Housekeeping in America’s Largest Home®
More From Biltmore 01/25/18
Written By Jean Sexton
What happens in America’s Largest Home® after we un-deck our massive halls from the splendor of Christmas at Biltmore?
Our housekeeping team “sweeps into action,” giving Biltmore House the kind of deep cleaning that can’t be accomplished during the busy holiday season.
“It’s my favorite time of year,” said Connie Dey, housekeeping supervisor. “We jump right into some of our biggest cleaning projects, from the Basement all the way to Fourth Floor.”
Lights, dusters, action!
There are plenty of smaller jobs, too, and for these, Connie relies on her flashlight that busts dust in all its hiding places, a soft goat hair brush, and a Swiffer-style duster created in-house to meet Museum Services standards. Armed with these trusty tools, Connie and her team can carefully clean even the most delicate pieces in the collection.
“It takes several weeks of special training to learn how to care for the objects in Biltmore House,” Connie said, “and even then, it can be a little scary to start handling things on your own.”
Housekeeping by the numbers
According to Connie, it takes three members of her seven-person team approximately four days to clean the books and shelves in the Library. We did the math: it works out to be about 833 books—plus shelf space—per person, per day!
“We’re used to working at a fast pace and not getting in the guests’ way during their visit,” said Connie, “but lots of people are fascinated by the process, and they want to watch us work.”
While hard hats aren’t the most common sight in Biltmore House, some cleaning projects require extra safety precautions. To reach the Grand Staircase chandelier or the arched doorways of the Banquet Hall, Engineering Services puts industrial scaffolding in place to help Housekeeping reach new heights in cleaning.
“It’s a strange feeling to have that enormous chandelier move slightly as you vacuum the cups around the lights,” Connie said, “but we have work to do, so we keep going. I can only imagine how difficult some of these tasks must have been for past housekeepers, without today’s safety controls and technology to make it faster and easier.”
Part of our preservation story
Although Connie has been a member of Housekeeping for nine years, she says she never gets tired of the work.
“My team takes great pride in cleaning Biltmore House,” Connie explained. “We’re not only keeping it clean, but we’re also looking at things constantly to detect possible problems, and that makes us an important part of Biltmore’s preservation story.”
Plan your Biltmore getaway
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the estate, and you may catch Housekeeping “brushing up” on their deep cleaning projects!
Featured image: Connie Dey uses a soft brush to dust an intricate clock in the Salon
First image: Connie cradles a lamp base close to her body
Second image: Freshly-dusted books and shelves in the Library
Third image: Mildred Florence of Housekeeping at work in the Banquet Hall
Fourth image: Connie checks to make sure no dust has settled on the linens in the Breakfast Room