Visit Itinerary: Your Guide to Biltmore

From exploring the grand halls of our historic chateau to savoring our handcrafted wines, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at Biltmore. With so many options to explore, we recommend making the most of your visit by planning to spend two (or more!) full days on Biltmore Estate.

This flexible Biltmore visit itinerary is designed to be easily tailored based on your preferences, reservation times, and our current activities and events, allowing you to focus on having fun on our 8,000-acre estate.

Family of four standing inside the Banquet Hall of Biltmore House. Each person is holding an audio guide wand to their ear.
Discover the history, people, and stories of Biltmore House through our complimentary Audio Guide.

How to Spend Two Full Days at Biltmore

For a leisurely and immersive visit to Biltmore, we recommend spreading your experiences across at least two full days where you will have more time (and energy) to truly soak in all that Biltmore has to offer.

Tip: Select ticket types include free next-day access to explore the estate’s gardens and grounds, visit the Winery, or add on guided experiences. Be sure to check your admission type or overnight package for this perk and plan to come back the next day to take advantage of even more time to explore the estate.

DAY ONE

🏰 Morning: Biltmore House (1.5 to 2 hours)
Step into the grandeur of America’s Largest Home, Biltmore House, while learning about the history, the fine art and furnishings, and of course, the people, behind this Gilded Age masterpiece. With our Biltmore House tours, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the home and stories through our complimentary Audio Guide or take a deep dive into one of our fascinating expert-guided tours based on your interests.

Tip: Advanced reservations are required for all Biltmore House visits. If your reservation is in the afternoon or early evening, you may choose to explore the Gardens or Antler Hill Village first!

🥗 Mid-day: Lunch at an Estate Restaurant (1 to 1.5 hours)
Savor a delightful field-to-table meal at one of Biltmore’s distinctive restaurants, including Stable Café, Cedric’s Tavern, Bistro, or Village Social. If casual grab-and-go or picnic is more your style, be sure to stop by Courtyard Market, the Bake Shop, Biltmore Dairy Bar, or the Smokehouse food truck in Antler Hill Village. Fine dining is available at our four-star Dining Room at The Inn.

Tip: Reservations are highly recommended.

🎟️ Afternoon: Chihuly at Biltmore exhibition (1.5 to 2 hours)
Opening on March 25, 2024, a new experience of the artist’s iconic creations makes its debut at Biltmore Estate. Presented in an intimate gallery setting at Amherst at Deerpark®, Chihuly at Biltmore includes pedestal works, Drawings, and large-scale installations of Chandeliers, Towers, Mille Fiori, and Neon.

Tip: Access is included with select ticket types and guests may visit at their reserved entry time selected during the purchase process. If your reserved entry time is in the morning, you may choose to have your reserved Biltmore House visit in the afternoon.

DAY TWO

🧭 Morning: Guided Experience (1.5 to 2 hours)

Choose from a variety of expert-guided tours and experiences to help make your visit to Biltmore even more memorable! Consider upgrading your visit to include expert-led tours to rarely accessed areas of Biltmore House, guided (or self-guided) outdoor adventures through our historic landscapes, or even a guided wine tasting featuring locally made chocolate pairings.

Tip: Select ticket types and overnight packages include exclusive guided tours of Biltmore House!

🌷 Afternoon: Gardens and Conservatory (1 to 2 hours)
Spend time finding your new favorite flower and indulging your senses with a visit to Biltmore’s historic gardens and glass-ceilinged Conservatory. Admire the meticulously maintained historic greenhouses filled with tropical plants year-round.

Tip: Select ticket types include free next-day access to explore the estate’s gardens and grounds, visit the Winery, or add on guided experiences.

🥂 Late afternoon to evening: Antler Hill Village and Winery (2+ hours)
Stop by our award-winning winery to toast two fun-filled days at Biltmore with one of our handcrafted estate wines! Linger into the evening in Antler Hill Village where you can shop for unique gifts, such as gourmet treats, wines, and the perfect mementos, learn about the Vanderbilt family and their life at home and abroad at The Biltmore Legacy, and savor field-to-table dining.

Tip: If you’re traveling with small children, be sure to visit Pisgah Playground, the Farmyard, and Antler Hill Barn for educational fun for all ages.

A couple walks hand-in-hand as they approach the entrance to Biltmore's Winery.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or want to experience your first wine tasting, be sure to stop by our estate Winery.

How to Spend One Full Day at Biltmore

If you only have one day to explore our historic estate, here’s what we recommend prioritizing for an action-packed way to experience all that is included in your Biltmore admission.

Tip: Select ticket types include free next-day access to explore the estate’s gardens and grounds, visit the Winery, or add on guided experiences. Be sure to check your admission type or overnight package for this perk and plan to come back the next day to take advantage of even more time to explore the estate.

🏰 Morning: Biltmore House (1.5 to 2 hours)
Step into the grandeur of America’s Largest Home, Biltmore House, while learning about the history, the fine art and furnishings, and of course, the people, behind this Gilded Age masterpiece. With our Biltmore House tours, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the home and stories through our complimentary Audio Guide or take a deep dive into one of our fascinating expert-guided tours based on your interests.

Tip: Advanced reservations are required for all Biltmore House visits. If your reservation is in the afternoon or early evening, you may choose to explore the Gardens or Antler Hill Village first!

🌷 Mid to late morning: Gardens and Conservatory (1 to 2 hours)
Find your new favorite flower and indulge your senses with a visit to Biltmore’s historic gardens and glass-ceilinged Conservatory. Admire the meticulously maintained historic greenhouses filled with tropical plants year-round.

Tip: Select ticket types include free next-day access to explore the estate’s gardens and grounds, visit the Winery, or add on guided experiences.

🥗 Mid-day: Lunch at an Estate Restaurant (1 to 1.5 hours)
Savor a delightful field-to-table meal at one of Biltmore’s distinctive restaurants, including Stable Café, Cedric’s Tavern, Bistro, or Village Social. If casual grab-and-go or picnic is more your style, be sure to stop by Courtyard Market, the Bake Shop, Biltmore Dairy Bar, or the Smokehouse food truck in Antler Hill Village. Fine dining is available at our four-star Dining Room at The Inn.

Tip: Reservations are highly recommended.

