Biltmore’s Blacksmith: Striking While the Iron is Hot

Did you know America’s Largest Home® has a resident blacksmith?

A typical day for Biltmore blacksmith Steve Schroeder is spent demonstrating traditional techniques, telling stories to our guests, and answering their questions in the estate’s original smithy shop at Antler Hill Barn.

Biltmore blacksmith Steve Schroder learned the trade by apprenticing under our previous blacksmith Doc Cudd.

Blacksmith to Blacksmith

During one of his demonstrations, Steve met a guest who was a fellow blacksmith from New Jersey. The guest showed Steve a piece of his own: a metal key ring featuring a golf ball-sized rose with about 40 tiny petals.

Blacksmithing is the art of forging metal to create hardware, ornamental objects, and more.
Blacksmithing is the art of forging metal to create hardware, ornamental objects, and more.

Steve was impressed by the rose design and asked the guest about his process. To his surprise, the guest offered to stay at the smithy shop for what ended up being more than an hour to explain the method to Steve as he tried it out.

“That’s one of the great things about blacksmiths,” Steve explains. “We’re very open about sharing projects and we’re happy to teach each other different techniques. There are no secrets in blacksmithing.”

Blacksmiths use a variety of tools such as a hammer, an anvil, and a hot cut, which helps create indentations in the metal.
Blacksmiths use a variety of tools such as a hammer, an anvil, and a hot cut, which helps create indentations in the metal.

The Rose Hook Process

  1. The upper portion of the rod is heated—as it is throughout the process—and then hammered (above) until it is incredibly thin.
  2. The rod is twisted in the middle to define the stem.
  3. The flat, upper portion of the rod is placed over a hot cut and struck with a hammer to create indentions along one side, defining the individual petals.
  4. The upper portion is bent into a P-shape.
  5. The P-shape is tightly coiled, revealing the rose design.
  6. The lower portion of the rod bent to create the hook element.
Our blacksmith’s early rose hooks are on display near the second floor fireplace in Village Hotel.
Our blacksmith’s early rose hooks are on display near the second floor fireplace in Village Hotel.

Perfecting the Petals

Steve worked diligently to improve his rose hook technique over the next few months. During that time, news of the fascinating project caught wind around the estate. As result, eight rose hooks were soon installed in the comfortable seating area next to Village Social, located within Village Hotel.

Steve peels back the petals of the roses using pliers while the metal is still red-hot to create the blooming effect.
Steve peels back the petals of the roses using pliers while the metal is still red-hot to create the blooming effect.

However, Steve is quick to point out that the hooks installed in Village Hotel don’t reflect one of his biggest revelations in perfecting his technique, one that actually came from his wife Kylie.

“I explained to her that I was having a hard time keeping the petals open in the coiling process,” he says. “She suggested I use pliers to pull the petals back for that nice blooming effect.”

The design of the rose hook has slightly evolved over the years. Loving care and attention to detail goes into each iteration.

Striking While the Iron is Hot

Steve knew early on there was potential for his products to be sold on the estate—and Village Hotel guests were asking if the rose hooks were available for purchase on a daily basis.

While Steve didn’t want to sell the product until he thought it was in its best possible form, he knew that he had to “strike while the iron is hot.” (Yes, that is a blacksmith pun, and yes, Steve is full of them.)

We invite you to watch our blacksmith work and learn more about the craft in Antler Hill Barn. Hours vary seasonally.
We invite you to watch our blacksmith work and learn more about the craft in Antler Hill Barn. Hours vary seasonally.

Finally, after a few months and a few hundred roses, Steve felt confident enough in the design—more specifically, in his ability to replicate the design over and over—and the product hit the shelves of The Barn Door.

And the rose hooks are selling just as fast as Steve can make them. He brings a handful of rose hooks to The Barn Door every morning and they’re gone by the afternoon. In the first two weeks, the shop sold more than 50 hooks, making it their best-selling item.

Our blacksmith’s rose hooks sell out incredibly quickly and because of the nature of the craft, they’re only available on the estate.
Our blacksmith’s rose hooks sell out incredibly quickly and because of the nature of the craft, they’re only available on the estate.

