Biltmore’s Winery: A Tradition of Evolution

Today, Biltmore’s Winery is the most visited in the country. We produce about 150,000 cases of wine annually, available on the estate and also distributed across the country, and our wines have been honored with numerous awards and medals.

Exciting things happening at the ever-evolving Winery include the release of new Biltmore Wines, a newly expanded Tasting Room, and new tours featuring the Winery’s production facility and wine tastings straight out of the barrel—all just in time for harvest season.

As we celebrate these developments, let’s take a moment to reflect on how we got here. And as it turns out, the Winery’s tradition of evolution is even older than the Winery itself.

The Days of Biltmore Dairy

Before it became the Winery in Antler Hill Village, the century-old structure was the main dairy barn for Biltmore Dairy. Designed by Richard Howland Hunt, son of Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt, and farm manager George Weston, the barn accommodated 140 cows for one of the largest dairy operations in the Southeast.

Biltmore Dairy milkman and delivery truck, 1930-1940s

Biltmore Dairy was the most successful of all of Biltmore’s enterprises, providing the estate with a financial cushion that would see it through George Vanderbilt’s death, two world wars, the Great Depression, and beyond.

After Biltmore House opened to the public in 1930, guests could view the milking rooms and processing areas in the dairy barn, sample the milk, and buy ice cream. Biltmore Dairy was so successful and its products were so well-known that it became an attraction in its own right for estate visitors.

It was around this time that the dairy’s delivery wagons were replaced with trucks and the fleet grew from 30 vehicles to over 400 in just 15 years.

Unfortunately, the market gradually shifted and, like many other smaller, family-run businesses at the time, Biltmore Dairy became unable to compete with larger commercial operations. With the advent of chain grocery stores came a cheaper, more convenient option for consumers to purchase milk, eventually making door-to-door dairy delivery obsolete. In April of 1985, Biltmore Dairy was sold to Pet, Inc.

William A.V. Cecil, early 1980s

A New Drink, A New Day

Even before Biltmore Dairy was sold, George Vanderbilt’s grandson and Biltmore’s owner, William A.V. Cecil, was asking: “What’s more appropriate for a French château than vineyards and a winery?”

In the early 1970s, he planted the first vines on the property, just below Biltmore House, and bottled the inaugural vintage in the Conservatory basement.

Less than pleased with the product, Mr. Cecil traveled to France in search of expertise. He returned with Philippe Jourdain, Biltmore’s first Winemaster. Together, the pair moved the vineyards to their current location on the west side of the estate and established Biltmore Estate Wine Company.

Bill Cecil at the renovation site, early 1980s

The conversion of the dairy barn into a state-of-the-art winery began in 1983. Mr. Cecil’s son and Biltmore’s current CEO, Bill Cecil, assumed the leadership role in overseeing the renovation.

In 1985, the Winery opened to the public in what Mr. Cecil called, “the most historic event since my grandfather had opened his estate to his family on Christmas Day ninety years earlier.”

The Evolution Continues

French native Bernard Delille joined Biltmore as assistant winemaker in 1986—making this year his 30th anniversary with Biltmore Estate Wine Company. Bernard was promoted to Winemaster and Vice President of the Winery when Philippe retired in 1995.

The Winery at Antler Hill Village

Sharon Fenchak joined the team a few years later. Her research in grape-growing technology and wine production methods in combination with Bernard’s traditional and artistic perspective proved to be a perfect combination for the Winery. Sales have continued to grow and retail distribution has since expanded.

Indeed, the evolution continues, while at the same time, throughout the dynamic history of the Winery, Biltmore’s winemaking philosophy holds: “To keep each wine true to varietal character, food-friendly, and consistent from vintage to vintage.” Visit the Winery in Antler Hill Village and taste for yourself.

