Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius

The wonders of Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius await you at Biltmore now through February 20, 2023.

Five centuries after his death, Leonardo da Vinci still captivates our imagination with his remarkable discoveries and creations.

Learn more about the man, the mysteries, and his masterpieces with this immersive exhibition created and produced by Grande Experiences and hosted on the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

An Enigmatic Life

Details of Da Vinci's Madonna with Carnation painting
The Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius exhibition includes stunning projections of his artwork like the details of “Madonna with Carnation” show here.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Leonardo, son of ser Piero from Vinci) was born out of wedlock in Vinci, Italy, 20 miles outside of Florence.

He would change the world, becoming an artist, scientist, inventor, musician, philosopher, and more. Beyond his astonishing body of work, however, existed a fascinating person who remains enigmatic to this day. Despite the more than 7,000 pages of sketches, notes, and lists he left behind, the personal life of Leonardo da Vinci is shadowed by mystery.  

An Artistic Legend

Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, painted in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy

Da Vinci’s artistic talents first emerged in childhood. After receiving a basic education in reading, writing, and mathematics, at 14 years old he began an apprenticeship with the famous Florentine painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio. By the age of 20, Da Vinci joined other notable artists in the guild of Saint Luke.

A constant tinkerer, Da Vinci experimented with different mediums and techniques such as using his palm and fingers along with a brush to create three-dimensional effects. Prolific even into middle age, in his mid-forties to early fifties Da Vinci painted Last Supper and Mona Lisa. The former became one of the most reproduced works of art in the world; the latter, one of the most iconic. 

A Scientific Trailblazer

A model of a tank created by Leonardo da Vinci
Replicas of the machine models created by Leonardo da Vinci are included in the exhibit at Biltmore, “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius.” Now on display at Amherst at Deerpark. Photo credit: The Biltmore Company.

Insatiably inquisitive, there seemed to be no area of study in which Da Vinci did not maintain an interest. Skilled in left-brain talents as well as right, the artist pursued projects in botany, geology, architecture, aviation, physics, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, zoology, anatomy, and more.

Centuries ahead of their time and written in precise detail, Da Vinci’s sketches depict inventions such as the helicopter, an armored tank, a calculator, a lifebelt, and various bridge designs.

Replica of Da Vinci's paddle boat design
This replica of a paddle boat design by Da Vincie is included in the immersive, multi-sensory exhibition hosted at Biltmore now through February 20, 2023.

His notes contain theoretical suppositions describing plate tectonics, hydrodynamics, and industrial machinery. Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man, based upon the work of the Roman architect Vitruvius, bridged art and science by illustrating the proportions of the human body with blueprint-like clarity.

Leonardo da Vinci and George Vanderbilt: Kindred Spirits

Immersive aspects of the Da Vinci exhibition hosted at Biltmore
Now through February 20, 2023, immerse yourself in the wonders of “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius”, created and produced by Grande Experiences and hosted on the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

One could say that George Vanderbilt and Leonardo da Vinci would have enjoyed each other’s company had they not been born more than 400 years apart.

Both possessed a love of learning, boundless curiosity, a dedication to art, a commitment to innovation–even a shared love of wine, with Da Vinci accepting a vineyard near Milan as payment for his masterpiece Last Supper, and Vanderbilt known as a thoughtful collector of wine.

Now, the two remarkable men come together at Biltmore during the one-of-a-kind immersive, multi-sensory experience, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, the third installment in the well-received Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.

Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius

Leonardo da Vinci -- 500 Years of Genius
Guests enjoying aspects of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, hosted at Biltmore.

Set to a Renaissance-inspired soundtrack of classical music, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 years of Genius will envelop you in more than 3,000 images of the Italian polymath’s masterpieces, inventions, notes, sketches, and personal reflections.

You’ll also see replicas of some of Da Vinci’s amazing machines and models. Don’t miss this must-see exhibition hosted at Biltmore’s Amherst at Deerpark® venue now–February 20, 2023.

Plan a Blue Ridge Mountain Escape at Biltmore!

Couple hiking in Biltmore's 8,000-acre backyard
Plan your Blue Ridge Mountain escape at Biltmore today!

