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.

Biltmore Wines Have Big Personalities

From flavor to food-friendliness, we’ve always believed that Biltmore wines have big personalities.

To highlight North Carolina Wine Month in May, we’re pairing five of the estate’s historic VIPs with a distinctive Biltmore wine that best matches their own larger-than-life personalities!

~ George Washington Vanderbilt ~
Antler Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

George Vanderbilt as a thoughtful collector of wine
George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful collector of wines

Mr. Vanderbilt was known as a thoughtful collector of wine, often bringing back cases of his favorite discoveries from his world travels to share with friends and family at Biltmore.

Handcrafted from exceptional grapes grown by phenomenal vineyard partners in California’s Napa Valley, our full-bodied Antler Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is as refined and elegant as George Vanderbilt himself.


~ Edith Dresser Vanderbilt ~
Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina

Edith Vanderbilt paired with Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay
Our Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay is an elegant match for this glorious Boldini portrait of Edith Vanderbilt

Handcrafted from North Carolina’s finest locally grown Chardonnay grapes, this wine is full-bodied with good acidity highlighted by citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

Only vintage wines worthy of the Biltmore Reserve name earn this select honor, and the excellence of this Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina reflects the gracious character of Edith Vanderbilt who, in turn, symbolizes the heart of Biltmore and all that the estate represents.


~ Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil ~
Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Biltmore wines have big personalities, like Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil
Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil exemplifies the Roaring Twenties spirit of our Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Born in 1900, Cornelia Vanderbilt would come of age in the Roaring Twenties, a time characterized by the effervescent enthusiasm of the American Jazz Age.

Our Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir sparkling wine captures the joie de vivre of this exciting era in a crisp, sparkling wine with a delightful light pink hue and flavors of cherries and strawberries.


~ Richard Morris Hunt ~
The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County

Richard Morris Hunt and The Hunt wine
The Hunt Red Blend is named in honor of Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt

The name of our richly-layered and refined Bordeaux-style red blend already honors Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of America’s Largest Home®, so it’s no surprise that it also represents his dynamic personality!

Aging for 18 months in French and American oak barrels gives The Hunt great structure, just like Biltmore—the magnificent estate that Hunt designed for George Vanderbilt.


~ Frederick Law Olmsted ~
Biltmore Estate Limited Release
Sauvignon Blanc

Frederick Law Olmsted and Biltmore wine
Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc reminds us of Biltmore landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted

Known as the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted planned the breathtaking gardens and grounds that surround Biltmore.

With classic grassy and herbal varietal characteristics, Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect partner for such an accomplished horticulturalist, and our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc—refreshing and unexpectedly creamy with hints of toasted coconut, key lime, and oak—is no exception.

Find our award-winning wines online

Bucket full of Biltmore Wines
Put Biltmore wines on your “bucket list” for summer sipping!

Stock up on your favorites Biltmore wines now and discover new varietals at estate shops, local retailers, and online.

Featured image: Photograph of Edith Vanderbilt paired with Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina