Biltmore’s Historic Honeymooners

Did you know Biltmore has historically been the site of many honeymoons and romantic occasions?

Perhaps it’s the warm, pink glow of the mountains as the sun sets over the Deer Park, the way the wind carries a sweet perfume from the gardens into the air, or the subtle whisper of a bottle of sparkling wine being masterfully uncorked nearby, but one thing is for sure—love is certainly in the air at Biltmore.

From before construction of Biltmore House was completed all the way to our modern day guests who visit, there is no denying that this historic estate offers a desirable destination for a romantic getaway any time of year.

Get to know some of Cupid’s earliest captives and the historic honeymooners who spent their precious time together at Biltmore many moons ago.

Jay & Adele Burden’s Honeymoon

Jay and Adele Burden honeymooned at River Cliff Cottage on Biltmore Estate, c. 1895
Jay and Adele Burden honeymooned at River Cliff Cottage on Biltmore Estate, c. 1895

One of Biltmore’s earliest guests included newlyweds, Jay Burden and Adele Sloane, George Vanderbilt’s niece. The darling young couple spent their honeymoon with a romantic retreat to River Cliff Cottage at Biltmore in June of 1895, months before Biltmore House was completed.

“Adele, actually Lila Sloane’s older sister, wrote about Biltmore being terribly romantic years before she married Jay Burden—it seems her opinion didn’t change!” says Meghan Forest, Biltmore’s Archives and Curatorial Assistant.

Ernesto & Edith Fabbri’s Honeymoon

Biltmore Honeymooners Ernesto and Edith Fabbri, c. 1896
Biltmore Honeymooners Ernesto and Edith Fabbri, c. 1896

Ernesto Fabbri and Edith Shepard, another one of George Vanderbilt’s nieces, celebrated their nuptials with a honeymoon at Biltmore after their 1896 wedding.

Records indicate that Biltmore remained a special place for the Fabbris as they visited Biltmore six more times together over the next nine years, bringing along their children after they were born.

George & Edith Vanderbilt’s Homecoming

George and Edith Vanderbilt on the South Terrace of Biltmore House, c. 1900
George and Edith Vanderbilt on the South Terrace of Biltmore House, c. 1900

George Vanderbilt was a bachelor when he first moved into Biltmore House. It would only be a few short years before he met his bride-to-be, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser.

After whirlwind courtship abroad, George and Edith were married in Paris in a 15-minute civil ceremony on June 1, 1898. The couple honeymooned in Italy for three months before arriving home to Biltmore in October.

Ever the romantic, a 1910 correspondence shows that George coordinated some modifications to Biltmore House as a surprise for Edith when she returned home from a trip abroad, including adding stairs by the Porte Cochere to provide access to a forest trail.

Willie & Lila Field’s Honeymoon

Biltmore Honeymooners Willie and Lila Field, c. 1902
Biltmore Honeymooners Willie and Lila Field, c. 1902

One of George Vanderbilt’s closest comrades, William B. Osgood Field, was a frequent guest at Biltmore. During subsequent visits, “Willie” was introduced to one of George Vanderbilt’s nieces, Lila Sloane. It seems there was some matchmaking at play as the duo may have been deliberately encouraged to do activities together. The couple became engaged at Biltmore and spent their honeymoon on the estate, as well.

An interest piece about the Willie and Lila Field honeymoon from society columnist “Cholly Knickerbocker” read:

“[George Vanderbilt] is fond of paying this particular kind of compliment to his young relatives, and Biltmore, one of the most fairy-like country seats in this country, has been the scene of quite a number of honeymoons, and of the inauguration of what have turned out to be happy marriages. In this case the selection of Biltmore for the honeymoon will be especially appropriate. For it was there that Willie Field and Lila Sloan first plighted their troth and became engaged.”

Cornelia & John F.A. Cecil’s Wedding

Portrait of the Honorable and Mrs. John F.A. Cecil’s wedding party inside the Tapestry Gallery, c. 1924
Portrait of the Honorable and Mrs. John F.A. Cecil’s wedding party inside the Tapestry Gallery, c. 1924

Wedding bells rang as Cornelia, George and Edith Vanderbilt’s daughter, married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil at All Souls Church in Biltmore Village on April 27, 1924.

No detail was spared in this elaborate celebration that welcomed notable guests from around the globe and intrigued society columns.

Biltmore is a Romantic Getaway for the Ages

Romantic sunset view of the Deer Park from Biltmore's Library Terrace
Romantic sunset view of the Deer Park from Biltmore’s Library Terrace

Whether it’s warming up together by the fireside at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, taking a mini tropical vacation inside the Conservatory, marveling at the grandeur and history inside Biltmore House, sharing a sweet treat in Antler Hill Village, or spending time exploring the gardens and grounds at dusk, we can say confidently that Biltmore’s reputation as a romantic getaway for sweethearts has aged like a fine wine.