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Biltmore and extend your visit with a reservation at one of our hotels or private historic cottages. In addition to discovering Da Vinci, you can enhance your stay with a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, a wide range of outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and so much more!


Featured image: Images of Mona Lisa as part of Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius

Plan a Friends’ Getaway at Biltmore

Ready to plan your next friends’ getaway? Look no further than Biltmore Estate, located in Asheville, North Carolina!

View of Biltmore House from French Board River in Asheville, NC
With 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty to explore, there’s no better destination for your next friend’s getaway than Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

“Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want uninterrupted time to reconnect with someone special, anytime is a perfect time to plan a friends’ getaway with us,” said Beth Poslusny, General Manager of Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®.

“We’ve hosted girls’ getaways, guys’ getaways, bachelor and bachelorette parties, retreats for sororities and fraternities, reunions with high school classmates, and long weekends with multi-generational family members reconnecting, and everything in between,” Beth said. “There is never a shortage of activities to help you enjoy your time together here at Biltmore!”

Stay at Biltmore for your friends’ getaway

The Inn and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate
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.

A friends’ gathering just wouldn’t be the same without late-night reminiscing and storytelling. Book a room at any of Biltmore’s distinctive lodging properties so the good times can continue!

Visit Tip: Try Village Hotel for convenient access to Antler Hill Village & Winery, The Inn on Biltmore Estate® for a luxurious, four-star experience, and for groups of four to five friends or family members, consider one of our private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate™—the ultimate way to experience our 8,000 acres like a guest of the Vanderbilts.

Sample some of these friends’ getaway ideas!

Gather your group together for a round of drinks at Cedric’s Tavern® in Antler Hill Village.
There’s no better place to enjoy a girls’ getaway your way than at Biltmore in Asheville, NC!
Include relaxing activities like yoga in your friends’ getaway at Biltmore.
There’s no better time for a getaway than Christmas at Biltmore–especially when you include a reservation for a Candlelight Christmas Evenings visit!
Located at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, the Spa Biltmore is available to all overnight guests–and we won’t tell if you schedule some self care in the midst of your friends’ getaway!
Bring everyone along for a view of Biltmore House from the comfort of horse-drawn surrey.

Sip award-winning vino

Girlfriends' getaway with wine
Cheers to any girls’ getaway or gathering of friends that includes Biltmore wines!

Wake up your taste buds with your best buds during a visit to Biltmore’s state-of-the-art Winery. Reserve a complimentary wine tasting in our Tasting Room, then linger at the adjacent Wine Bar to sip something special together—perhaps one of our handcrafted sparkling wines.

Before you go, visit the Wine Shop to stock up on the vintages that pleased your palate most so you can enjoy your favorites at home.

Visit Tip: If you missed snagging the perfect wine, find it online at biltmoreshop.com, or consider joining the Vanderbilt Wine Club® so you’ll receive seasonal shipments all year round to remind you of your fabulous friends’ getaway!

Capture moments that matter

Mother and daughter enjoy a friends' getaway moment in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore
Biltmore is the perfect place for a friends’ getaway, a family reunion, or a long mother-and-daughter weekend to reconnect with each other in a beautiful setting.

Don’t forget to capture photos together for a special way to document the smiles that only a special getaway together can bring.

Picturesque locations abound at Biltmore for the most casual or frame-worthy images. Have a Biltmore team member snap a picture for you, or use Frederick Law Olmsted’s majestic landscape designs as a breathtaking backdrop.

Our historic gardens and grounds offer stunning photo opportunities in every season, and the Conservatory features year-round tropical treasures under its grand glass roof.

Sunflowers blooming at Biiltmore
Enjoy a later-summer getaway with a sea of sunflowers blooming at Biltmore!

Visit Tip: To capture memorable pics with your besties in late summer and early fall, look for swathes of glorious golden sunflowers along the road to Antler Hill Village.

Plan your friends’ getaway at Biltmore today!

A group of men and women enjoy a friends' getaway at Biltmore
Gather your friends together at Biltmore and celebrate time well spent at this magnificent mountain destination!