Images
Feature: Aerial view of Biltmore Dairy, circa 1925
Top Right: Biltmore Dairy milkman and delivery truck, 
Top Left: William A.V. Cecil, early 1980s
Right: Bill Cecil at the renovation site, early 1980s
Left: The Winery at Antler Hill Village

Centennial Celebrations: A Landmark, A Legacy

This year, we join the National Park Service in celebrating its centennial anniversary.Sustainable Logging on Biltmore Estate

With an emphasis on strict preservation, the National Park Service focuses on protecting natural and cultural resources “unimpaired for future generations,” including many historic properties that illustrate the nation’s heritage. Biltmore has been recognized as a designated National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service since 1963.

The Birthplace of Forestry

While Biltmore House as a structure was certainly ahead of its time and holds within its walls a vast collection of art and antiques, the landmark designation is not actually for the house, but for the estate itself as the birthplace of forestry

The original description of the estate’s National Historic Landmark designation recognizes Biltmore forest manager Gifford Pinchot, who later served as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, for his management plan that improved the forest and returned a profit to the Vanderbilts. The plan was the first of its kind and served as a national model.

The description also recognizes Dr. Carl A. Schenck, Pinchot’s successor, for establishing the Biltmore Forest School, also the first of its kind. In its 15 years of existence, the school graduated more than 300 of the nation’s first professionally-trained foresters.

Dr. Carl Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900

A National Forest is Born

The nearly 87,000 acres of the estate that became Pisgah National Forest are also mentioned in the designation description. After George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, his widow, Edith Vanderbilt, sold the land to the federal government for just under $5 per acre. However, Pisgah Forest wasn’t established as a National Forest until 1916—making this year its centennial anniversary as well.

Within Pisgah National Forest is the Cradle of Forestry, a National Historic Site located on the grounds of Biltmore Forest School's Pink Beds campus, where classes were held during the summer. The site, set aside to commemorate the beginning of forestry conservation and the lasting contributions of George Vanderbilt and his forest managers, spans about 6,500 acres of former estate property.

In a public ceremony in 1920, Pisgah National Forest was dedicated to the memory of George Vanderbilt, noting the land as “the earliest example of forestry on a large scale on private lands in America.” The ceremony was attended by Edith and daughter Cornelia Vanderbilt as well as N.C. Governor Locke Craig and George S. Powell, secretary of the Appalachian Park Association. 

Pisgah National Forest Dedication Ceremony, 1920

The Legacy Continues

From the very beginning, Pinchot as well as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstedwho convinced George Vanderbilt to adopt forestry as his primary business, were determined to make Biltmore a model of forestry for the country.

Reflecting back on the beginning of his employment, Pinchot later wrote: “Biltmore could be made to prove what America did not yet understand, that trees could be cut and the forest preserved at one and the same. I was eager, confident, and happy as a clam at high tide.”*

Pinchot's prediction was correct and his hope for Biltmore's significant role was fulfilled.

In 2005, Biltmore successfully expanded its National Historic Landmark designation to include themes of architecture, landscape architecture, and social history, now encompassing the contributions of architect Richard Morris Hunt, Olmsted, estate superintendent Chauncey Beadle, and the significance of Biltmore Dairy.

Today, Biltmore continues to be managed by its original guiding principles. With the centennials of the National Park Service and Pisgah National Forest upon us, there has never been a better time to enjoy the estate’s 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty. Join us for some of the great outdoor activities Biltmore has to offer. We have much to celebrate.

Images
Feature: Biltmore Forest School students in the woods, 1900**
Top Right: Logging on the estate, late 1800s-early 1900s
Left: Carl A. Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900**
Right: Pisgah National Forest dedication ceremony, 1920

*Source: Pinchot, Gifford. Breaking New Ground. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1947.

**Image courtesy of National Forests of North Carolina Historic Photographs, D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, NC. 

Coming home to Biltmore

The fate of George Vanderbilt’s visionary estate featuring Biltmore House set like a jewel amidst a breathtaking landscape might have been very different if Mr. Vanderbilt’s grandson William A.V. Cecil had not returned to Asheville to take on the management of America’s largest home and all that it entailed.

