Cedric: Biltmore’s Top Dog
All Things Biltmore • 02/16/15
Written By Joanne O'Sullivan
Like the fictional Lord Grantham on the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey®, George Vanderbilt often had a beloved canine companion at his side. The first was Cedric, a St. Bernard who took up residence on the estate not long after the house opened in 1895.
At that time, the St. Bernard was a relatively new breed in the U.S., having been first bred in Switzerland in the 1850s. Cedric came to Biltmore from Bar Harbor, Maine, the location of George Vanderbilt’s summer home Pointe d’Acadie.
Correspondence from guests staying at Biltmore indicates that Cedric had free reign over the first floor. He could often be found sunning on the Loggia or lounging in the Billiard Room or Library; he’s also seen in a number of pictures taken outdoors during Biltmore’s early days.
In addition to a nanny, close family friends Dr. Battle and nursery superintendent Chauncey Beadle, Cedric was the only attendant at a private family ceremony during which George and Edith oversaw the planting a tree to commemorate the birth of their daughter Cornelia in 1900.
By 1901, there was a whole family of St. Bernards living at Biltmore, including a mother, father and three puppies all “big and splendid,” according to Joseph Hodges Choate, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and a guest on the estate in 1901.
George Vanderbilt gifted St. Bernards (believed to have been sired by Cedric) to friends and family. In 1902, George’s friend the Right Rev. William Croswell Doane—First Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Albany, New York—lost his faithful St. Bernard named Cluny, so George gave him a puppy named Balder. A few years later, George and Edith also gave a St. Bernard puppy to their nephew John Nicholas Brown, who named the dog Cedric.
Sadly, Cedric passed away in late 1902, prompting an anonymous Biltmore guest to pen the following ode:
Cedric Sonetto in Rondo
Nov 4, 1902
The Moses of your canine race
On Pisgah’s sapphire heights you strayed
Among her pink beds low you laid
Upon the high and lovely place;
You down to die where there is space,
Amid cathedral pine arrayed
With plumed crest and views that braid
Their columned stems with waving grace.
For your great body to lie down
Most fully housed, walk spreading skies
On beds of spicy needles, brown,
Fragrant; couched in majesty,
Rapt in deep solitude, a woven gown
Of shrouded mystery.
Today, you can see a cast-bronze statue of Cornelia Vanderbilt and Cedric by the late Asheville artist Vadim Bora outside Cedric’s eponymous tavern in Antler Hill Village. Inside, be sure to check out the many photographs of Cedric as well the display of his impressive leather collar embellished with an engraved silver plate.
Top: Cedric sunning on the Loggia
Left: George Vanderbilt and Cedric, circa 1900
Right: Cedric on the Front Lawn