Uninterrupted escapes with the special people in your life lead to laughter-filled hours, story-worthy scenarios, and closer relationships. There is no better location than Biltmore when you’re ready to hit the “pause” button on life and make meaningful memories with those you love most.

“Check Biltmore’s website for special offers such as the Morning at Biltmore package at Village Hotel,” Beth said. “It comes with a fascinating pre-opening tour of Biltmore House, plus admission to Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, which is the final experience in our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.”

Visit Tip: Planning to spend multiple days at the estate? Consider becoming a Biltmore Annual Passholder to take advantage of the exclusive benefits we reserve just for Passholders, like bringing your children 16 and younger with you for free, plus special discounts on shopping, dining, activities, and overnight stays at our two hotels!

Scene from Leonardo da Vinci -- 500 Years of Genius at Biltmore
Now through February 20, 2023, include a visit to Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, created and produced by Grande Experiences, in your friend’s getaway plans at Biltmore.

With everything there is to see and do at Biltmore, we invite you to make a long weekend of your friends’ getaway so you’ll have plenty of time to explore, discover, and reconnect here in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Visit Tip: Whether you’re driving or flying into the Asheville area, we generally enjoy good weather most of the year with colorful springs, warm summers, cool autumns, and mild winters, so don’t hesitate to plan your friends’ getaway at Biltmore Estate in any season!

Biltmore’s Bass Pond: Re-Creating the Missing Island

Did you know Biltmore’s Bass Pond originally had two islands within it? One of the islands (or “islets,” as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted referred to them) mysteriously disappeared over the years. However, our horticulture team recently worked to re-create this feature as part of our mission to preserve the estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

About the Bass Pond’s Design

Biltmore’s Bass Pond—referred to as “the lake” in some archival documents—was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape plan for the estate, created more than 125 years ago. Designed to provide still water for the Vanderbilts and their family and friends to go boating, the six-acre body of water was created by damming a nearby creek and enlarging its millpond.

Archival bass pond image
Archival image of the Bass Pond with both original islands visible, ca. 1895.

Olmsted wrote about the Bass Pond islands in a January 29, 1891 letter to George Vanderbilt:

“There were four reasons for designing the islets near the north margin of the lake: first, the effect of them would be to enlarge the apparent extent of the water… and there would at least be more effect of intricacy and mystery; second, [because of] the steepness of the ground almost everywhere at our proposed water-line on the main shore… the islands, being low and flat, are intended to serve was a disguise and relief to this circumstance; third, the islands will save cost of construction; fourth, they are needed as breeding places for shy waterside birds, many of which will only make their nests in the seclusion of thickets apparently inaccessible.”

Team re-creating the new island
Our team sourced the clay-based soil for the new island from another estate location.

Re-Creating the Missing Island

During the early months of 2022, our horticulture team began the preliminary work to install the missing island. First, they drained the Bass Pond so that the water level was below the height of the new island. Then, the pond was dredged and our crew disposed of the old sediment and material. Finally, our team brought in clay-based soil from another location on the estate to re-create the island.

Transporting plants in the bass pond
Transporting the selection of plants to the newly established island was a project in and of itself.

Landscaping of the island took place in May 2022. Six members of our horticulture team transported iris, Cliftonia, and Juncus to the island via several rowboat trips. The selection of plant material was in line with Olmsted’s original intention for the islands’ purpose. Juncus, for example, is a water-loving grass that offers habitat for wildlife, in particular the shy waterside birds referenced by Olmsted in his letter to George Vanderbilt.

New Bass Pond island almost complete
Our team intentionally selected plants that would remain true to Olmsted’s original vision.

On your next trip to the estate, we invite you to linger along the shores of the Bass Pond. Consider strolling there via the Azalea Garden Path after your Biltmore House visit. Marvel at its historic boat house and waterfall. And of course, watch the newly re-created island for those shy waterside birds—just as Olmsted intended.

Moving into America’s Largest Home

Moving into America’s Largest Home would be a work in progress for George Vanderbilt as Biltmore House was not quite finished for his October 1895 move-in date.

Have you ever moved into a custom-designed new home? If you have, you know that the punch list never seems quite buttoned-up on moving day. Little details seem to linger even after the last box is unpacked—and it was no different for George Vanderbilt’s magnificent new house in Asheville, North Carolina.

A ground-breaking project

Archival image of America's Largest Home under construction
Archival image of Biltmore House under construction, May 8, 1894

Ground was broken in 1889, and during the course of the six years that followed, George Vanderbilt remained in close touch with Biltmore House lead architect Richard Morris Hunt, supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Hunt passed away in August 1895, just months before Vanderbilt moved in, but Sharp Smith was able to complete the plan.

Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889
Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889

When he came to stay for periods of time at the construction site, George Vanderbilt stayed in what was called the Brick Farm House, a property he purchased from Asheville entrepreneur B. J. Alexander in 1889. Sharp Smith renovated the property, which included a mill and farm buildings, so that it was comfortable enough to accommodate Vanderbilt and his project team when they visited to check on the estate’s progress.

In the months leading up to the official opening, carpentry and cabinetry were among the final touches. With George Vanderbilt’s move-in scheduled for October, archival information shows that Richard Sharp Smith hired 16 additional cabinetmakers to speed up progress.

Archival photo of some of the contractors who built America's Largest Home
Biltmore House contractors, including Richard Sharp Smith (second from right), circa 1892

Finishing the last details of America’s Largest Home

On his first night at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt slept in the Bachelors’ Wing because his bedroom wasn’t finished. There was another issue, too, described in the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted:

When the water was turned on in the stable… to get ready for the servants to occupy, it was found that it would not go up to the second floor where the servants [sic] rooms are.

The problem was soon fixed and water flowed a few days later, but there were still a few outstanding details to hammer out. With family and friends expected for Christmas 1895, Sharp Smith hired an additional 10 cabinetmakers in December. While almost all the carpentry was finally completed in 1896, additional cabinetry projects extended into 1897.

Front façade of America's Largest Home
View of front façade of Biltmore House

Plan your visit today

Today, when you visit Biltmore Estate, you can see first-hand the incredible attention to detail that went into every aspect of America’s Largest Home. But as you might imagine, even this architectural masterpiece was subject to the challenges faced in any home-building project. By seeing the vision of the project through until the end, George Vanderbilt and his design and construction team created a landmark with enduring quality that we still enjoy today, more than 125 years later.

Cornelia Vanderbilt’s Birthday Parties: The Grandest Affairs

From the day she was born, Cornelia Vanderbilt’s birthday was recognized and celebrated on extraordinary scale, one befitting of royalty.

Birth Announcements

Named in honor of prominent members of both her mother and father’s family, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt was born on August 22, 1900 in the grand Louis XV Bedroom in Biltmore House.

George Vanderbilt with newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia of Biltmore House, September 30, 1900
George Vanderbilt with newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia of Biltmore House, September 30, 1900

Cornelia’s birth was mentioned in the society pages of newspapers across the country, including the Asheville Citizen, which reported:

Stork comes to Biltmore

To Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt a Child is Born

“The advent of a daughter to Mr. and Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt was announced last evening from Biltmore House. The little stranger is a Buncombe baby—pretty as babies go—but with the Buncombe birthright of the mountain health its days of babyhood will dot in dimpled sweetness and the fairy lines of beauty blend in a vision fitting to its home on the grand estate.

Edith Vanderbilt with young daughter Cornelia around the time of her christening, October 1900
Edith Vanderbilt with young daughter Cornelia around the time of her christening, October 1900

And from the Spartanburg Journal of upstate South Carolina:

Biltmore’s New Star

“A new star has appeared at famous Biltmore, and the charming mistress of this most gorgeous home is smiling upon her first born, a tiny girl called Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt…”

Early Birthday Celebrations

Although we have no specific descriptions of birthday parties during Cornelia’s childhood, we do know that she had many playmates among her cousins and the children of families who lived on the estate.

Cornelia Vanderbilt with one of her family's Saint Bernards on the Front Lawn of Biltmore House, 1905
Cornelia Vanderbilt with one of her family’s Saint Bernards on the Front Lawn of Biltmore House, 1905

Cornelia Vanderbilt’s 21st Birthday Party: An Elegant Masquerade

As Cornelia Vanderbilt grew older, her birthday parties became grand events. Her twenty-first birthday on August 22, 1921 began with a surprise gathering of 250 estate workers and tenants at 7 a.m. at Biltmore House. The staff clearly had a deep affection for Cornelia, and many of their children had been her playmates since her birth.  