The Cecils open Biltmore House to the public in 1930

The white elephant

After Biltmore House was opened for public viewing in 1930, it became a well-known attraction in the southeast. By the late 50s, however, the numbers of visitors were dwindling and a decision had to be made: sell the property and turn what many considered a “white elephant” into a state or national historic trust—or find a way to preserve the estate and put it back on its feet financially.

Against most well-meaning advice, Mr. Cecil decided to leave his successful career with Chase-Manhattan Bank in Washington, DC and return to his birthplace to see what he could make of it. According to Howard Covington’s book Lady on the Hill,

“Cecil brought a fresh and appreciative perspective to Biltmore. He saw the chateau not with the eye of a curator hired to present and explain a historic property but as a devoted family member who was proud of what his grandfather had left for him and others to enjoy. Like his father before him, William believed that visitors should be made to feel like guests rather than ticket holders and should be welcomed warmly and treated with courtesy.”

Recovery begins

Mr. Cecil continues to experiment with new projectsTo attract the numbers of guests needed to make the venture successful, Mr. Cecil had to become a one-man marketing department to promote Biltmore House and Gardens to the public. He was more than equal to the challenge, and in the summer of 1960, Biltmore welcomed its one-millionth visitor since tickets were first made available 30 years earlier. The growth was important for the success of Biltmore, because the dairy operation that had sustained the estate for many years was becoming less profitable in the face of new regulations and increased competition.
 

The legacy continues

Mr. Cecil with wine barrels

Now nearly six decades later, Biltmore welcomes more than one million guests annually, and the estate is a glowing tribute to George Vanderbilt’s original vision, the groundbreaking work of his grandson William Cecil, and the Cecil family’s continued commitment to their mission of preserving Biltmore as a privately owned, profitable, working estate. The property includes Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division.

 

Featured image: William A.V. Cecil in front of Biltmore House, circa 1980s

Right: Cornelia and John Cecil open Biltmore House to the public in 1930

Left: William Cecil works discusses the possibilities of raising prawns at Biltmore, circa 1980s

Right:  William Cecil in the winery he envisioned, circa 1985

Packages of Pressed Flowers

Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, George and Edith Vanderbilt’s only child, was born in August 1900. And with her arrival, Biltmore Superintendent Chauncey Beadle soon found himself nurturing the young girl with the same tenderness and care with which he nurtured the flora of the estate.

A Little Girl's Garden

Before Cornelia was born, Beadle and Edith shared a mutual love of flowers. While travelling, Edith often wrote Beadle about the plants she had seen and admired, asking if they could be planted at Biltmore. Beadle would write Edith, asking her to name new varieties of flowers that he had developed.Chauncey Beadle, 1906

After Cornelia was born, Beadle helped the young girl to cultivate that love as well. The pair spent much time together, exploring the outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty. A trained botanist and horticulturalist, Beadle personally assisted Cornelia in planting and caring for her own flower garden.

While the exact location of Cornelia’s garden is unknown, it was most likely near one of the borders of the Walled Garden, if not closer to the house, according to Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian.

Blooms Abroad

When Cornelia was travelling with her parents, Beadle wrote letters detailing her garden’s growth. He would also often include pressed flowers so that she could enjoy the colorful blooms. Here are excerpts from the charming letters Beadle wrote to Cornelia just before her sixth and seventh birthdays:

Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906August 17, 1906 – To Cornelia in Paris, France: “I promised you just as you were leaving Biltmore to send you some pressed flowers from your garden, that you may see some of the results of the seeds we planted last spring. Almost all of the seeds grew and thrived and, in particular, I wish you could have seen some large double sunflowers as large as breakfast plates … They were so large that I could not press them and I fear that before your return they will have faded and gone. The little package which I am sending you, however, contains some of the smaller flowers that were easily pressed and, perhaps, before your home-coming, I can send you another lot so that you may be able to enjoy the garden even though you were in Europe…”