🎟️ Early afternoon: Chihuly at Biltmore exhibition (1.5 to 2 hours)
Opening on March 25, 2024, a new experience of the artist’s iconic creations makes its debut at Biltmore Estate. Presented in an intimate gallery setting at Amherst at Deerpark®, Chihuly at Biltmore includes pedestal works, Drawings, and large-scale installations of Chandeliers, Towers, Mille Fiori, and Neon.

Tip: Access is included with select ticket types and guests may visit at their reserved entry time selected during the purchase process. If your reserved entry time is in the morning, you may choose to have your reserved Biltmore House visit in the afternoon.

🥂 Late afternoon to evening: Antler Hill Village and Winery (2+ hours)
Stop by our award-winning winery to toast a fun-filled day with one of Biltmore’s handcrafted estate wines! Linger into the evening in Antler Hill Village where you can shop for unique gifts, such as gourmet treats, wines, and the perfect mementos, or learn about the Vanderbilt family and their life at home and abroad at The Biltmore Legacy, and savor field-to-table dining.

Tip: If you’re traveling with small children, be sure to visit Pisgah Playground, the Farmyard, and Antler Hill Barn for educational fun for all ages.

A family enjoys a bike ride during their Biltmore visit. They are paused in front of the Lagoon with a view of Biltmore House in the distance.
Take advantage of all that Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, has to offer for the whole family!

Additional Biltmore Visit-Planning Tips:

Below are a few additional tips for your Biltmore visit itinerary. For even more helpful information to help you prepare for your Biltmore Estate visit, we recommend exploring our Visitor Information site section.

  • Plan Ahead: Don’t wait to purchase your Biltmore admission or special overnight packages to secure your preferred dates and times!
  • Getting Around the Estate: Many guests underestimate the vast size of Biltmore Estate. With miles between points of interest, we recommend allowing your party at least 30 minutes for travel and parking between estate locations. For helpful guidance on estate accessibility, please explore our Help Center.
  • Dress Comfortably: Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers appropriate for the latest weather forecast, especially if you opt to participate in any outdoor activities.
  • Make it a Getaway: With so much to experience, treat yourself and your loved ones to a memorable getaway with an overnight stay on Biltmore Estate. Beginning February 20, 2024, we’re excited to offer a new exclusive Biltmore House admission benefit for overnight guests: House Length of Stay access! Book an overnight package or stay that includes Biltmore House admission to enjoy a daytime visit to Biltmore House with an audio guide at your leisure and as often as you would like during the length of your stay, no reservation necessary!
  • Make the Most of Your Experience: All Biltmore admission types include access to explore Antler Hill Village & Winery and our historic gardens and grounds. Explore ticket types that include access to Biltmore House, an exclusive 90-minute guided tour, Chihuly at Biltmore (March 25, 2024–January 5, 2025), free next-day grounds access, and more! Additional add-on experiences, such as guided outdoor activities, are available as well.
  • Don’t Forget Your Mementos: Find unique gifts and gourmet treats, like award-winning Biltmore Wines or honey from our estate beehives, to bring the Biltmore legacy home with you or shop from the comfort of your home with biltmoreshop.com.
  • Find More Tips: For even more guidance on what activities you might want to consider during your Biltmore visit for family fun, outdoor adventure, or food and wine, be sure to check our Itineraries page.

Before Biltmore Estate: Changing Ownership

The 8,000 acres of present-day Biltmore Estate have a rich history of inhabitants dating back millennia.

In this two-part blog series, we recognize and share a brief history of some of the many people who have called this land home throughout history.

The Alexander Mill, pictured here ca. 1888, was located southwest of Biltmore House. Members of the Alexander family were early settlers in this area and sold hundreds of acres of land to George Vanderbilt.
The Alexander Mill, pictured here ca. 1888, was located southwest of Biltmore House. Members of the Alexander family were early settlers in this area and sold hundreds of acres of land to George Vanderbilt.

Agriculture in the Antebellum Era

The State of North Carolina sold the former Cherokee Nation land included within its boundaries through land grants to white landowners in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Though these parcels varied in size, agriculture was a primary use of land in the Asheville area, though not on the scale of the larger plantations elsewhere in the Southeast.

Censuses show that prior to the Civil War and emancipation in 1865, there were enslaved people working the farms and living among the white landowners on tracts that now comprise Biltmore Estate. Author Wilma A. Dunaway calculated in her book The First American Frontier that in 1860, 41.7% of farmers in the Appalachian counties of North Carolina were using enslaved labor or a combination of enslaved and tenant labor to work their land. That same year, there were a total of 1,933 enslaved people held in all of Buncombe County.

This excerpt from an Asheville Weekly Citizen article dated June 25, 1891, shows the public fascination with George Vanderbilt's acquisition of land.
This excerpt from an Asheville Weekly Citizen article dated June 25, 1891, shows the public fascination with George Vanderbilt’s acquisition of land.

Arrival of George Vanderbilt

In May 1888, 23 years after emancipation, George W. Vanderbilt began purchasing land in the Asheville area through agents. By 1895, he had acquired many parcels totaling around 100,000 acres, which caused quite a buzz in the local community. The landowners that he purchased from included both white and free Black property owners, both of whom by this date had deep roots, if not comparable land ownership histories, in the community.

The future site of Biltmore House is pictured here ca. 1889 after it and the surrounding area was acquired from Boston Jenkins and others.
The future site of Biltmore House is pictured here ca. 1889 after it and the surrounding area was acquired from Boston Jenkins and others.

New Shiloh

Much of the land that makes up the Biltmore House site and nearby areas to the east was previously owned by members of Shiloh. The community of Shiloh consisted of around 28 African-American landowners, with a total population of more than 100 individuals by 1888. Reverend Boston A. Jenkins, one of the trustees of the Shiloh A.M.E. Zion Church, was the former owner of what is today the location of Biltmore House and the adjacent Stable Complex.

The prices paid for most of the Shiloh tracts averaged around $37 per acre, which was more than the fair market value at the time. Prices paid by Vanderbilt ranged from a few cents per acre to $1,000 for the one-acre parcel that included the Shiloh Church. Biltmore Estate acquired a tract of land on which an upgraded church building was relocated and subsequently transferred ownership to Shiloh residents. The surrounding community then became known as “New Shiloh.”

