–one of the charming shops on the estate–loves walking down the path to the Bass Pond.

“I stop on the bridge going toward the Boat House and sit on the bench,” Hope said. “This is a favorite spot of mine in the spring and summer as I look back upon the stunning beauty I have just witnessed.”

Plan your getaway today!

Family activities at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds all year long!

Ready to explore our favorite outdoor rooms and discover which ones you like best?

Plan your summer Biltmore visit now to enjoy Biltmore Gardens Railway, a botanical model train display in Antler Hill Village, or consider becoming an Annual Passholder so you can return and discover something new in every season.

Solving a Mystery in the Kitchen Pantry

Solving a mystery in the Kitchen Pantry at Biltmore took some detective work, but our Museum Services staff finally cracked the case!

“Among the many place settings of china in the Biltmore collection, one set had remained a mystery for many years,” said Lori Garst, Curatorial Assistant.

Solving a mystery in the Kitchen Pantry
A cup, saucer, and plate from the collection of unidentified china

While the set was often referred to as “the Christmas china” because it was used during a 1931 holiday party, or “the employee china” because it was later used by staff members, the origin of the china—and its original purpose in Biltmore House—remained unclear.

Cup, saucer, and teapot featuring George Vanderbilt's monogram
George Vanderbilt’s elegant white china with burgundy and gold trim. It was manufactured by Minton and Spode-Copeland, and used for everyday occasions.

“Most of the china in Biltmore House was chosen by George Vanderbilt,” Lori said. “He selected an elegant white china with a burgundy and gold pattern, manufactured by both Minton and Spode-Copeland. It features his monogram and was used every day for family and guest meals.”

Cornelia Vanderbilt’s china matches her father’s pattern but includes her own CSV monogram.

China featuring Cornelia Vanderbilt's monogram
While Cornelia Vanderbilt’s china closely matches the pattern her father selected for use in Biltmore House, their monograms distinguish one set from another

“We know that Edith Vanderbilt ordered Cornelia’s china in 1923,” said Lori. “And Mrs. Vanderbilt requested that Cornelia’s monogram be in the same style as her father’s.  I think it is sweet that her service blended in with the style her father had chosen.”

But what of the mysterious china collection on the shelves of the Kitchen Pantry in the Basement?

Museum Services began to look for clues about its history. While not as fine as the monogrammed Vanderbilt china, the gold-trimmed white pattern rimmed in crisp navy was definitely elegant and the amount of it suggested it had been purchased with a large number of people in mind.

Solving a mystery in the Kitchen Pantry of Biltmore House
Trimmed in gold and rimmed in navy, this china is elegant, but more sturdy than the monogrammed family china in the collection

“We began with the manufacturer’s mark on the bottom of each piece,” said Lori. “Kniffen & Demarest Co. manufactured hotel and steam ship supplies, so the china was well-made and rather sturdy to stand up to use by guests and passengers in public settings.”

Biltmore conservator shows manufacturer's mark on the bottom of a china saucer
A conservator shows the Kniffen & Demarest Co. name on a piece of the so-called mystery china

While Museum Services was researching details for our Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film exhibition, they finally discovered written references to the china in conjunction with Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil’s wedding. 

“This set was also sometimes referred to as ‘the wedding china,’ but we never knew which of its three names was correct until recently,” said Lori. “The pieces came together at last, and we realized that this was the china that had been ordered for the buffet at Cornelia Vanderbilt and John Cecil’s wedding breakfast.”

After the ceremony at All Souls Church in Biltmore Village, the wedding guests and additional reception guests (500 people were invited to the ceremony and reception; another 2500 were invited only to the reception) arrived at Biltmore House.

John and Cornelia Cecil wedding party at breakfast in the Winter Garden of Biltmore House
John and Cornelia Cecil and their attendants at the wedding breakfast in the Winter Garden of Biltmore House

The newlyweds and their attendants were served at a table in the Winter Garden, and all the other guests enjoyed a buffet in the Banquet Hall, which featured this china.

As the years passed, the Kniffen & Demarest china was still used, but its original purpose was forgotten.

Today, it’s stored in the Kitchen Pantry where it receives the same care and attention as all the other china in Biltmore’s collection.

Enjoy your own Vanderbilt china service

China pattern based on an original set used by the Vanderbilt family
Porcelain tea set from the Vanderbilt Service

Whether you prefer a tea service or an entire place setting, this beautiful porcelain serveware is based on a Sevres pattern, circa 1888, that the Vanderbilt family once used at Biltmore. The original is on display in the Oak Sitting Room, but you can now enjoy the reproduction set in your own home.