August 14, 1907 – To Cornelia at Point D' Acadie, the Vanderbilt’s home in Bar Harbor, Maine: “I have sent you by mail a package containing a number of pressed flowers from your garden which you painstakingly planted and watered. Very many of the plants have made a splendid showing… In the package you will find handsome Larkspurs of various shades and mottled colors… and several other flowers that were in blossom…. You will find the names of the flowers written on the inside of the sheets of paper which contain them, and I am very sure that you will soon know them all by name and will be able to recognize them wherever you may see them growing…”

A Continued Correspondence

George Vanderbilt passed away unexpectedly in 1914 and Edith began spending more time in Washington, DC, where Cornelia attended The Madeira School. Beadle continued corresponding with the pair through the years, bringing Edith up-to-date on estate business and describing the gardens in great detail so both ladies could enjoy them even when they were far from home.

Thanks to their mutual fondness of flowers, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt remained connected with Beadle through the superintendent’s retirement and beyond. Experience the beautiful blooms that were the basis for this bond, flowers lovely enough to be pressed, packaged, and shared. Visit Biltmore House & Gardens and see what’s blooming now.

Images
Featured: Portrait of Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906
Right: Chauncey Beadle, 1906
Left: Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906

July Travels of George Vanderbilt

Many of us often think of late summer—July, in particular—as an ideal time for a getaway. Perhaps it’s an effect of the solstice, but there’s just something about the year being halfway over that inspires a longing to travel, to escape from the everyday.

George Vanderbilt was an extensive traveler, to say the least. He visited more than 25 countries, crossing the Atlantic Ocean a total of 60 times by the end of his life. But more specifically, he was a champion of the July getaway, often spending the entire month abroad.

England and FrancePortrait of George Vanderbilt, 1878


George’s wanderlust can be traced back to his youth. He spent much of his childhood visiting museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Europe with his family. In 1879, at the age of 16, George accompanied his father on a three-month-long summer tour of England and France. The pair visited Versailles, the Louvre, Napoleon’s tomb, the National Gallery in London, Windsor Castle, and the graves of philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau.

He wrote in his July 1879 travel journal:

“July 4th 1879 Friday. Went out to Rouen [France]… It is said to be one of the quaintest towns in the world and is renowned for its medieval architecture. The cathedral is beautiful as also St. Maclou, we also went to the Museum of Antiquities and went to a little restaurant to get a little breakfast. But by far the finest sight is St. Ouen a magnificent cathedral of perfect medieval architecture.”

Spain


Years later, in 1891, George spent two months—including much of July—exploring Spain with three of his cousins. They first arrived in Gibraltar and then travelled to the capital city of Madrid; Seville, a town known for its enormous cathedral which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus; and Ronda, an old Moorish hilltop town. When the trip came to its end, instead of returning home, George stayed at the Grand Hotel in London until August.

George and Edith Vanderbilt's honeymoon villa, 1898

Italy


July was also the first full month of George and Edith Vanderbilt’s four-month-long honeymoon. Following their Parisian wedding in June 1898, the Vanderbilts stayed near Stresa in the Lake District of Italy. A peaceful Italian villa served as the couple’s home base as they explored the area’s spectacular Alpine scenery and took short trips to visit some of Europe’s finest museums and galleries.


George wrote to artist James McNeill Whistler, July 10, 1898: 

“[We] have spent a delightful fortnight in the villa on Lake Maggiore and return there from here via the beautiful Stelvio pass, so that nature fills out & continues the interest of this little tour. It was Mrs Vanderbilts first visit to both Venice & Vienna & it has been an added pleasure of course to see her delight and interest and the way the pictures really took possession of her…”*

Legacy of Wanderlust


While extensive travel like this was rare 120 years ago—especially before the advent of the airplane—it is still unusual today. July may inspire a longing to escape from the everyday, but for many of us, escapes of that nature are simply not feasible. With our fast-paced lifestyles, it can be difficult to find the time.