As part of their surprise for Cornelia, whom they had watched mature into a sophisticated young woman, the employees improvised a band that played old-time dance tunes. The group then presented Cornelia with a game-bag as a gift. Later that same evening, more than 200 guests attended a masquerade party at Biltmore House in Cornelia’s honor. 

Employees gathered to celebrate Cornelia Vanderbilt’s 21st birthday, August 1921
Employees gathered to celebrate Cornelia Vanderbilt’s 21st birthday, August 1921

The Asheville Citizen-Times published the following account of the occasion:

“Miss Vanderbilt is accorded honors on reaching majority; masquerade party given on Monday at mansion.

Miss Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt reached her 21st birthday Monday and was accorded honors becoming the lady of Biltmore mansion. Monday night a large masquerade was given and guests were present in large numbers.  

The social calendar for the week started with one of the most brilliant of the season’s entertainments, the fancy dress ball, given the Monday evening at Biltmore House by Mrs. George Vanderbilt in honor of the birthday of her daughter, Miss Cornelia Vanderbilt. Dancing was enjoyed in the sunken garden where masses of ferns and palms made a pleasing and charming background for the two hundred or more fascinating and gorgeous costumes of the guests. The Garber-Davis orchestra from Atlanta provided the dance music. Late in the evening supper was served in the banquet hall. A special feature of the entertainment was that the assemblage of the guests, at the commencement of the evening, a closed sedan chair was brought in by four attendants, and as the curtains were drawn, Miss Vanderbilt stepped forward in a most attractive costume of a page of the period of the French Renaissance.

Cornelia Vanderbilt’s 25th Birthday Party: An Open-Air Ball

Cornelia’s birthdays continued to be stunning occasions, even after she married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924. 

Cornelia Vanderbilt’s wedding portrait upon her marriage to John Francis Amherst Cecil, April 1924
Cornelia Vanderbilt’s wedding portrait upon her marriage to John Francis Amherst Cecil, April 1924

The Asheville Gazette reported on celebrations for Cornelia’s 25th birthday:

“On Friday, August 22, 300 employees attended a garden party and tea at 4 pm with dancing to Guthrie’s Orchestra.  Biltmore Dairy employees gave Cornelia a surprise birthday gift of a giant ice cream cake—4’ high and 2’ square at the base—made of 26 gallons of Biltmore Dairy ice cream.  It “consisted of alternate layers of chocolate parfait, Lady Ashe ice cream, and a covering of vanilla mousse.  The cake was studded with roses and lilies and also bore the inscription ‘May your joys be as many as the sands of the sea.’”

Cornelia celebrated the following evening with an open-air ball for 300 people at 9:30 p.m. Guests danced in a pavilion to the Charles Freicher Orchestra. The lawn was lit with Japanese lanterns placed in trees and shrubbery. 

Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil around age 25, 1925
Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil around age 25, 1925

The Gazette further noted that, “the beautiful array of summer gowns of the many dancers made a scene as beautiful as that of gay moths and fireflies in a fairy garden,” and a buffet supper was served at midnight.

Although we have no further descriptions of Cornelia’s birthday parties, we are sure they were often celebrated in style. From her earliest days as the “Biltmore Baby” to her life as a celebrated socialite of wealth and style, Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil exemplified the Roaring 20s and the Jazz Age that still fascinate us today.

Top 5 Biltmore Family Favorites for Summer 2021

Our top 5 Biltmore family favorite activities for summer are sure to please the entire clan, from grandparents to grandchildren!

Winkie Bar Sundae in a waffle bowl
Try all the ice cream treats, including this delicious Winkie Bar Sundae served in a waffle bowl

5. Favorite Flavors: Ice Cream for Everyone

Did you know that the vanilla ice cream served on the estate is based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe? Now at Biltmore Dairy Bar® near Biltmore House and the Creamery in Antler Hill Village, you and your family can enjoy the same rich flavor enjoy by estate guests more than a century ago.