Remembering our Christmas past

Christmas has always been celebrated in grand style at Biltmore, beginning with the opening of Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895 and continuing today with Christmas at Biltmore. The festivities have always included friends and family, plus a special party for employees of the estate.

Creating traditions

While George Vanderbilt was still a bachelor, he enlisted the help of Mrs. Charles McNamee, the wife of his friend who assisted in purchasing land for the estate, to provide Christmas gifts for 300–500 guests, including estate workers and their families. Mr. Vanderbilt greeted everyone in the Banquet Hall on Christmas afternoon, and members of his own family helped distribute the gifts which included Christmas trees and trimmings for estate employees to decorate their own homes.

In 1897, Biltmore’s Christmas celebration took place at All Souls Parish in Biltmore Village because George Vanderbilt was away from home. According to a report in the Semi-Weekly Citizen, there were “toys and candy and cakes and oranges for the little ones, and books and articles useful and ornamental, dress goods and jerseys, ties and gloves, for the older folk. As in previous and future celebrations, refreshments were served, including ice cream, cake, and bananas.”

Cornelia Vanderbilt and her cousin John Nicholas Brown in 1905

Cornelia Vanderbilt and her cousin John Nicholas Brown, 1905

Celebrating with friends and family

George Vanderbilt married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898, and she took an immediate and active interest in the estate’s annual Christmas festivities. In 1905, when George and Edith Vanderbilt’s only child Cornelia would have been five years old, the New York Times reported the following details about the holiday cheer at Biltmore:

“Mr. and Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt this afternoon provided for nearly a thousand children of Biltmore estate employees a big tree in the banquet hall of the chateau. The little ones were loaded with useful gifts and toys…bought in Asheville in the last week…Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt welcomed each of the little guests, many of whom came twenty miles from the coves and mountain tops of the Vanderbilt forest domain, some walking, some by ox team and some mule back…. Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt…personally distributed all the gifts, aided by Mrs. Edith Wharton, Mr. Wharton, and Mrs. Ernesto G. Fabbri (George Vanderbilt’s niece].”

In her oral history, Edith Cauble, whose parents worked on the estate, recalls:

“Christmas parties where Mr. Vanderbilt stood on one side of the front door of the House in tails, and Edith stood on the other side wearing a long velvet dress giving out oranges and candy. In the Banquet Hall there was music and Cornelia would run around with the other children.”
 
Biltmore Employee Christmas party in 1916Employee Christmas party at Antler Hall, ca. 1916

Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt continued the employee Christmas parties even after George Vanderbilt passed away in 1914. In 1916, the event took place outdoors at Antler Hall—a large home originally located where The Inn on Biltmore Estate™ now sits. In the archival photograph featured here, you can see Edith Vanderbilt just to the right of center wearing a dark hat, and Cornelia to her left in a white hat.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at the entrance to Biltmore HouseSanta and Mrs. Claus welcome guests to Biltmore

The tradition continues

Today, more than a century after the first holiday festivities at Biltmore, we continue to host our annual Christmas party for employees. It is still a grand occasion with gifts for the children, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and delicious refreshments—and a wonderful opportunity to see America’s Largest Home® lit by the glow of candles and firelight during Candlelight Christmas Evenings.

Featured blog image: Photographs of George Vanderbilt’s parents (William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt) 

Preserving Generations of Biltmore China and Crystal

Preserving generations of Biltmore china and crystal is a delicate job.

If you have fine china or crystal handed down in your family, you can imagine the care it takes to clean and preserve all the fragile place settings and glassware in the Biltmore collection!

Generations of fragile china and crystal

Preserving generations of Biltmore china and crystal
Gevevieve Bieniosek opens the china cabinet in the Butler’s Pantry

There are three generations of china and crystal stored in Biltmore House, and much of it is more than 100 years old.

These fragile pieces of the collection are stored in glass-front cabinets in the two-story Butler’s Pantry, and a comprehensive inventory system helps our conservators keep track of each object.

A unique identification number is assigned to every dish and glass, the location of the piece is recorded, and a digital photo of it is included in an inventory database.