Archival Guide Map of Biltmore Estate, ca. 1896
Archival Guide Map of Biltmore Estate, ca. 1896

Remembering Biltmore’s Residents

While many people are familiar with the lives of George and Edith Vanderbilt, it is vital to Biltmore’s cultural history to acknowledge the many individuals who came before the Vanderbilts and who lived and worked on this land since their arrival, including thousands of tenants and employees.

While there are many oral histories in Biltmore’s archives that speak to the experience of growing up on these grounds in the 20th century, the stories of most of those who came before have unfortunately been lost to time. In lieu of more detailed or personal accounts of individuals and communities who once lived on this land, it is essential that we acknowledge their existence as a way to honor and remember their lives and legacies.

Through environmental stewardship practices, land conservation efforts, and collaborative research projects, Biltmore remains dedicated to being good stewards of this storied land that has been home to so many, including Native Americans, the Shiloh community, and all descendants of the people who came before us.

Further Reading

For information on Native Americans who once called this land their home, read part one of this blog series, Before Biltmore Estate: Early Inhabitants.

Additional resources on this topic:

A Grand Transformation: The Inn on Biltmore Estate

After more than 20 years of award-winning excellence, The Inn on Biltmore Estate® is undergoing an inspiring two-year renovation with a complete redesign of guest corridors, rooms, and suites.

Take a closer look at the exciting renovations of our four-star Inn and discover the design inspirations that celebrate Biltmore’s storied legacy and the intentional design elements of Biltmore House while maximizing guest comfort.

The redesign of The Inn’s guest corridors, rooms, and suites draws inspiration from distinctive architectural details, artwork, and furnishings throughout Biltmore House.

Drawing from America’s Largest Home

The Inn on Biltmore Estate’s redesign was developed in partnership with the acclaimed global design firm, HKS. The aesthetic is a present-day take on classical European style, incorporating distinctive details drawn from the design, intention, and collection of Biltmore House paired with luxurious amenities for today’s guests.

With no detail overlooked, The Inn’s guests will appreciate elements drawn from Biltmore House throughout their stay including bold, nature-inspired wall coverings by William Morris, embossed leathers, quatrefoil designs, carved wood detailing, elegant brass fittings, and artwork recreations from George Vanderbilt’s collection—such as architectural drawings of Biltmore House, animal prints, and floral paintings.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate® has been awarded Forbes Four-Star recognition for 23 consecutive years.

Crafting a Vanderbilt-Inspired Retreat

Blending harmoniously with The Inn’s French chateau-inspired design and drawing from the timeless elegance, eclectic collections, and storied history of Biltmore House, the redesign of the guest rooms and corridors invites you to experience a present-day interpretation of being a welcomed guest of the Vanderbilt family.

Each space will feature design elements such as elegant wall coverings and furnishings, hardwood floors, expansive windows, well-appointed amenities, and spa-style bathrooms to create a private sanctuary for your stay.

In addition to a warm and welcoming appearance, our guest rooms have been redesigned to improve the use of space, combining function with luxury for guest comfort.

Rendering by HKS
Inspired by the Bachelor Wing of Biltmore House, The Inn’s King Rooms feature rich layers of patterns and blue hues reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Rendering by HKS)
HKS design rendering of The Inn's Double Rooms
The Inn’s Double Rooms draw inspiration from Edith Vanderbilt’s Parisian years and feature light shades of blush and ivory. (Rendering by HKS)
HKS design rendering of The Inn's James Suite
Each of The Inn’s light-filled Suites, such as the James Suite rendered here, features a themed design scheme highlighting the Vanderbilt family, distinguished friends of George Vanderbilt, and a love of nature. (Rendering by HKS)

Welcoming Guests During Renovations

The Inn on Biltmore Estate remains open during the renovation, which is set to be completed in two stages from January through March of 2024 and 2025.

The first set of The Inn’s newly renovated rooms is available now for spring stays!

To protect the guest experience for which this destination is known, all of our four-star amenities and services will remain available for our guests and work will occur during daytime hours in unoccupied areas of the hotel. Guests who prefer alternative accommodations are invited to book their estate stay at one of our private Cottages or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®.

“Guests who are familiar with The Inn will be especially delighted by the beautiful updates and thoughtful changes we’ll be making to further enhance your experience every time you join us for a memorable getaway,” says Charles Thompson, Vice President of Resort Experience.

We look forward to sharing this inspired transformation with you.

Before Biltmore Estate: Earliest Inhabitants

The 8,000 acres of present-day Biltmore Estate have a rich history of inhabitants dating back millennia.

In this two-part blog series, we recognize and share a brief history of some of the many people who have called this land home throughout history.

Modern-day viewshed of Biltmore Estate
Modern-day viewshed of Biltmore Estate

Early Native American Roots

George W. Vanderbilt chose to build his home at this site because of the spectacular mountain views and mild climate. Before his time, there were other reasons why people found this location desirable. Due to the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, groups have settled here for almost 10,000 years. There were also two major trade routes that passed through this region, making it a much-used area for people from near and far.

Modern archaeological investigations on Biltmore Estate show evidence of significant Native American occupations. They span many years, dating from the Early Archaic period (ca. 8000 BCE) to the late Pisgah phase (ca. 1500 CE) of the Mississippian period.

One of the most significant Native American sites on the estate is known as the “Biltmore Mound and Village Site.” This earthen mound dates to the Connestee phase of the Middle Woodland period (ca. 200–600 CE), or around 1,400–1,800 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the mound, which has been reduced from several hundred years of plowing, served as the substructure for a series of wooden town or council houses. These buildings were used as the civic and ceremonial centers of the surrounding village and the wider Native American settlements in the area.

Map showing historical land cessions of the Cherokee Nation, made in 1884, in the collection of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map division.
1884 Royce, C. C. Map of the former territorial limits of the Cherokee “Nation of” Indians from the collection of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map division.