Tip: Get sandwiches and ice cream to go from the Creamery and have a picnic on the nearby Village Green. Celebrate summer with Biltmore wine for the grownups and Biltmore sparkling grape juice for the younger set.

Family biking at Biltmore
Bring the whole family along on your next biking adventure at Biltmore

4. Favorite Activity: Biking for All Ages

Ready to explore our wide-open spaces? Visit the Outdoor Adventure Center or Bike Barn in Antler Hill Village and rent mountain bikes for rugged trails or comfort cruisers for paved paths. Tandem rentals also available so the younger members of the family can join the fun.

Tip: Consider our Farm Trail Guided Bike Ride and other new outdoor activities for more exciting ways to explore the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village at Biltmore
Marvel at the wonders of miniature trains during Biltmore Gardens Railway!

3. Rediscover a Family Favorite: Biltmore Gardens Railway

One of the absolute must-see elements of the estate this summer is Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring beautiful garden-scale botanical model train displays. This charming exhibition featuring estate-related landmarks—each handcrafted in meticulous detail from all-natural materials—returns to the Conservatory.

Tip: Experience Biltmore Gardens Railway now through September 26, 2021.

Child explores Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village
The new Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village is fun for all ages!

2. New Family Favorite: Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Crafted and installed in Antler Hill Village, this unique-to-Biltmore, large-scale outdoor sculpture entitled Free as a Bird is a wondrous combination of Patrick Dougherty’s carpentry skills and love of nature.

Over the last three decades, this internationally-acclaimed artist has built over 300 of these works, which have captivated the hearts and imaginations of viewers worldwide. Enjoy Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty now through September 30, 2021.

Tip: Explore Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty during the day or at night, when the sculpture is lit to enhance your experience.

Family activities for spring at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds during Biltmore Blooms this spring

1. All-Time Family Favorite: Our 8,000-Acre Backyard!

With 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain backyard, you’ll never run out of places to explore at Biltmore! Enjoy more than 20 miles of hiking trails along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate.

Tip: Visit the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center for a detailed trail map and orientation to the trails.

Enhance your Biltmore visit with an overnight stay

In addition to our top 5 family-favorite activities, make the most of summer vacations and long holiday weekends at Biltmore by adding overnight accommodations at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, or our two private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

The Dairy Foreman’s Cottage: A Brief History

There’s a new overnight offering at Biltmore—a cozy, casual home in a peaceful woodland setting. Introducing the freshly renovated Dairy Foreman’s Cottage on Biltmore Estate™, an historic structure, reimagined to offer today’s guests an oasis of service, style, and charm. 

In honor of this exclusive new lodging option, let’s take a step back in time for a closer look at the history of this unique Biltmore residence. 

A Family Home for Estate Workers

Originally labeled a “Dairy Worker’s Cottage,” this welcoming home was one of five identical houses designed by Asheville architect Anthony Lord in 1935 for Biltmore Dairy employees and their families. According to archival correspondence from the time, the cottage was built for $535 with materials provided by the estate.

Archival photo of cows with Dairy Foreman's Cottage in the distance
The earliest archival photo of the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage (center of image, top of hill), ca. 1940

One of the first families to live in this house was likely the Allen family in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Ernest Allen brought his family to the estate in 1927, and over his 38 years of employment at Biltmore, primarily as a Farm Foreman, they lived in seven different estate residences. 

Ernest’s daughter Martha Allen Wolfe recalled in a 2016 interview with our Oral History Program that they had indoor plumbing and electricity while growing up in the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage. 

Archival image of Dairy Foreman's Cottage
Archival photo believed to be the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage, ca. 1950

Even with seven brothers and sisters, she remembered the home as being very comfortable. Her brothers slept upstairs, and apparently, they would secretly climb out of the windows at night, engage in some youthful mischief, and then sneak back in the same way.

One of her brothers was Bill Allen, who would eventually follow his father’s footsteps and have a 45-year career at Biltmore—first as Farm Manager and later Vineyard Manager. 

Martha said of the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage, “We loved it, and it was home.”