Luckily, you can experience the legacy of George Vanderbilt and his lifelong wanderlust with an overnight stay at Biltmore. From the iconic French château to the Italian Garden, George’s time spent abroad influenced many elements of the estate. Satisfy your longing to travel this July with a Biltmore getaway, the perfect European-inspired escape. Go ahead, indulge. Plan your visit today.

Images
Featured: George Vanderbilt's travel journal, 1879 

Right: Portrait of George Vanderbilt, 1878
Left: George and Edith Vanderbilt's honeymooon villa, 1898

*Source: Letters of J. McN. Whistler 1855-1903; A.M. Whistler, 1829-1881.

6 Biltmore Rooms Named After Artists

Vanderbilt was an avid print collector who purchased more than 1,400 prints in his lifetime. Not only did he have personal friendships with leading artists of the era, he even named some of the rooms in his home after artists where their work was on display. Below are just a few of the rooms inside Biltmore House with names inspired by artists and how guests can see these on their tour.

Claude Room

This room was named after one of George Vanderbilt’s favorite artists, the French painter Claude Lorrain. One of the masters of 17th-century landscape painting, Claude presented nature as harmonious, serene, and often majestic. The prints on this room’s walls are after Claude Lorrain’s paintings. (See it on the winter tour rotation.)

Earlom Room

This room was named for the English engraver Richard Earlom. Vanderbilt purchased most of the prints in this room and in his collection from H. Wunderlich and Company in New York. (See it on the Upstairs-Downstairs tour.)

Raphael Room

Highly detailed engravings after the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio d’Urbino add interest to the room’s understated décor. (See it on the Upstairs-Downstairs tour.)

Morland Room

Named for the English painter George Morland, this bedroom attracts attention with exotic Indian-style fabrics. The bed draperies are exact reproductions of hand-painted originals that adorned the Italian villa where George and Edith Vanderbilt honeymooned in 1898. (See it on the summer tour rotation.)

Van Dyck Room

Decorated in the Colonial revival style of the late 19th century, this room features prints after paintings by the 17th-century artist Anthony Van Dyck. (See it on the summer tour rotation.)

Watson Room

This room was named for the engraver James Watson. A close-up of his 1769 mezzotint after a painting by Francis Cotesand is the top photo in this blog. Fun fact: This room is the only bedroom with twin beds. (See it on the summer tour rotation.)

Looking Back at the Flood of 1916

While many of the moments we celebrate in estate history are joyous, some of the most critical dates are solemn occasions that served as a turning point for Biltmore. 

One such event was the Asheville flood of July 16, 1916. With waters that reached historic levels far beyond the banks of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers, it was a natural disaster that caused widespread damage across Asheville and much of Western North Carolina and affected the future of the estate.1916 Flood View

On the centennial anniversary of the flood, we reflect and discover how one event changed the future of Biltmore forever. Above: Swannanoa River cutting off Biltmore from Asheville, 1916. North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina.

The End of an Era


Prior to the flood of 1916, Biltmore’s Nursery was one of the top nurseries in North America. Founded in 1889, it was established to supply the wide variety of trees, shrubs, and other ornamental plants that Frederick Law Olmsted required to complete the estate’s industrious landscape design.

It grew to be a beacon within the horticultural world as it opened to public buyers and supplied customers across the United States with unsurpassed variety, quantity, and quality of ornamental plants. The nursery also contributed to George Vanderbilt’s vision of a self-sustaining estate, and provided income at a time when the estate was still under construction.

