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John's favorite things

More From Biltmore 03/08/13

Written By Judy Ross

While Biltmore House is amazing in its scale and beauty, it’s also incredible to notice the amount of detail carried through all parts of the house. Today’s “favorite thing” centers on a small detail that reminds us how George Vanderbilt was so involved in the design of his home.

John Overbey has spent a good bit of time in Biltmore House as part of his security responsibilities. Now supervisor of the Lodge Gate and Admissions Gate, John has worked for more than a decade at Biltmore. Among the grand size and décor of the Banquet Hall, there are two inscriptions that interest him—and that many guests may never even notice!

He is most intrigued by the inscriptions carved into the limestone on the left and right sides of the Organ Loft in the Banquet Hall. 

“On the left is ‘Wagner,’ and on the right is ‘Gounod,’” John said. “These refer to Richard Wagner and Charles Gounod, two of Mr. Vanderbilt’s favorite composers.”Wagner, a German composer known for his operas, wrote the 19th century work Tannhauser. It was apparently one of Mr. Vanderbilt’s favorites, as a carved oak frieze in the Organ Loft features characters from the opera.

Gounod was a French composer famous for his operas Roméo et Juliette and Faust, one of the most frequently staged operas of all time. His 1869 work Marche Pontificale eventually became the official national anthem of Vatican City.

“To me, Biltmore House has a romantic, grand appeal that feels like a Wagner opera, especially in areas like the Banquet Hall and the view off the Loggia,” John said. “It’s obvious how much Mr. Vanderbilt loved music. It’s something we can relate to today, and I think it makes him more approachable.”

nscriptions carved into the limestone on the left and right sides of the Organ Loft in the Banquet Hall

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