Forced Removal of the Cherokee

By the time European settlers began arriving in this region in the late 18th century, this land was officially recognized as Cherokee territory. After the Revolutionary War, pressure on Native populations increased. The Cherokee Nation ceded much of the land that nearly 100 years later would make up Vanderbilt’s 125,000-acre estate to the United States government in the Treaty of Holston and the First Treaty of Tellico in the 1790s. These land cessions were made through coercion and encroachment and rarely represented the wishes of the Cherokee people as a whole.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 granted the government the power to relocate tribes to land west of the Mississippi. Five years later, some members of the Cherokee signed the Treaty of New Echota, which paid them $5 million to leave their ancestral lands in the Southeast. The forced migration to the new Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839 became known as the Trail of Tears. The few who persevered to remain here or return later are the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). This tribe now mainly calls the Qualla Boundary their home, located about 40 miles west of Biltmore.

In 1890, when Biltmore House was under construction, an Extra Census Bulletin from the U. S. Census Office totaled the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina at 1,520 members. Despite their proximity, there seems to have been little interaction between George Vanderbilt or the estate and the EBCI. One exception is the sale of timber by a group of Cherokees to Carl Schenck during his time as Biltmore’s forester. There are also a few known early employees documented as claiming Cherokee ancestry.

This photo taken February 25, 1893, shows progress on Biltmore House and the Walled Garden. The new structures contrast with the residence of the Wright family in the foreground, which was purchased by Vanderbilt in June 1888.
This photo taken February 25, 1893, shows progress on Biltmore House and the Walled Garden. The new structures contrast with the residence of the Wright family in the foreground, which was purchased by Vanderbilt in June 1888.

Remembering Biltmore’s Residents

While many people are familiar with the lives of George and Edith Vanderbilt, it is vital to Biltmore’s cultural history to acknowledge the many individuals who came before the Vanderbilts and who lived and worked on this land since their arrival, including thousands of tenants and employees.

While there are many oral histories in Biltmore’s archives that speak to the experience of growing up on these grounds in the 20th century, the stories of most of those who came before have unfortunately been lost to time. In lieu of more detailed or personal accounts of individuals and communities who once lived on this land, it is essential that we acknowledge their existence as a way to honor and remember their lives and legacies.

Through environmental stewardship practices, land conservation efforts, and collaborative research projects, Biltmore remains dedicated to being good stewards of this storied land that has been home to so many, including Native Americans, the African American Shiloh community, and all descendants of the people who came before us.

Further Reading:

For information on the transition of land ownership leading up to George Vanderbilt, read part two of this blog series, Before Biltmore Estate: Changing Ownership.”

Additional resources on this topic:

8 Great Reasons for a Fall Visit to Biltmore

Biltmore Estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for a fall visit. While there are certainly more than 8 great reasons to plan a fall visit to Biltmore, like the fact that the season is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping” in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite reasons to add Biltmore to your travel list this fall.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
Biltmore House surrounded by gorgeous fall color

1. A prime location in Asheville, NC

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to soaking in all that your fall visit to Biltmore has to offer, we recommend enjoying the natural beauty and history of the surrounding area, including Pisgah National Forest.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
In addition to enjoying our Building Biltmore House exhibition, enhance your visit with a Rooftop Tour that includes spectacular views and stories.

2. Long-range views from the rooftop of America’s Largest Home®

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see from Biltmore’s rooftops! This guest-favorite guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.

Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!
Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!

3. A festive display of fall colors

In addition to the ever-changing hues of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore’s gardens and grounds come alive with vibrant mums, colorful floral displays, and fall foliage that you will not want to miss! Even though we don’t officially kick off our Christmas season until early November, you’ll also have the chance to catch a sneak peek of what our team has in store for the upcoming festivities during your fall visit to Biltmore!

Learn about Biltmore's farming history at The Farmyard!
Learn about Biltmore’s farming history at The Farmyard!

5. Afternoons in Antler Hill Village

All aboard for family fun around our charming, European-inspired Antler Hill Village! What better time of year to learn about Biltmore’s farming legacy at Antler Hill Barn and The Farmyard than during harvest season? Savor the bounty of our fields at our estate restaurants and award-winning Winery. Discover stories of the Vanderbilt family and their travels as you experience your own getaway with your loved ones.

Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Explore our 8,000-acre estate by carriage, horseback, and more.

6. Outdoor adventures for all

A fall visit to Biltmore beckons you to enjoy the crisp air and glorious fall colors of our great outdoors! Go hiking or biking along our nearly 22 miles of paved and unpaved trails on our private, 8,000-acre estate. Admire the scenery along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate. Stop by the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village for a detailed trail map and orientation. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant Carriage Ride or Horseback Trail Ride, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.

7. Vineyard harvest season

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate the harvest season. Savor complimentary tastings of handcrafted wines and learn how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our winemaking process.

Fall color at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Autumn’s beauty is right outside your door with an overnight stay on Biltmore Estate!

8. The ultimate fall getaway

An overnight stay on Biltmore Estate offers the unique experience of waking up with sprawling autumnal beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel, experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn, or truly get away this fall with a stay in one of our private, historic Cottages.  

Plan your getaway and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall visit and year-round with an Annual Pass membership.

George Vanderbilt: An American Renaissance Man

Was George Vanderbilt an American Renaissance man?

“He certainly embodied many of the ideals of this period that flourished during his lifetime, and you can still see the influence of the era at Biltmore today,” said Meghan Forest, Associate Curator.

What was the American Renaissance?

Archival photo of George Vanderbilt and his three cousins in Spain
George Vanderbilt (standing, right) traveling in Spain with his cousin Clarence Barker (seated, left), his niece Maria Louisa Schieffelin (seated, right), and her husband William Jay Schieffelin (standing, left), 1891.

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States experienced an optimistic rebirth that mirrored the European Renaissance of the 17th century.

“The American Renaissance was all about developing a national identity of what it means to be American, and part of that was setting up the United States as the successor to the cultural accomplishments of countries across Europe,” Meghan said.

While the European Renaissance had stirred interest in exploration and experimentation in disciplines such as art, architecture, and science, the American Renaissance awakened a desire to explore classic themes and destinations, drawing inspiration from travels abroad to use at home.

America’s coming of age

The American Renaissance took place in the latter part of the 19th century, marking a renewed confidence in the nation’s outlook with time and attention lavished upon the development of ideas, urbanization, transportation, and new forms of communication.

“It was the American Renaissance that made the Gilded Age possible,” said Meghan. “Innovation in technology, propelled by the intellectual energy of the time, led to industrial growth that gave rise to prominent American families like the Vanderbilts.”

