Darren's favorite thing

Written By Judy Ross

Posted 03/15/13

Updated 03/15/13

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For Darren Poupore, Chief Curator, trying to select just one thing as his favorite “is like picking your favorite child.”

His job involves researching and interpreting the history of Biltmore, including taking stock of the history of the home’s interiors, the collections, family history, and the history of the estate and land. He is also involved in planning and managing room restorations and development of new tours in Biltmore House.

That level of familiarity only makes it more difficult to identify one item as his personal favorite, but after much thought, he chose the architectural model of Biltmore House.

The model, located on the Fourth Floor in the appropriately-named Architectural Model Room, was commissioned by architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1889. Hunt wanted to show client George Vanderbilt how his home in the North Carolina mountains would appear—a structure inspired by French Renaissance châteaux in the Loire Valley that the two had previously visited.

The detailed model illustrates the steeply pitched roof, dramatic stair tower, and richly ornamented windows and doors that mark Biltmore’s distinctive design.

New York newspapers had speculated about what George Vanderbilt’s home might look like, so it’s not surprising the first public viewing of the model at Hunt’s offices was a media event. “The crowd feasted their eyes on its towers and turrets, its suggestion of magnificent distances and imposing proportions,” according to newspapers of the time.

For years, the model was displayed in Biltmore House’s Basement. In 2005, a large oak cabinet was discovered in storage that perfectly fit the model’s dimensions, indicating that Vanderbilt intended for it to be part of his furnishings. The model and its original base were reunited and moved to its present location, which you can see on the Behind-the-Scenes Rooftop Tour.

So is this an exact model of Biltmore House? For most of us, yes. But not for Darren.

“If you look closely, you can see subtle differences between it and the finished house,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

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