As a result of this estate collaboration, the product’s footprint is almost non-existent. When a batch of rose hooks is ready, Steve simply walks them next door to be sold—no additional carbon emissions, packaging, or waste involved. The rose hooks don’t even have price tags.

On your next visit to the estate, be sure to make time to visit our blacksmith Steve Schroeder at Antler Hill Barn, then pop in The Barn Door to take home a truly unique piece of Biltmore.

Facebook Fans Help Create Our Christmas Wine Labels

For 2021, our Facebook fans helped create the labels for our Christmas at Biltmore Red and White Wines.

Facebook Fans helped create our Christmas wine labels
Facebook fans voting online chose the elements for both of our 2021 Christmas at Biltmore wine labels

“This is the fourth year that we’ve used this crowdsourcing process,” said Jill Whitfield, Senior Wine Marketing Manager. “By voting for their favorite holiday styles and themes, our Facebook fans really help us capture the spirit of our annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration on our Christmas wine labels.”

Local artist chosen to create our Christmas wine labels

Biltmore employee by Biltmore House column
Local artist and Biltmore employee Craig Sponsellor

The Biltmore wine marketing team selected artist Craig Sponseller of Asheville, North Carolina, to create two original paintings that would incorporate the holiday images and elements selected by Biltmore’s Facebook followers for our 2021 Christmas wine labels.

According to Craig, this project was especially meaningful because in addition to being an artist, he has also been a Biltmore employee for the past 10 years.

“I work in Mail Services,” said Craig, “and my days are filled with routines related to ensuring that mail is picked up and delivered. This opportunity to develop the artwork for the 2021 Christmas at Biltmore wine labels allowed me to tap into my creative side while focusing on all the beauty of the season here at the estate.”

Facebook fans select two distinct themes

Facebook fans helped choose the labels on Biltmore Christmas wine
The 2021 Christmas at Biltmore wines makes a perfect gift for someone special

After two rounds of online voting, some distinct themes emerged: our fans wanted both a wintry outdoor scene featuring the iconic architecture of Biltmore House, and a warm and wonderful tribute to the towering Banquet Hall Christmas tree inside America’s Largest Home®.

Capturing the exterior of Biltmore House

Sketch for the Christmas at Biltmore White Wine label
Part of Craig’s creative process is the creation of sketches like this that help him refine the details he’ll include in a painting

Craig began the process of creating the Christmas at Biltmore White Wine label by sketching the exterior elements of Biltmore House. He started with a pencil sketch, then refined the details with pen and ink.

“I’m a watercolor artist,” Craig explained, “and it is a very unforgiving medium. If you make a mistake or need to move something around, it’s impossible. That’s why I do the preliminary sketches and refinements so I can be sure I’m on the right track.”

Craig chose to showcase the familiar view from the wall at the end of the Front Lawn. To further the holiday mood, he added a touch of snow to give the painting a frosty feel.

Exterior pencil sketch of Biltmore House with touches of watercolor
Craig refined his initial sketches before adding layers of color washes to the final painting

As for the cheerful red cardinal on the rail, that’s the state bird of North Carolina, and a familiar sight around the estate during this time of year.

“The cardinal was a very specific element that Biltmore’s Facebook fans voted to include on both labels,” Craig said. “It was a challenge to portray a small bird in front of such a large house, but I placed it on the Rampe Douce railing so the cardinal would appear larger in the foreground.”

Creating the Banquet Hall view

Our Facebook fans also voted to see the beauty of the season inside Biltmore House, and Craig was happy to oblige.

Orange tree centerpieces in the Banquet Hall
Inspiration for Facebook fans included this Banquet Hall scene with iconic orange tree centerpieces i

For the Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine label, Craig was able to include many of the wonders in the Banquet Hall, from the grand Fraser fir that dominates the scene during the holidays to a grouping of festive orange tree centerpieces atop the massive dining table.

Pencil sketch for Biltmore Christmas wine label
One of Craig’s early pencil sketches for the Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine label includes the cardinal ornament on the tree in the foreground

“The real challenge here was how to include a cardinal in an indoor scene,” said Craig, “but I was able to work it in as an ornament!”

Stock up for the season on our Christmas wines and more!