Cleaning generations of Biltmore china and crystal
Genevieve cleans saucers that bear George Vanderbilt’s monogram, while the floral patterned plates on the left were chosen by Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, for Biltmore’s centennial celebration in 1995

Cleaning all the china and crystal in the Butler’s Pantry is a process that takes several weeks to complete. Each piece is dusted, wiped with a mixture of ethanol and water, and dried with lint-free cloths. All the objects are inspected for unstable cracks.

“Most of the cleaning and dusting is done in the Butler’s Pantry, because the less we move such fragile pieces, the better,” said Genevieve Bieniosek, Furniture Conservator.

Preventing problems

Caring for a fragile part of Biltmore history--crystal glassware
Delicate crystal glassware with George Vanderbilt’s monogram in the Butler’s Pantry

During a recent cleaning project, the conservators noticed that some of the crystal on display was suffering from ‘glass disease.’ According to Genevieve, this is a condition where components in the glass structure leach out over time, causing the glass to appear cloudy.

“If left untreated,” Genevieve explained, “it will eventually create a fine network of cracks over the piece.”

The glasses were treated by washing them with mild soap and water, drying them with soft towels, and letting them air dry for several hours.

“By treating them now, we avoid permanent damage from the glass disease,” said Genevieve.

Improving the process of storing crystal and china

China cup with Cornelia Vanderbilt's monogram
This fluted cup and saucer bear Cornelia Vanderbilt’s monogram

In addition to careful cleaning of these fragile pieces, our conservators are always looking for ways to improve the overall process for preserving the china and crystal.

“We recently looked into different types of padding material to keep the china safer, and placed sheets of polyethylene foam between each dish. The material is very stable, so the sheets don’t break down and create chemicals that could harm the china,” noted Genevieve.

Take a behind-the-scenes guided tour

Biltmore House Butler's Pantry
The Butler’s Pantry, as seen on The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour

Plan a visit to America’s Largest Home today, and treat yourself to The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour. You’ll experience an in-depth look at servant life at Biltmore with this 60-minute guided tour, including rarely-seen areas such as the Butler’s Pantry as you hear fascinating stories of those who worked and lived on the estate in the Vanderbilts’ era.

Featured blog image: Biltmore conservators Genevieve Bieniosek and Renee Jolly clean china and crystal in the Butler’s Pantry of Biltmore House

The Art of Biltmore’s Open-Air Museum

Frederick Law Olmsted selected the major plantings at Biltmore with the utmost attention. Each had a specific purpose: to provide a certain color, texture or function, such as shade or height. But the manmade features of the gardens−statuary and planters−are more like the icing on the cake, hitting graceful notes throughout the landscape. So, what do we know about the artwork in Biltmore’s open air museum?

“To our knowledge, Olmsted did not specify any statuary at Biltmore,” says Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian. Research shows most of the statues were purchased in the late 1800s in France and Italy by George Vanderbilt and Richard Morris Hunt, Biltmore’s architect. It’s likely that Olmsted did play a role in the placement of the statues because the three men worked so closely on every aspect of the design of Biltmore House and Gardens.

Classic Influences

Walking through the gardens, you’ll notice a number of statues featuring characters from Greek myth. The four terra cotta figures on the South Terrace—Faun, Adonis, Venus, and Hamadryad—are modeled after originals created by Antoine Coysevox, a prolific sculptor from the 17th century. If you look closely at the figure at the far right end of the Terrace, you’ll see Coysevox’s maker’s mark.

In the Italian Garden, you’ll find several variations of late-19th-century putti—winged figures that were popular in both statuary and painting during the Italian Renaissance. The small terra cotta angel located at the end of the Italian Garden is based on a work of art that’s housed in the Louvre. Although there’s a fountain bowl in front of this putto, Kara Warren, Preventive Conservation Specialist, says there is no record that water was ever used in the fountain.

Aging Naturally

Whether made from bronze, marble, limestone, granite, or terra cotta, each outdoor statue has to weather the elements. Storms and environmental pollutants have taken their toll of them over the last century. According to Kara, some repairs and restorations date back to 1934.

“Reading the descriptions of repair work from our archival records is like having a mini history lesson. Each repair documents the care the statue received over the year. Today, we occasionally need to repair the repairs, replacing corroded iron elements with stainless steel or replacing mortar that has crumbled over time,” she continues.

Near the stairway leading from the house to the Italian Garden, you’ll notice the Italian white marble statue that’s known as “The Dancing Lesson.” The original, made of terra cotta, was replaced by this copy in the 1970s after it was damaged in a storm.

