Decorating Biltmore’s most massive mantel
All Things Biltmore • 10/27/16
Written By Jean Sexton
For our grand annual events such as Biltmore Blooms and Christmas at Biltmore, America’s largest home is decorated according to a broad theme. This year’s theme of “Hearth and Home” is beautifully illustrated by the special attention paid to the many fireplaces and mantels throughout Biltmore House during the Christmas season.
From lavish Bohemian-style beading on the fireplace surround in the Breakfast Room to magnificent garlands with elegant gold tassels in the Library, our Floral team has created a breathtaking holiday display to amaze all the guests who visit from early November to early January.
In the Banquet Hall—always a showcase of seasonal spirit during Christmas at Biltmore—the triple fireplaces are decked in grand style. United by a massive limestone mantel, the fireplaces feature a double swag of greenery bursting with bright bows, twinkling lights, and decorative winter boughs. The swags frame Karl Bitter’s detailed carving entitled “The Return from the Hunt” that illustrates a scene from Wagner’s epic Tannhäuser opera. (In the photo above, you’ll note that the heavy garland is decorated in layers to add depth and richness. At the stage seen here, the lights are not in place and the bows will be further refined into rosettes. Floral will also load the greenery with frosty branches and other elements of botanical interest.)
According to Eugenia Halyburton Chandler, daughter of estate employee James A. Halyburton, the Banquet Hall triple fireplaces were an especially important part of the estate’s Christmas festivities during the 1920s and ‘30s. As a child, Eugenia recalled how Cornelia’s husband John Cecil—dressed as Santa Claus—would hide inside one of the triple fireplaces on a ledge above the opening. During the Christmas party for estate employees, Mr. Cecil would pop out and delight all the children in attendance.