Uncontrollable Changes


On March 6, 1914, the estate experienced a crushing loss with the untimely death of George Vanderbilt. Left with a large estate to manage, Mrs. Vanderbilt was already considering downsizing various estate operations, including the nursery. She was also pondering the donation of the Biltmore Herbarium, a subsidiary of the nursery, to a small local educational institution.Biltmore Greenhouses

However, before decisions could be made and implemented, the flood of 1916 provided the last word. Above: Biltmore Greenhouses, 1916. Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.

The ruin from the flood was so wide scale that it closed the doors of the nursery’s large-scale commercial operation, destroyed three-fourths of the Biltmore Herbarium, and ruined many rare botanical volumes that were part of the estate’s botanical library. Lodge Gate in 1916 flood

Chauncey Beadle, estate superintendent and head of the Biltmore Nursery wrote after the flood that “We are heavy losers, something like 85% of our nursery stock having been destroyed.” Above: Biltmore's Lodge Gate, 1916. North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina.Field in 1916 flood

Above: Flooded field, 1916. Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.

A Legacy Withstanding the Test of Time


While the flood’s damage was permanent, the legacy of the Biltmore Nursery was timeless. The specimens grown at Biltmore before the flood found homes on the estate’s grounds and outside of Biltmore’s gates thanks to the nursery’s commercial success. 

In particular, the North Carolina Governor’s mansion in Raleigh received a donation of various shrubs and plants in 1898 for the beautification of the Executive Mansion Square. Then in 1908, a shipment of roses and sequoia trees were delivered to Dr. Booker T. Washington at what is now Tuskegee University.

Various plants and trees were shipped across the country and overseas before the flood, and continue to thrive at botanic gardens, public parks, universities, and private landscapes. Beadle and Edith Vanderbilt arranged for the surviving parts of the Biltmore Herbarium and botanical library to be salvaged and donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

While the flood may have ended the business side of the nursery, the landscapes at Biltmore and beyond serve as a living testament to the vision and business acumen of Frederick Law Olmsted, Chauncey Beadle, and George Vanderbilt.

The Story Continues with a Look Back


Discover more about the flood of 1916 with a free symposium at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College on Saturday, July 16. The panel discussion, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., features Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian.

Main Photo

Greenhouse damaged by flood waters, 1916. North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina.

A Great Camp in the Great Outdoors

In the late 1800s, it was fashionable for families like the Vanderbilts to have a getaway “great camp” or lodge in the Adirondacks so that they could enjoy outdoor activities such as  fishing, hunting, and boating. With Biltmore House complete, George Vanderbilt was able to focus on creating a similar getaway lodge so that family and friends could enjoy the beautiful, remote wilderness that comprised much of his 125,000-acre estate in Western North Carolina. Photo above of Buckspring Lodge, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.

Buckspring porch

Richard Howland Hunt (son of Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt) designed such a camp structure completed in 1896 and named Buckspring Lodge. Located on Mount Pisgah about 20 miles from Biltmore, the lodge was made from chestnut, yellow poplar, and hemlock logs and consisted of three connected buildings; a main lodge, kitchen, and dining building. Later, an assistant ranger's house was built in 1900, with a stable and additional four-room house added in 1903. Perched on the side of the mountain, Buckspring Lodge afforded guests spectacular views of the pristine wilderness. Photo above, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.

Buckspring fireplace
In today’s terms, Buckspring Lodge would probably be described as “rustic elegant” in design. Inside, there were wood-burning fireplaces. Eventually the lodge was equipped with electricity, telephone service, indoor plumbing, and hot water, all powered by onsite sources. Outside, there was an orchard, tennis and croquet courts, garden, and beehives. In the summers, sheep grazed on the open land at this high elevation, and a Jersey cow was sometimes kept here when the Vanderbilts were in residence. Photo above, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.