Gorgeous gourmet kitchen in Dairy Foreman's Cottage
The cottage’s gorgeous gourmet kitchen features stainless steel appliances.

New Life for an Old Cottage

Today, this 1,778-square-foot home has been beautifully updated with modern touches. Accommodating up to five guests, the cottage offers two bedrooms with a king-sized bed in each as well as a pullout sofa in the reading room. 

And there’s plenty of room for entertaining: an open kitchen that extends to dining and living areas, a formal sitting room, a screened-in back porch, and an outdoor dining patio.

Charming front porch with swing and rocking chairs
The charming front porch offers a secluded oasis of rest and relaxation.

The Dairy Foreman’s Cottage puts you just steps away from quiet nature trails, made lush by original forest plantings that contributed to the estate’s National Historic Landmark designation as the birthplace of American Forestry.

This welcoming abode is also located within walking distance of lively activity in Antler Hill Village, tastings of award-winning wines at our Winery, and the luxurious amenities offered at our four-star Inn.

For your next getaway, we invite you to make the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage your home away from home. Delight in the privacy of one of the most exclusive and customized lodging experiences the estate has to offer. Book your stay today.

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden: A Brief History

Each spring, thousands upon thousands of beautiful and brightly colored tulips fill the formal flowerbeds of Biltmore’s Walled Garden. Their vivid hues are a favorite part of the season for many guests.

But preparation for the show actually begins long before warmer weather arrives. According to Parker Andes, director of Horticulture:

Planting for spring in the Walled Garden begins months before you see the results. One reason we get continuous color is because we plant several varieties of up to six bulbs per hole!

In honor of this seasonal celebration, let’s take a look at the history of tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden.

Archival image of Biltmore Walled Garden
The Vegetable and Flower Garden (now the Walled Garden), cica 1895

The Vegetable and Flower Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted originally envisioned the Walled Garden as a multipurpose space, providing fine fruits and vegetables as well as fresh flowers for Biltmore House. The design was inspired by English kitchen gardens, which were often walled to protect them from wind and wild animals.

George Vanderbilt, however, did not share this vision. Instead, he thought the Walled Garden should be one of “ornament, not utility.” While fruits and vegetables were grown there intermittently, most of them were gradually phased out over time.

Archival image of Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden, circa 1930

The Earliest Hint of Tulips

It is difficult to say exactly when tulips made their debut in the Walled Garden. However, one letter in our archives tells us the blooming bulbs have been planted there for almost a century.

On April 14, 1922, Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle wrote to Cornelia Vanderbilt:

The tulips in the walled garden are so glorious that we are trying out an experiment of sending you a box today by express for Easter. We shall hope they will bring you something of their original beauty and charm to make Easter even more wonderful. Spring is very much advanced here, even the yellow rambler roses are opening. 

The showy flower was perhaps chosen for the dramatic beds of the Walled Garden as an homage to the Dutch heritage of the Vanderbilts—and the term “Biltmore.” The name selected for the family’s country retreat derives from “Bildt,” the town in Holland where George Vanderbilt’s ancestors originated, and “more,” an Old English word for open, rolling land.

Tulips have served as a status symbol for the Dutch since the height of “Tulipmania” in the mid-1600s when speculation on rare bulbs created an investment bubble and the price of one bulb was equal to ten years of income.

Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden delight guests year after year

The Tradition Continues

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden have long been a favorite element of the season. Even before Biltmore House opened to the public in 1930, the Vanderbilts allowed some public access to the area a few days a week during spring so that locals and out-of-state visitors alike could enjoy estate gardens in bloom.

This tradition continues today with Biltmore Blooms, our seasonal celebration of the estate’s ever-changing progression of springtime color.

Plan your visit today and join us as we delight in the more than 80,000 tulip bulbs that lend their dramatic color to the Walled Garden. 

Top 5 Downton Abbey-Related Activities at Biltmore

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition ended September 7, 2020. Please enjoy this archived content.

From November 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020, Biltmore is hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, an immersive, must-see event that pays homage to the show.

The multimedia display in Amherst at Deerpark includes holograms, video, and life-size imagery—plus some of the series’ most recognizable sets, including Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and the gossip-fueled servants’ quarters.