Once such families became wealthy, many contributed to pushing the arts farther than previous generations, so the American Renaissance ushered in the glamorous Gilded Age.

American Renaissance ideals

Photograph of Biltmore House and the Italian Garden, ca. 1910

It was during the confluence of both periods that George Vanderbilt first visited Asheville, North Carolina, and became enamored with the area. He envisioned building his new home there, creating a retreat for friends and family that would also showcase his interest in art and literature and house the treasures he collected during his travels.

He retained the services of Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted—two of the most influential designers of the American Renaissance era—to create Biltmore House and its magnificent gardens and grounds.

World’s Columbian Exposition

(L-R) purchasing agent and agricultural consultant Edward Burnett, architect Richard Morris Hunt, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, George Washington Vanderbilt, and architect Richard Howland Hunt, son of Richard Morris Hunt, 1892

In 1893, four years after construction began at Biltmore, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. With its remarkable “White City” thoughtfully planned by the nation’s leading designers including Hunt and Olmsted, the extraordinary event further elevated American Renaissance ideals such as world exploration, the experience of different cultures, and new technology like electricity.

With Hunt and Olmsted traveling between Asheville and Chicago during this pivotal time to oversee their roles in both massive projects, it was evident that the Columbian Exposition and Vanderbilt’s new estate shared a common thread: both were created in the regal and fashionable Beaux Arts style that favored neoclassical architecture and European-inspired formal gardens.

“In addition to Hunt and Olmsted’s presence there, we know that George Vanderbilt attended the Columbian Exposition, and that he contributed materials from Biltmore’s managed forestry initiative for estate forester Gifford Pinchot to display. The flags above the fireplace in the Biltmore House Banquet Hall represent the countries that participated in the Columbian Exposition,” Meghan said.

Meaningful travel

George Vanderbilt (seated, third from left) with unidentified gondola companions in Venice, circa 1890
George Vanderbilt (seated, third from left) with unidentified gondola companions in Venice, 1887.

Like many other wealthy Americans of the era, George Vanderbilt traveled extensively, and his trips to Europe, India, and Japan helped fuel his appreciation of history, architecture, and culture.

In particular, his sojourns to Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence—the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance—gave George Vanderbilt a passion for all things Italian, leading him to choose Italy as a romantic backdrop for the first six weeks of his and Edith Vanderbilt’s four-month European honeymoon.

Renaissance art and patronage

Nocturne: Battersea, c. 1871-1873, James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Nocturne: Battersea, c. 1871-1873, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, on display in Oak Sitting Room. George Vanderbilt purchased this piece in 1900 from dealer Wunderlich and Company.

In order to succeed during the Italian Renaissance, many artists including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Botticelli sought and accepted the patronage of wealthy individuals and entities such as the church and the government in order to create works of lasting beauty.

During America’s Renaissance, George Vanderbilt was an active patron of the arts, commissioning and collecting pieces from the new Impressionists as well as many other established artists of his day.

Vanderbilt’s support extended beyond the stunning works he purchased; he also provided philanthropic support for certain libraries and art facilities in New York, educational and vocational support in Asheville, and corresponded with several notable artists including Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler

Vanderbilt’s lasting legacy

Italian Renaissance wellhead used as a fountain at Biltmore House
Made of Rosso di Verona marble, this fountainhead was likely originally used to decorate and protect an active well in Venice during the Italian Renaissance, c. 1500. It has become known as the “Hunt fountain” as it is depicted in the John Singer Sargent portrait of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.

The appreciation of man and his capabilities flourished during the American Renaissance, and the nation felt uniquely positioned to take a leading role in the global arena. George Vanderbilt personified the outlook of this important period in our nation’s history, and, as a true American Renaissance man, his contributions continue to stand the test of time.

Today, you can explore lingering expressions of the American Renaissance with a visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Highlights include America’s Largest Home®, still filled with many of the more than 50,000 objects in Biltmore’s collection, plus 75 acres of exquisitely landscaped and preserved formal gardens that gradually give way to meadows, fields, and managed forests surrounding the property.

Inspiration from Italy

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli is just one of the iconic artworks you’ll experience on a grand scale during our Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition at Biltmore

During your next Biltmore visit, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Italian Renaissance Alive, the latest multi-sensory experience created and produced by Grande Experiences and hosted on the grounds of the estate.

In nearby Antler Hill Village, you’ll discover a charming accompaniment to Italian Renaissance Alive through Ciao! From Italy, a large-scale sculptural postcard display featuring quotes and details from the Vanderbilts’ Italian travels.

Plan your Biltmore visit now

Two farm-style cottages with cows in a pasture
Visit like a Vanderbilt when you choose one of our private, historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

Surround yourself with the architecture, travel, and art of the American Renaissance, and make your time with us even more unforgettable with an overnight retreat at one of our thoughtfully designed properties: Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, The Inn on Biltmore Estate®, or our historic private Cottages on Biltmore Estate™.

Off The Beaten Path: Hidden Gems of Biltmore

Discover the “hidden gems” of Biltmore Estate–special spots that may be off the beaten path, but are worth exploring during your next visit to this welcoming destination in Asheville, NC.

“Our guests tend to be familiar with Biltmore House and its historic gardens, but there are many hidden gems around the property that you might miss if you’re not looking for them,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.

The Vista and statue of Diana

The statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House is a hidden gem in the landscape.
Statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House

At the top of the long, sloping Vista overlooking Biltmore House, you’ll find a marble statue of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, under a wooden arbor. Accompanied by one of her dogs, she gazes out over the landscape.

“The statue is beautiful all by itself,” said Bill, “but when you combine it with a perfect view of Biltmore House framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond it, it’s a spectacular place to have a picnic or watch the sunset.”

Three women enjoy a picnic with a view of Biltmore House
The sloping lawn below the statue of Diana offers picnickers a perfect view of Biltmore House!

Tip: The area behind the statue of Diana is a popular site for weddings and group events, so it may be tented, especially during summer and fall.

The Bass Pond is one of Biltmore’s hidden gems

Boat House at the Bass Pond is a hidden gem of Biltmore
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

The Bass Pond is located at the end of Biltmore’s formal gardens, and though it’s a bit of a walk, the end result is well worth it.