Buckspring exterior

In 1910, a major construction project was undertaken to build a road from Stoney Fork in the Hominy Valley west of Asheville to Buckspring Lodge so it could be accessed by motor vehicle. Mr. Vanderbilt purchased the old Stoney Fork log school and church building in 1911, and had it rebuilt at the lodge for a guest house that later became known as the “Honeymoon Cottage.” In 1912, a log cabin knowns as the ranger's house was erected with hewn logs from three cabins located on Vanderbilt property elsewhere. A full-time ranger and caretaker lived at Buckspring, and a cook and other staff came to stay while the family was at the lodge.

After George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, Edith sold around 90,000 acres of land to the U.S. government for the creation of Pisgah National Forest. But she retained Buckspring Lodge and nearly 500 acres surrounding it, and the family continued to enjoy this retreat for decades. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was being developed in the 1950s, Buckspring Lodge and its surrounding property was sold to the state of North Carolina and then transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior to be incorporated in the Parkway property.

Restoration of the lodge proved to be too costly for the Park Service, and it was razed in 1961. Robert C. (Bob) Allen procured logs and materials from the Ranger's Cabin and erected a log cabin in Asheville's Royal Pines neighborhood in the early 1960s. The Allen family, represented by Ernest H. Allen and his sons, Bob and William E. (Bill) Allen, were  longtime estate residents. Ernest and Bill both served as farm managers for decades and Bob drove a truck for Biltmore Dairy. Bob and his wife Phyllis lived in the Royal Pines cabine until his death in 1990. Upon Phyllis’ passing in 2014, Bob’s children Dick and Susie Allen inherited this historic cabin and contributed it, plus many furnishings, to Biltmore in memory of the Allen family.

 

Outdoor Adventure CenterIn 2015, Biltmore dismantled the cabin and carefully reassembled it piece-by-piece on the estate. It now serves as the Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village, where guests can arrange outdoor activities including fly-fishing lessons, trail rides, Segway rides, and much more. Stop by to see this cherished part of Biltmore’s history, and plan your own adventures in our 8,000-acre backyard.

Celebrate Biltmore’s Historic Trees

On a beautiful summer day, it's a great time to walk through Biltmore’s forests to honor the estate’s timeless commitment to the legacy of the land. And if you can’t be there in person, a virtual walk will do!

A Brief History of Arboriculture at Biltmore


When George Vanderbilt purchased the acreage that would become Biltmore, much of the land was cleared and vacant of trees due to activity from the previous settlers. Biltmore’s landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, advised George Vanderbilt to make most of his estate a forest.

According to Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian, “Olmsted suggested, as a general rule, the establishment and maintenance of an unbroken forest from the north to the south and from the east to the west, which he intended as a model for the country.”

Dawn Redwood

Trees to Look for During Your Visit

During your visit this summer, see some of these original trees and other varieties planted through the years.

  • Dawn Redwood: Find this North Carolina state champion tree in the Azalea Garden at Biltmore. These trees were believed to be extinct until 1941 when living specimens were discovered in China. Historians believe Biltmore’s trees are grown from original wild seeds collected in China in 1944. Several of these magnificent trees are also located in the triangular space directly across from the admissions booth. “Another grove is located along the road after you exit the house and gardens area and past the Bass Pond waterfall on the left,” says Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian. (Above)

 

  • Persian Parrotia: No matter when you visit, this tree is sure to delight with its natural beauty. Native to Iran and cultivated in 1840, this tree boasts tiny flowers with purplish-crimson stamens in the spring, brilliant fall foliage, and exfoliating bark in gray, green, or cream in the winter. Find it between the Conservatory and Gardener’s Cottage. Bill notes that Biltmore’s Parrotia, “Ranks among the top specimens of its kind in the world and is a North Carolina state champion specimen tree.” (Below)

Persian Parrotia

  • Two-Winged Silverbell: This generally small growing treasure is usually found in the coastal Southeast, but Biltmore is home to the North Carolina state champion and national champion tree. Visit in late April or early May to enjoy the pure white bell-shaped flowers on this multi-stemmed tree. Look for it between the Conservatory and Gardener’s Cottage. (Below)