The estate has a variety of additional offerings that connect to the exhibition. Here are our top 5 picks:

Costumes from Downton Abbey on display
The limited-time exhibition continues in Antler Hill Village with costumes on display at The Biltmore Legacy.

5. Costumes at The Biltmore Legacy

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition itself extends to The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village where more than 50 official costumes from the series’ six-season run—worn by actors such as Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith—will be on display.

Lush summer blooms in the Walled Garden at Biltmore
Stroll through lush late summer blooms in the Walled Garden

4. Stroll Through Stunning Gardens

In one episode of the series, Lord and Lady Grantham had the delightful task of presiding over the annual village flower show. While visiting Biltmore, be sure to stroll through our four-acre English-style Walled Garden filled with roses and a glorious mix of summer annuals and perennials, exotic grasses, and more–and don’t miss the glass-roofed Conservatory that houses hundreds of tropical specimens.

Tea sets
Our charming estate shops offer a wide range of Downton Abbey-inspired items, including a variety of lovely tea sets.

3. Downton Abbey-Inspired Products

For a limited-time, shops throughout the estate are offering a variety of Downton-inspired items. Browse fashions such as fascinators, jewelry, scarves, hat pins, and more—inspired by the styles worn by characters in the show. Tea sets, books, and additional accessories relating to the era are also available.

Biltmore Sub-Basement
Our newest tour takes you into rarely seen areas of Biltmore House, such as fascinating parts of the Sub-Basement.

2. The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour

Developed exclusively to coincide with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour is a brand new behind-the-scenes tour. Hear the fascinating stories of those who worked and lived on the estate while visiting rarely seen servants’ areas including the Butler’s Pantry and beyond.

The Inn and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate
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.

1. Stay Overnight to Make the Most of Your Visit

Both The Inn on Biltmore Estate® and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® offer an exciting opportunity to stay overnight on the property, ensuring you have time to see and do it all. Take your time while enjoying Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, and take in all the glorious costumes from the series on display at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village.

Comparing Biltmore House to Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition ended September 7, 2020. Please enjoy this archived content.

Did you know everyday life in Biltmore House bore striking resemblance to fictional life at Downton Abbey? In honor of Biltmore playing host to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, let’s take a look at some of the similarities—and differences—between these two grand homes.

Archival image of estate workers during harvest season at Biltmore, ca. 1900

A Working Estate

The greatest overarching parallel between Downton Abbey and Biltmore is the idea of both as working estates overseen by one man and his family. While Downton Abbey is set in England, George Vanderbilt’s vision for Biltmore was heavily influenced by the model of similar English estates. There were numerous tenant families working the land, and the Vanderbilts grew to know each of these families closely over the years.

Servants' Hall in Biltmore House
The Servants’ Hall in Biltmore House, where staff could relax and socialize

Household Staff

Within the houses, the standards of domestic service were much the same between the Crawleys and the Vanderbilts. While there were some differences in the ways American and English households were managed, the housekeeper played a major role. At Biltmore, this role was primarily filled by Mrs. King; for Downton Abbey, it’s Mrs. Hughes—both known for their massive house key rings and calm demeanors.

Detail of electrical switchboard in the sub-basement of Biltmore House

Technological Advancements

Though numerous characters within the Downton Abbey household, both above stairs and below, expressed concerns about advancements in technology, they were widely embraced at Biltmore. Even in 1895, Biltmore House was constructed with many of these in mind: telephones, elevators, forced heating, mechanical refrigeration, an electric servant call bell system, electric lighting, and more. 

Restoring the wallcovering of the Louis XV Room in Biltmore House
Restoring the wallcovering of the Louis XV Room in Biltmore House

Preserving the Home

One of the primary themes in Downton Abbey is the importance Lord Grantham and his family place on preserving and maintaining their home for succeeding generations. This has also been a prime concern at Biltmore for George Vanderbilt’s descendants. Today, the estate is owned and overseen by the fourth and fifth generations of the family.

Join us November 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020 to experience Downton Abbey like never before—amid George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate—with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition at Biltmore.

Feature image: Biltmore House, ca. 1910