“Keep following the path through the Azalea Garden and you’ll come out at the Bass Pond,” Bill said. “There’s a rustic boathouse on the shore and a bridge over the waterfall at the far end. It’s a beautiful spot for seasonal color and birdwatching.”

Canadian geese on an island at the Bass Pond
The Bass Pond offers wonderful opportunities to view the wilder side of the estate!

Tip: The return trip to Biltmore House is uphill, so take your time and set your own pace. If you don’t have time to walk to the Bass Pond, you can drive to it and use one of the convenient pullouts along the way to park your car and admire this hidden gem designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect.

Explore the Conservatory

Two women in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory in the Walled Garden is a hidden gem that’s worth exploring in every season.

Created as both an indoor garden filled with tropical treasures and a production greenhouse for nurturing plants, the Conservatory forms the back wall of the formal English-style Walled Garden.

“The design of Biltmore’s Conservatory was a collaboration between Biltmore’s architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted,” Bill said. “And we still maintain the original intent to showcase exotic specimens like orchids and palms, and we also grow some of the plants we use around the estate, like a portion of our Christmas poinsettias.”

Pink Ball Tree flowers
There are hidden gems within the Conservatory, like the fragrant flowers of this Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallichii)

Tip: There is always something blooming in the Conservatory, but orchids reach their peak during the cooler winter months.

Linger by the Lagoon

View of the west side of Biltmore House from the Lagoon
The Lagoon offers a striking reflection of the west side of Biltmore House.

Just below the 250-acre Deer Park portion of the estate, Frederick Law Olmsted created the Lagoon as a peaceful, natural water feature that also serves to reflect the west facade of Biltmore House.

“The Lagoon is raised above the level of the French Broad River that flanks it, which helps keep the water at a more consistent level,” Bill noted. “It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a picnic or watch for wildlife and waterfowl in every season. Many guests drive right by it on their way to Antler Hill Village and don’t realize they’ve missed another of Biltmore’s hidden gems.”

Tip: If you’re looking for a flat, easy trail with lovely views, park at Antler Hill Village and bike or walk the paved path all the way to the Lagoon and back.

Learn more about hiking and biking on Biltmore Estate and download our Trail Map on our Activities page.

More hidden gems of Biltmore Estate:

Hidden Gem: Antler Hill Village. This European-inspired village celebrates our estate agricultural legacy with learning experiences, field-to-table dining, outdoor adventure, unique shops and restaurants, and our award-winning Winery.
Hidden gem: In late summer months, sunflowers line the path from Antler Hill Village to the Lagoon.
Hidden gems: meet friendly farm animals at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village.
Hidden gems: discover beautiful views along our network of hiking and biking trails.
Hidden gems: discover colorful koi in the Italian Garden pools
Hidden gems: explore a world of outdoor sculpture at Biltmore, like this cherub in the Italian Garden.
Hidden gems: a winged dragon carved into the base of a stone fountain near the Front Door of Biltmore House.
Hidden gems: the booths inside Stable Café are the original horse stalls from the estate’s stable complex!
Hidden gems: three large bronze turtle fountains at the base of the Rampe Douce were designed to handle the overflow from the estate’s reservoir system.

While we invite all our guests to enjoy finding some of these often-overlooked areas during your next visit, you may want to consider the benefits of purchasing a Biltmore Annual Pass. As a Passholder, you’ll receive exclusive benefits such as FREE unlimited visits for the next 12 months to discover your own hidden gems in every season!

Featured image: The Conservatory is a hidden gem of Biltmore that offers a tropical escape any time of year!

Plan A Romantic Date or Getaway at Biltmore

When you’re longing for time away with your beloved, Biltmore serves up the ultimate romantic escape whether you’re seeking a private retreat for renewed connections or fun-filled adventures in the great outdoors.

Follow our expert tips and inspiration for planning your next romantic getaway to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Nothing is more romantic than a private carriage ride with views of Biltmore House along the way.
Enjoy the great outdoors together on your next romantic date or getaway at Biltmore!
Choose wellness activities such as yoga and meditation to help reconnect with each other during your romantic getaway at Biltmore.
Enjoy outdoor activities such as bike riding together at Biltmore.

Explore the estate together

Create new memories by enjoying the outdoors together while exploring the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain estate.

“I can’t think of anything much more romantic than a private carriage ride for two,” said Heather Brannan, Outdoor Adventure Center Supervisor, “but Biltmore offers so many activities that you’re sure to find something that delights both of you.”

  • Carriage and trail rides
    • Enjoy Biltmore’s property from a different perspective with a carriage or trail ride. Choose guided or private options to suit your style and abilities.
  • Biking and hiking
    • Delight in Frederick Law Olmsted’s distinctive landscape design as you explore the trails at Biltmore. Walk, hike, rent a bike, or pedal your own to get a firsthand view of the estate.
  • Wellness activities
    • Indulge in some self-care as a couple with thoughtful options that quiet your mind and refresh your spirits, such as Morning Yoga or our deliciously relaxing Chocolate Meditation.
Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind opportunity to interact with one of these majestic birds of prey.
In addition to learning a new skill, your Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore will take you to areas of the estate many guests never see.

Adventure awaits

Team up with your significant other for an adventure that may take you out of your comfort zone, but will also bring you closer together as you learn new skills with the help of our expert guides.

  • Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore
    • Go off-roading in luxury when you engage in a Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore. Book a one- or two-hour session and receive expert training to maneuver on unfamiliar terrain.
    • Extend the adventure with a full-day’s excursion that includes a mid-day break for a private picnic lunch–now that’s romantic! 
  • Falconry
    • Let romance take flight as you experience the ancient art of falconry together. Learn about these fascinating birds of prey as well as hawks and barn owls, and receive expert training on handling and interacting with these captivating raptors.
Rise and shine at Biltmore when you stay overnight on the property at one of our distinctive hotels or private cottages.
Make a morning reservation for Biltmore House and feel like a guest of the Vanderbilts.
Enjoy Biltmore House from a new perspective with our breathtaking Rooftop Tour.
With so much to see and do at Biltmore during your getaway, stay overnight at The Inn (above), Village Hotel (below), or one of our private historic cottages to ensure you have time to experience it all.