Perhaps Biltmore’s most famous statue, Diana, goddess of the hunt, located on the hill overlooking the house, met a similar fate. The original terra cotta work, based on a marble housed in the Louvre, was replaced with today’s marble version carved by H. Whinery Oppice in the 1970s.

In Harmony with Nature

As you walk through the gardens, statuary sometimes plays a supporting role to the ever-changing natural beauty that takes center stage. But each garden element is an important part of this living landscape that has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

Top 6 Rainy Day Activities at Biltmore

What’s the best way to enjoy all that our sprawling, 8,000-acre private mountain estate has to offer when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating? 

In George and Edith Vanderbilt’s day, you could curl up in the Library with a good book, enjoy a dip in the indoor pool, warm up with a brisk workout in the Gymnasium, or even spend the afternoon bowling—all without ever leaving Biltmore House! Fast-forward over a century and there’s still plenty to do to ensure a rainy day doesn’t ruin your vacation to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina!

Things to do on a rainy day at Biltmore

Inside Biltmore's Conservatory
Biltmore’s historic Conservatory is a tropical getaway all year long, but an especially nice retreat during a rainy day at Biltmore!

1. Explore the Conservatory

This glorious garden-under-glass is a fascinating place to explore in any weather, but it’s especially nice to enjoy all the benefits of a lush garden full of tropical plants without getting drenched in a downpour!

Butler's Pantry
Step inside the Bulter’s Pantry of Biltmore House with a specialty tour.

2. Upgrade your visit to include a Biltmore House specialty tour

Let the rain fall while you experience a different side of Biltmore House and its surroundings. Specialty tours such as the Biltmore House Backstairs Tour offer a behind-the-scenes look at the rarely-seen domestic staff’s areas and what it was like to work at America’s Largest Home over a century ago.

Tip: Specialty tours offered in Biltmore House will change periodically and may have limited capacity. For our most current offerings, please visit our Tours page online.

Guests at The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad exhibbition
Learn about the Vanderbilt family and their travels, including their fateful decision to not board the Titanic as planned.

3. Learn more about the Vanderbilts at The Biltmore Legacy

Antler Hill Village is home to The Biltmore Legacy, an exhibition space that features a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Vanderbilt family and their treasures with our The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad exhibition. Exploring this guest-favorite exhibition is a perfect rainy-day activity at Biltmore!

Biltmore Wines
Discover our entire portfolio of Biltmore Wines at our Winery in Antler Hill Village.

4. Enjoy Biltmore Wines at America’s most-visited winery

Let it pour outside while you enjoy the “pours” inside at America’s most-visited winery! This original estate dairy barn was converted to a winery in 1985, and you can experience a complimentary wine tasting (included with any admission type!) and other delicious offerings! Plus, Biltmore’s Winery recently welcomed a stunning Chandelier by world-renowned artist, Dale Chihuly, which is on display daily inside our Wine Shop.

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, ca. 1484–1486
Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, located in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is yours to explore in vivid, large-scale detail with a visit to “Italian Renaissance Alive” at Biltmore.

5. Be transported to one of the most influential periods in art history

If you’re a fan of art history, you will not want to miss Italian Renaissance Alive, created and produced by Grande Experiences, as it makes its world premiere at Biltmore! Set to a powerful operatic score, this immersive digital art exhibition features larger-than-life displays of some of the most renowned works in art history by such icons as Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, and Caravaggio.

Tip: This special exhibition is included with select ticket types or as part of select lodging packages. Biltmore Annual Passholders may purchase discounted exhibition-only tickets. Plan your visit while it lasts!

Afternoon Tea at The Inn
Savor decadent scones as part of the elegant Afternoon Tea service offered at The Inn.

6. Shop, Savor, and Stay!

What better way to wait out a rain shower than to savor decadent farm-to-table meals or pick out momentos from your time at Biltmore? With over 20 unique shops and restaurants on the estate available only to Biltmore guests and Passholders, you’ll have plenty to choose from!

Make your time on George Vanderbilt’s visionary estate even more memorable with an overnight stay at one of our unique lodging properties, including our four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate, cozy Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, or a historic, private Cottage on Biltmore Estate.

Raindrops settle on coneflowers in Biltmore's gardens.
Summer rain showers leave glistening drops on native coneflowers in Biltmore’s gardens.

BONUS: Pack an umbrella and explore our gardens and grounds

The weather in the mountains changes frequently, so much so, that the locals in Asheville often say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes.” During light showers, you might even enjoy grabbing your umbrella or rain poncho for a peaceful stroll through our historic gardens.