Christmas at Biltmore Red and White Wines with Facebook fans labels
Make sure your holiday is seasoned with cheer when you choose Biltmore wines!

Whether you’re in the mood for a fragrant, semi-sweet white wine or a soft, fruit-forward red, our Christmas at Biltmore Wines offer a classic complement to your favorite flavors at the holiday buffet or dessert table. As an added bonus, the lovely labels make both wines a charming gift of the season for someone special.

Find our Christmas at Biltmore Red and White Wines and all your other handcrafted favorites in estate shops, online, or with our Retail Locator.

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.

Biltmore Trails: 22 Miles to Explore

Whether you’re at Biltmore for the day or you’re a Biltmore Annual Passholder, exploring Biltmore’s 22 miles of trails is an excellent way to get some outdoor exercise. From leisurely strolls to intense workouts, our trails offer a variety of routes that can be tailored to your skill level with spectacular views in every season.

Walk in our manicured gardens on paved paths in Biltmore's Italian and Shrub Gardens
Enjoy the manicured landscape along paved paths in our historic gardens.

Easy Biltmore Trails

Historic Gardens (walking)

Our historic gardens paths incorporate the Italian Garden (gravel), Shrub Garden (paved), Walled Garden (paved), and Spring Garden (mulch). Routes stretch approximately 1-2 miles depending on which paths you choose. Enjoy seasonal blooms with benches nearby to take a break and soak it all in.

Azalea Garden (walking)

This mostly paved walking path can be accessed from either the Spring Garden or Walled Garden. It is a great opportunity to go even deeper into Biltmore’s historic gardens, offering benches along the way, and leads to Bass Pond Waterfall and Boat House. Take in spectacular views across the Bass Pond at approximately 1 mile.

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

Moderate Biltmore Trails

Lagoon Trail (walking, running, biking)

This mostly flat, paved trail leads to the Lagoon, which offers a striking view of the west side of Biltmore House (a popular picnic spot). Start and end at Antler Hill Village for a pleasant 3-mile trip. The French Broad River and estate farmland provide pleasant scenery as you explore the path. 

Farm Trail (walking, running, biking)

This flat gravel and dirt road runs along the perimeter of Biltmore’s grounds and the French Broad River. Totaling 6 miles, this trail leads to the Arbor Trace Trail at one end and the Lagoon Trail at the other.

Westover Trails (hiking, trail running, biking)

Access this set of Biltmore trails from the Bike Barn or The Inn on Biltmore Estate® to see Biltmore’s beautiful woodlands. The green (1.7 miles) and blue routes (2.8 miles) immerse you in nature while offering wide trails for a comfortable experience with a few challenging hills.

On Biltmore's Westover trails, a bridge in the woods
The Westover Trails provide access to some of the estate’s more secluded woodlands.

Challenging Biltmore Trails

Westover Trails (hiking, trail running, biking)

The black route totals 3.5 miles round-trip inside Biltmore’s beautiful woodland. The narrow trail offers steep hills and is great for a technical single-track bike ride or an authentic hiking experience.

Arbor Trace Trail (hiking, trail running, biking)

This trail can only be accessed by first following the Farm Trail. The 3.5 mile round-trip route travels in and out of the woods providing scenic views of the estate’s agriculture and the historic Market Gardener’s Cottage on Biltmore Estate™. The last stretch of the trail (black) is quite narrow and an optional loop.

Deer Park Trail (walking, running, biking)

This challenging uphill trek is quite popular due to the stunning view of Biltmore House it offers. To extend the challenge, start at Antler Hill Village and take the Farm Trail to the Lagoon Trail which leads to the Deer Park Trail. 

Be sure to check out our trail map before you embark. All Biltmore trails are pet-friendly, well-maintained, and accessible only to Passholders, lodging guests, and ticketed guests. If you’re looking for a more curated experience, consider one of our guided hiking or biking offerings. See you on the trails!

8 Great Reasons to Visit Biltmore This Fall

There are more than 8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall, like the fact that the season is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping,” and Biltmore offers the best Blue Ridge Mountains views around.

The estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for your fall trip.