Rise and shine

Beth Poslusny, Vice President of Destination Guest Experience, suggests making it a truly romantic getaway with accommodations and special packages at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® or one of our private historic cottages.

“You’ll have the unique opportunity to awaken on the estate,” said Beth, “and there’s no better way to start a special day together!”

Make your date or getaway more romantic with the addition of a Behind-the-Scenes Guided Tour:

  • The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour offers enthralling stories of domestic staff while exploring their lives and the areas where they worked.
  • Our Rooftop Tour offers a bird’s eye view of the house, with fascinating little-known details about the construction and design of the 175,000-square-foot home. 
Enjoy our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting featuring premium Biltmore wines and artisan chocolate truffles from French Broad Chocolates. 📷 by @chelseaericasmith & @thewineshutter
Biltmore’s Winery offers wonderful ways to savor and share all year round, including the new Chandelier by Chihuly.
Whether you’re in the Tasting Room or the Wine Bar, our knowledgeable wine experts are on hand to guide your selections.
Sometimes the smallest details are the most romantic, like enjoying ice cream or hot chocolate together!

Table for two

As part of your romantic date or getaway, make time to wine and dine on the estate with your special someone.

Winery
Surprise your significant other by booking a Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting and learn why the flavors are a match made in heaven–just like the two of you!

Round out the romance with the following options:

  • Reserve time for a complimentary tasting where you’ll learn about Biltmore’s winemaking heritage.
  • Unwind at the indoor-outdoor Wine Bar to enjoy Biltmore wines with charcuterie, cheese, and chocolates, then stock up on favorite vintages and accessories at the Wine Shop.
  • Rekindle your memories at home with a membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club®.

Delicious Dining
“From fine dining to casual, quick-service options and sweet treats, Biltmore offers fabulous flavors to suit every taste,” said Estate Executive Chef Mark DeMarco. “Something as simple as sipping hot chocolate from The Creamery while you stroll around Antler Hill Village can make any date more memorable.”

For the ultimate romantic dinner, Chef DeMarco suggests reserving a table for two in The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate–both the restaurant and The Inn have earned a prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star rating for world-class service and gracious hospitality.

Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.
Plan a special romantic activity at Biltmore, or just enjoy time well spent together.
Cheers to your next romantic date or getaway at Biltmore!
Each season offers beautiful and romantic reasons to plan a date at Biltmore, like a stroll through the Azalea Garden during spring.

Plan your next romantic date or getaway now

 No matter what activities light your fire, the variety of things to do at Biltmore will provide the perfect spark for your next romantic date or getaway.

Featured image: This couple’s romantic date included a selfie in front of Biltmore House!

Our Holiday Gingerbread House Was Built To Last

Biltmore’s holiday gingerbread house was built to last–mostly because it’s not really made from real gingerbread!

Although the fanciful replica of America’s Largest Home® appears to be constructed from freshly baked gingerbread that’s been decorated with swirls of snowy icing and old-fashioned candy details, it’s actually an incredibly detailed work of art from our friends at Applied Imagination.

Gingerbread house version of Biltmore House
Once finished, the faux gingerbread version of Biltmore House had to be carefully transported from Applied Imagination’s workshop in Alexandria, KY, to Asheville, NC

These talented artists specialize in handcrafting architectural models, sculptures, and garden railways out of natural materials. They created all of our Biltmore Gardens Railway displays and Ciao! From Italy Sculptural Postcards in Antler Hill Village now through February 19, 2024.

In past years, our talented Biltmore Estate pastry chefs created real confectionary replicas of Biltmore House, but it was always a monumental task that took weeks to complete and needed a lot of space to assemble. It was also challenging to transport the finished gingerbread house to the Main Kitchen without losing some wreaths and roof tiles along the way!

A firm foundation

Wooden model of Biltmore House
Jason Pleva puts finishing touches on his scale model of Biltmore House

In 2017, Jason Pleva, a member of Biltmore’s carpentry team, used the plans of Biltmore House to build a wooden scale model that could be used as a base for a gingerbread house. It was a good solution that shaved off a lot of construction time, but unfortunately, our chefs found that decorative icing doesn’t cling to wood as well as it does to gingerbread.

Because we’d had so many wonderful experiences with Applied Imagination and the amazing structures they’d created for our Biltmore Gardens Railway displays, we asked if the artists could tackle this Christmas conundrum for us, using Jason’s model as a base for a gingerbread house that would be as long lasting as it was beautiful.

In September 2021, Stephanie Winters, Creative Director/Lead Sculptor, and Ava Roberts, Assistant Sculptor, of Applied Imagination finished their version of America’s Largest Home®. The results were breathtaking, and our “gingerbread house” now takes place of pride in our Main Kitchen during Christmas at Biltmore.

Fun facts from the gingerbread construction project:

  • Time to complete: 1200 hours over the course of five months
  • Measurements: 78½” wide x 32” deep x 32” high (including spires)

Building materials

Detail of gingerbread house version of Biltmore House
Applied Imagination created wonderful details, right down to the beloved marble lions at the Front Door of Biltmore House
  • Gingerbread Cookie Base
    • Tile grout mixed with Mod Podge® Matte and sponged onto 3/16” Gatorboard shapes
  • Wavy Shingled Roof
    • Wooden fan handles covered with tile grout and Mod Podge
  • Windows and Mullions
    • Window panes created with modeling dowel rods and architectural modeling materials (bass wood).
    • Windows created with poured casting resin sprinkled with clear glitter.
    • Textured windows (exterior staircase) have the addition of large, granular, clear beads mixed with resin.
    • Windows backed with gold shimmer paper to resemble the effect of being lit within.
  • Spires on Roof, Staircase Facade, Window Tops, Railing Tops
    • Antique glass headpins; large and small twist shapes in dark green, light green, purple, and pale ice; top spires painted antique gold
  • Piped Icing Shapes
    • All piped icing that makes up the majority of detail on the Biltmore House model was created completely by hand with Liquid Sculpey® (polymer clay). Shapes were formed using latex cake-decorating molds.
  • Snow Blanket
    • Spackling paste to create a base for sculpting and building shapes
    • Clear glass diamond glitter was sprinkled on wet paste to give snow drifts and mounds the look of fresh powder
  • Trees and Bushes
    • Dry floral design cones and spheres, further sculpted by hand to resemble pine tree shapes. Finished with paint and landscape modeling greenery.
  • Biltmore Lions
    • Paper clay and white acrylic paint with a small amount of gold tinted glitter/mica.
  • Garland
    • Thin and flexible English faux pine rope
    • Faux miniature boxwood/bay leaf roping
    • Feathery evergreen (lions’ necks)
    • Floral accents: faux red and gold berries; red velvet and gold-backed ribbon hand-fashioned into miniature bows
Gingerbread house in the Main Kitchen at Biltmore
The gingerbread house takes place of pride in the Main Kitchen during Christmas at Biltmore

Candy decorations

  • Faux Candy Decorations
    • Resin gumdrops and gummies (edge and facade details)
    • Sculpey clay chocolate swirls (base of the spires)
    • Chocolate shavings, glass glitter (soot/embers in chimney tops, base of lions, base of spires, front facade details)
    • Resin chocolate pretzels (fancy railings)
    • Resin chocolate chips (spires inset)
    • Small sugared gum drops, glass/plastic headpins (main detail throughout in purple, orange, yellow, red, green)
    • Variety of candy colored balls of various sizes (beads and headpins)
    • Sculpey clay swirled balls (small detail elements)
  • Cut Cinnamon Sticks
    • Facade details, small railings, wrought iron base for spires
  • Peppermint Sticks
    • Small (vintage paper hand-rolled on dowel rods)
    • Large sticks on main facade (decorative paper on dowel rods)
    • Peppermint balls on main facade (vintage spun cotton and thread)
  • Gumballs, Gingerballs, Round Bulb Ornaments
    • Green and red faux floral berries, gold- and silver-painted floral berries, painted beads

Celebrate Christmas at Biltmore

The Banquet Hall Tree: A Christmas at Biltmore Tradition
The Banquet Hall Christmas Tree is a favorite holiday tradition

To see this marvelous piece of eye candy displayed in the Main Kitchen, make reservations for a holiday visit during our annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration, November 3, 2023–January 7, 2024, in Asheville, NC.

Asheville Artist Reproduces Biltmore Sculpture

Asheville artist Alex Irvine has reproduced a Biltmore sculpture, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the wonderful results!

Biltmore sculpture removed for preservation

Known as Woman Reading with Dog, this charming depiction of a young woman reading a book with her canine companion at her knees was originally installed on the Library Terrace at Biltmore House.

Asheville artist reproduces Biltmore sculpture
Artist Alex Irvine worked from the original Biltmore sculpture in his Asheville-area studio to create two new versions for display at the estate.

Like many of the other sculptures found throughout Biltmore’s historic gardens, Woman Reading with Dog was French in origin. It was produced by Gossin Frères of Paris, a firm well known for their ornamental terra cotta fabrications.

After many years of exposure to the elements, Biltmore’s original sculpture had become unstable due to heavy deterioration, and was removed from the Library Terrace for preservation purposes.

Asheville artist commissioned to create new Biltmore sculpture

“We commissioned a replica from Asheville artist Alex Irvine after he worked with Biltmore’s conservation team on a project that involved recreating a missing arm and floral garland for a terra cotta sculpture located on the South Terrace of Biltmore House,” said Kara Warren, Preventive Conservation Specialist. “We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such an exceptionally skilled ceramic artist who is located just miles from Biltmore Estate.”

To reproduce Woman Reading with Dog, Alex employed a multi-step process similar to the one used to create the original sculpture. He began his work by hand building the figure out of clay, scaling it 9% larger than the original to account for shrinkage during the drying and firing of the clay. The entire commission took more than two years to complete.

Original terra cotta sculpture (left); new copy (right) being hand-built around a metal armature that will help support the weight of the clay.
(L-R) The original sculpture and the new clay sculpture that will be used in the plaster mold of the final version. The arms are cast and fired separately.
The original sculpture was created by Gossin Frères of Paris. The re-creation is a perfect copy that includes the firm’s mark.
The mold for the new sculpture included 50 different sections, like this piece for one of the hands.
The sculpture’s arms were cast and fired separately from the rest of the figure and attached with steel pins the day after the sculpture was installed on the Library Terrace.
The newly re-created “Woman Reading with Dog” sculpture out of the kiln after being fired.
A close up of the sculpture reveals her serene expression and the beautiful detailing of her face and features.
Kara Warren, Preventive Conservation Specialist, discusses the sculpture with artist Alex Irvine in his studio. Credit: The Biltmore Company

The next step was the creation of a 50-part plaster mold of the replicated statue. The mold was assembled on the floor of the kiln in stages to allow access for handfuls of clay to be pressed into the mold to produce a hollow cast.

The legs inside the garment and internal structure were hand-built with slabs of clay. Once cast, the surface details were refined again in preparation for firing.

The clay statue was slowly dried over six months and then fired very slowly to 2100ºF in a one-of-a-kind electric kiln built for this commission.

Installation of the new sculpture

The reproduction of Woman Reading with Dog was installed on the Library Terrace, in the same location as the original.

The replica of “Woman Reading with Dog” was carefully crated in Alex Irvine’s studio for its trip to the Library Terrace at Biltmore House. Her arms were attached with steel pins after installation was complete.
Alex Irvine, Kara Warren, and Trip Hudgins, Engineering Operations Manager, assist with the sculpture’s installation on the Library Terrace.
Asheville artist Alex Irvine oversees the prepping of the original limestone plinth on which the sculpture will be installed.
Delicate details like the dog’s tail could easily break during installation, so the artist and members of our Museum Services team handle the project with great care.
The final step of the process was to attach the sculpture’s arms with steel pins once the main installation was complete.
From this angle, you can see some of the wonderful details of the sculpture’s hand and arm, draped fabric, and even the dog’s teeth!

See preservation in action at Biltmore

Biltmore sculpture on the Library Terrace
“Woman Reading with Dog” installed on the Library Terrace of Biltmore House

In addition to viewing Woman Reading with Dog on the Library Terrace of Biltmore House, you can also view a second reproduction of this sculpture that was made as part of the process. The sculpture will be displayed in a niche in the back courtyard of Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®.