Tip: Be sure to check the local weather radar and have a backup plan in case the forecasts predict more severe weather than a mild sprinkle.

National Historic Landmark Designation Illustrates U.S. Heritage

Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina was officially nominated as a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1963.

The original landmark designation was based on the theme “Conservation of Natural Resources.” The description for Biltmore was:

At Biltmore, the George W. Vanderbilt estate near Asheville, Gifford Pinchot demonstrated for the first time in the United States that scientific forest management could be profitable and was, thus, good business practice. Another ‘first’ in forestry occurred here in 1898 when the first forestry school in the United States was opened, the Biltmore Forest School, headed by Dr. Carl A. Schenck. Nearly 87,000 acres of the estate’s forest land is now included in Pisgah National Forest. The building in which the school was conducted is owned by the city of Asheville and used today for offices.

Dr. Carl A. Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900*
Dr. Carl A. Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900. Image courtesy of National Forests of North Carolina Historic Photographs, D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, NC.

Beginning in 2000, Biltmore began an effort to expand the landmark designation beyond conservation to include the themes of architecture, landscape architecture, and social history, and to extend the period of significance to 1950 to include the contributions of Chauncey Beadle, estate superintendent, and improvements and significance of the Biltmore Dairy during those years. The Secretary of the Interior approved this expansion on April 5, 2005. 

Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle, 1948
Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle, 1948

Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s former landscape and forest historian and participant in the five-year project of gathering additional documentation for the expanded designation, said that Biltmore has to submit periodic reports to the National Park Service to describe any changes occurring to the property, including natural disasters and damage such as the floods and tree loss caused by Hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2005. 

He also noted that the building referenced in the original nomination is located in Biltmore Village.

“The office building at 1 Biltmore Plaza was where the Biltmore Forest School held its fall and winter classes for a number of years,” Bill said. “It was the first new, permanent structure completed in Biltmore Village after George Vanderbilt purchased the village in 1894, followed by the passenger train depot in 1895 and All Souls Church in 1896, all designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt.”

1 Biltmore Plaza in Biltmore Village, 1895
1 Biltmore Plaza in Biltmore Village, 1895

“Biltmore sold the office building to the City of Asheville in 1929, and leased the downstairs for corporate offices while the upstairs was used as a substation of the Asheville Fire Department.”

Biltmore eventually repurchased the building and currently uses it for office space.

The National Park Service lists more than 2,500 historic properties “that illustrate the heritage of the United States.” National Historic Landmarks include historic buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts, with each landmark representing an outstanding aspect of American history and culture.

Plan your visit to Biltmore today and enjoy the splendor of this National Historic Landmark.

Etched in stone: the façade of Biltmore House

George Vanderbilt and his architect Richard Morris Hunt put careful consideration into each material used to construct Biltmore House. While the underlying walls are brick, the architect chose to add a striking warm stone façade of the house: a layer of limestone from the Hallowell Quarry in Indiana, the country’s richest quarry at the time and the same source for the stone used in Chicago’s 1885 City Hall.

Between February 1891 and February 1892, 287 train cars left Indiana carrying the limestone that would become Biltmore’s façade. Once it came into the depot in Biltmore Village, the stone was transported to the construction site by a narrow-gauge railroad track built specifically for that purpose. The first shipment arrived at the house on March 16, 1891.

Limestone blocks were stored in sheds and protected from the weather until they were ready to be cut and carved. To achieve the texture seen on the house today, the blocks were tooled by hand through a  process called crandalling. Skilled stonecutters cut shallow grooves into the surface of the stone, resulting in a fine, pebble-like surface that looks more elegant and reflects light more dramatically than unaltered limestone.

Once ready, the limestone blocks were lifted into place using wooden derricks powered by hand-drive, geared winches. The first block of stone was put in place in the west garden wall on June 8, 1891.

Although there’s no exact final count, estimates indicate that when the construction was complete, around 60,000 cubic feet of limestone adding up to 5,000 tons had been used in the project. The surface as it’s seen today reflects the beautiful effects of aging in the elements for more than 120 years.

Archival photo of some of the workers and a steam engine that built America's Largest Home

Top: Stonemasons’ shed, 1892, with Biltmore House under construction in the background.

Bottom: Workers and a steam engine on the Esplanade, 1892. Indiana limestone was shipped by rail directly to the Biltmore House building site.