No matter the time of year, we invite you to find, rekindle, or celebrate your love at Biltmore. For the ultimate romantic getaway, join us as an overnight guest at our four-star Inn, cozy Village Hotel, or one of our private historic Cottages and enjoy the beauty of this “fairy-like” country estate as George Vanderbilt intended.

Biltmore: The Birthplace of American Forestry

When George Vanderbilt began planning his grand estate in Asheville, North Carolina, more than a century ago, he envisioned a self-sustaining home and stewardship of the land and its resources for years to come. Though it is hard to imagine now, portions of the lush forest surrounding Biltmore House was once overworked farmland and overcut woodland.

Over forested Asheville
Poor Woodland, c. 1892; © The Biltmore Company

The Birthplace of Modern Forestry Management

Following the recommendation of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt hired trained forester Gifford Pinchot—who later served as first chief of the United States Forest Service and founder of the Society of American Foresters—to develop a forest management plan for his land holdings, which eventually totaled approximately 125,000 acres.

Pinchot’s scientific forestry plan (the management and conservation of forest lands) was the first of its kind in the United States and served as a national model. In turn, George Vanderbilt was the first American landowner to implement scientific forestry on a large scale.

In 1895, the same year as the opening of Biltmore House, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck succeeded Pinchot and expanded the forest management plan over the next 14 years, including the development of a comprehensive management plan for Vanderbilt’s vast Pisgah Forest holdings. During his tenure at Biltmore, Dr. Schenck also founded the Biltmore Forest School—the first school of forestry in the United States—graduating more than 300 of the nation’s first professionally-trained foresters.

White Pine Planting Asheville, North Carolina
White Pine Plantings, c. 1929; © The Biltmore Company

America’s First Managed Forest

The contributions of Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot and Dr. Carl Schenck transformed what was once a landscape of overused terrain into America’s first managed forest on such a large scale, improving the health of the land while producing sustainable wood and other resources, establishing the birthplace of American Forestry.

Edith Vanderbilt American Forestry
Edith Vanderbilt (far left) and Cornelia Vanderbilt (second from right) attending Pisgah National Forest dedication to the memory of George Vanderbilt, c. 1920; © The Biltmore Company

In May 1914, Edith Vanderbilt, completed her late husband’s wishes of selling an 86,000-acre tract of Biltmore to be managed by the U.S. government as public lands, creating one of the first national forest east of the Mississippi River: Pisgah National Forest. In an excerpt from a letter declaring her family’s interest in preserving the property, Edith stated:

“Mr. Vanderbilt was the first of the large forest owners in America to adopt the practice of forestry. He has conserved Pisgah Forest from the time he bought it up to his death, a period of nearly twenty five years, under the firm conviction that every forest owner owes it to those who follow him, to hand down his forest property to them unimpaired by wasteful use.”

“I make this contribution towards the public ownership of Pisgah Forest with the earnest hope that in this way I may help to perpetuate my husband’s pioneer work in forest conservation, and to ensure the protection and use and enjoyment of Pisgah Forest as a National Forest, by the American people for all time….”

Biltmore Estate American Forestry Today
Views from Biltmore today.

Biltmore’s Forestry Legacy Continues

Today, Biltmore Estate and its resources continue to be managed by those original guiding principles to ensure future vitality, honoring George Vanderbilt’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship.

Nearby, the Cradle of Forestry is a 6,500-acre Historic Site within Pisgah National Forest, set aside to commemorate the beginning of forest conservation in America and the lasting contributions of George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Dr. Carl Schenck.

Biltmore Gardens Railway: A Fun-For-All-Ages Experience

In the summer of 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway brought large-scale model railroads and handmade buildings connected with Biltmore and its founder George Vanderbilt to two locations on the estate—the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village.

The exhibition featured replica structures fashioned from all-natural materials, largely collected from the estate, to offer a one-of-a-kind, fun-for-all-ages experience.

Enjoy a special look at the structures and stories that inspired Biltmore Gardens Railway.  ​

Conservatory Display: Structures from the estate and surrounding area

Photograph of Biltmore House from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910

Biltmore House with Fountain & Rampe Douce
Completed in 1895, Biltmore House was a collaborative effort between George Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt. It took six years to construct America’s Largest Home®. The 250-room French Renaissance chateau contains more than four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

Photograph of the Stable Complex construction from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1894

Stable Complex
An important part of a turn-of-the-century country home, the stables housed the Vanderbilts’ 30–40 driving and riding horses. Correspondence in Biltmore’s Archives indicates that George Vanderbilt made every effort to procure the best horses possible for the estate. Original horses’ names included Ida, Pamlico, and Maud.

Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910

​Conservatory
This grand structure was built to provide flowers and plants for Biltmore House year-round—a role it continues to fulfill today. Carefully placed at the lower end of the Wall Garden so as not to obstruct the view from Biltmore House, the Conservatory includes a Palm House and an Orchid House and spans more than 7,000 square feet.

Photograph of All Souls’ Church from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1906

All Souls’ Church
Commissioned by George Vanderbilt, All Souls’ Church was the anchor—architecturally, spiritually, and socially—of nearby Biltmore Village. The church as well as the rest of the buildings in the village were the result of a collaboration between Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Photograph of the Biltmore Passenger Station from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1899

Biltmore Passenger Station*
The Passenger Station in Biltmore Village was the first stop for many of the Vanderbilts’ guests when they arrived in Western North Carolina on their way to the estate. Family and friends were met there by the Vanderbilts’ carriage or car and brought up the breathtaking three-mile Approach Road to Biltmore House.

Photograph of deer at the Bass Pond Waterfall from the Biltmore collection, ca. 1950

Bass Pond Waterfall
Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the Bass Pond was created by greatly enlarging an old creek-fed millpond. In order to keep the pond free of sediment and debris caused by heavy rains, Olmsted engineered an ingenious flume system to divert debris and storm water through a conduit laid on the lake bed.

Photograph of The Gardener’s Cottage from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1892

The Gardener’s Cottage
One of the first buildings completed on the estate, the Gardener’s Cottage served as the residence of Biltmore’s first head gardener. The one-and-a-half story stone cottage was originally occupied Mr. Robert Bottomley, who was the estate’s head gardener until November 1903.

Photograph of the Lodge Gate from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1900

Lodge Gate
Located at the entrance to the estate from Biltmore Village, the Lodge Gate provided round-the-clock security by means of a resident gatekeeper. Other entrances to Biltmore also had gatehouses and gatekeepers, though the Lodge Gate was considered the main entrance to George Vanderbilt’s grand estate.

Antler Hill Village Display: Landmarks from George Vanderbilt’s travels

Photograph of Pisgah National Forest Entry Gate, ca. 1916-1936

Pisgah National Forest Entry Gate – Transylvania County, North Carolina
Just before George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, he was involved in negotiations to sell a large portion of his estate to the federal government in hopes that it would become a forest preserve. His wife Edith later completed this undertaking, selling 87,000 acres of the estate to establish the core of what later became Pisgah National Forest.

Photograph of Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, ca. 2009

Vanderbilt Mansion – Hyde Park, New York
George Vanderbilt’s brother Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife Louise created a seasonal home in Hyde Park, NY. The house was inspired by a classical Palladian villa and was surrounded by formal and informal gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who later served as the landscape architect for Biltmore.

Photograph of a Dutch windmill taken by George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A. V. Cecil, ca. 1950

Windmill & Three Classic Canal House Façades – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Vanderbilt family line originated in Holland in the village of De Bilt, not far from Amsterdam. The Vanderbilts’ ancestors immigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland around 1650, eventually settling near present-day Staten Island, New York. George Vanderbilt visited his family’s homeland in 1897.

Photograph of the Eiffel Tower from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1890

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
This Paris landmark was already an icon when George and Edith Vanderbilt were married on June 1, 1898 in a civil ceremony after a whirlwind courtship abroad. An understated religious ceremony was held the following day at the American Church of the Holy Trinity, attended only by family and close friends.

Photograph of the Arc de Triomphe from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1885

Arc De Triomphe – Paris, France
After the Vanderbilt’s Parisian marriage ceremony, the wedding party attended a breakfast at the apartment Edith shared with her sisters on Rue Vernet, just an avenue away from the iconic Arc de Triomphe. Edith’s sister Natalie provided two bottles of champagne that their maternal grandfather had set aside at Edith’s birth to be served on her wedding day.

Colorized photograph of Tower Bridge, ca. 1900

Tower Bridge – London, England
In June 1897, George Vanderbilt rented an apartment on London’s Pall Mall to witness the celebration surrounding Queen Victoria’s 60-year reign. Among his guests viewing the festivities from the balcony was his future bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, likely marking the beginning of their romance.

Engraving of the USS Vanderbilt, ca. 1862

USS Vanderbilt – Transatlantic Service
Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt’s grandfather and founder of the family fortune, commissioned a steamship in 1856 dubbed the Vanderbilt, once hailed as “the largest vessel that has ever floated on the Atlantic Ocean.”

*Feature image: Recreation of Biltmore Passenger Station; this structure is on display in both the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village.