Two winged silverbell

  • BBlue Atlas Cedarlue Atlas Cedar: Gaze upon this tree to admire one of the only four species of “true cedars” growing in the world from the Mediterranean and Himalayan regions. Found along the main path in the Azalea Garden, this tree is believed to have been planted in the early 1930s. It is a North Carolina state champion specimen tree. (Right)
     
  • Bigleaf Magnolia: Early June is an excellent time to pause and admire this tree in the Azalea Garden. Find it near the circle with the Chauncey Beadle monument, and pause to enjoy the enormous cream flowers that open in summer. “One of the two specimens growing in the central part of the Azalea Garden at Biltmore is currently listed as both a state and national champion tree,” notes Bill.
     
  • Katsuratree: Alongside the Bigleaf Magnolia is another North Carolina champion specimen tree, which is one of the largest and best in the country. In the spring, look for new leaves that are reddish purple. In the summer, the foliage turns a delightful bluish green. While the leaves change to varying shades of yellow and orange in the fall, the true delight is the cinnamon-like fragrance the leave release as they shed. (Bottom photo)
     
  • Golden-rain Tree: Beautiful yellow flowers in late spring and inflated seed pods reminiscent of Chinese lanterns make this unusual tree a show-stopper. A native to China and Korea, this specimen was on Olmsted’s original planting list from 1892. Wander through the Shrub Garden to find this North Carolina state champion specimen tree. (Top photo)Katsura Tree

Buckspring Lodge: A Summer Retreat for Sheep

After George Vanderbilt officially opened Biltmore House to his friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895, you might imagine that the building projects he envisioned for his grand estate were finished.

That was not the case, however; the following year, Mr. Vanderbilt created a rustic, Adirondack-style retreat on the slopes of Mt. Pisgah. Located about 20 miles from Biltmore House, Buckspring Lodge was a world away from the elegantly landscaped estate in terms of elevation and terrain.

An Elevated View

It was fashionable at that time for wealthy families to create summer retreats in the mountains or by the seashore, often spending the entire season away from their main residence.

George Vanderbilt had already acquired a cottage in Bar Harbor, Maine, which he enlarged and renamed Pointe d’Acadie, but he spent less time there after making Biltmore his permanent home, choosing instead to enjoy the cool heights and splendid views of the Blue Ridge Mountains

George and Edith Vanderbilt sitting together on the steps at Buckspring Lodge
George and Edith Vanderbilt sitting together on the steps at Buckspring Lodge

Family, Friends & Biltmore Sheep

Exterior of Buckspring Lodge

In addition to the main Buckspring Lodge building, which was designed by Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed under the direction of his son Richard Howland Hunt, there was separate kitchen structure, a smaller guest cottage, and a stable that would eventually become a garage. Edith Vanderbilt added a garden and a tennis court to the site, and guests could hike and hunt to their hearts’ content. 

A glimpse of the interior of Buckspring Lodge

Family and friends weren’t the only visitors, however—a flock of Biltmore sheep spent time there, as well, providing effective “grounds maintenance” in return for their room and board. The sheep kept the grass short and added a pleasant pastoral note to the ambience of the Vanderbilt’s private mountain retreat. 

Restored ranger’s cabin in Antler Hill Village

New Life for an Old Cabin

After George Vanderbilt‘s death in 1914, Edith Vanderbilt sold most of the estate’s Pisgah Forest land to the federal government to become a national forest. Her grandson George Cecil inherited the property, eventually selling it to allow unobstructed construction of the Mount Pisgah section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A ranger’s cabin, constructed in 1912 of decades-old logs salvaged from early settler’s cabins on Vanderbilt’s Pisgah Forest tract, was removed from the site at that time and rebuilt in Asheville as a family home.

In 2015, this historic cabin and some of its furnishings were donated to Biltmore. Now restored in Antler Hill Village, the cabin serves as the headquarters for our Outdoor Adventure Center and Land Rover Experience.