Here are 8 of our favorite reasons to make Biltmore the center of your getaway this fall:

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

1. 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 your visit to Biltmore House & Gardens, you could easily spend several days enjoying the surrounding area.

2. Rooftop Tour of America’s Largest Home®

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.

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see. This 60-minute 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.

3. Outdoor adventures

8 great reasons to visit Bltmore this fall
Enjoy beautiful fall color along our trails

Enjoy the crisp air and glorious fall colors while hiking or biking along our nearly 22 miles of paved and unpaved trails. 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.

4. Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

Located in the heart of the estate, this historic structure is the headquarters for Biltmore’s Carriage Rides and Horseback Trail Rides. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant carriage or a western-style adventure on a horse that suits your riding style, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

5. Biltmore Gardens Railway

Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village at Biltmore
Marvel at Biltmore Gardens Railway–a botanical model train display in Antler Hill Village

All aboard for family fun with Biltmore Gardens Railway! Experience our grounds in an engaging new way with a botanical model train display that is sure to delight all ages. Located in Antler Hill Village, the displays feature replicas of iconic train depots from around the country. Each beautifully executed piece was handcrafted from such natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

6. Get ready for the holidays!

Golden cherub ornament on a Biltmore Christmas tree
Christmas decor in Biltmore House

After strolling through a kaleidoscope of fall colors in the Walled Garden and enjoying the beautiful hues of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, reserve at time to visit Biltmore House and get a sneak peek at what the Floral Displays team is planning for the holidays. Even though we don’t officially kick off the season until early November, you may catch glimpses of their hard work in the weeks leading up to Christmas at Biltmore!

7. Vineyard harvest season

Harvesting grapes 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

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate the harvest season. Make reservations to 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.

8. The ultimate fall getaway

Guests entering The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Enjoy a grand fall getaway at The Inn on Biltmore Estate

An overnight stay at Biltmore offers the unique experience of waking up on George Vanderbilt’s estate with autumn beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, or experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®.  

Plan your visit today and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall getaway.

…And the winner is…

The Coral Knock Out Rose has captured the top prize at the recent finals of the 2019 Biltmore International Rose Trials.  Bred by William Radler and distributed by Star Roses & Plants, Coral Knock Out Rose (RADral) took home the George and Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the trials.

Coral Knock Out Rose by Star Roses & Plants

The winning rose was among a collection of roses planted for trials in 2017 in Biltmore’s award-winning and historic Rose Garden. Since 2011, Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials in which more than 200 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s expert horticulturalists. A permanent jury of rose experts judged the plantings four times a year during the trial’s two years.

In addition to winning the Best in Show Award, Coral Knock Out won the Chauncey Beadle Award for Most Outstanding Shrub Rose. Additional winners this year were:

Sweet Hips (KAPswehp) – Winner of the William Cecil Award for Best General Impression, and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant Rose, Sweet Hips is available from Weeks Roses.

Sweet Hips, available from Weeks Roses

Cupid’s Kisses (WEKtriscala) – Winner of the Gilded Age Award for Best Climbing Rose. Bred by Christian Bedard, it is available from Weeks Roses.

Cupid’s Kisses

Bliss Parfuma (KORmarzau) – Bred by Kordes Roses in Germany, Bliss Parfuma won the Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Bliss Parfuma

Moonlight Romantica (MEILkaquinz) – Winner of the Pauline Merrill Award for best Hybrid Tea went to Moonlight Romantica, bred by Meilland in France. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Moonlight Romantica

Trials of this type are open to rose breeders around the world – from professional to beginner. Competing roses are evaluated for overall health and rigor; fragrance; disease resistance; and ability to repeat bloom.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

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 Structural Comparison

Twice a year, the Conservatory is transformed into a wonderland of creativity. Discover Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring miniature estate landmark replicas made of all-natural materials gathered from Biltmore’s grounds. Let’s take an up-close look at the attention to detail paid to the recreations of these historic structures.

Image 1: Photograph of the Lodge Gate from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1900
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Exhibition Room

About the Lodge Gate Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, pine bark, hickory nuts, lotus pods, contorted Filbert, bamboo, winged bean, pine cone scales, and acorn caps
  • Dimensions: 28”x22”x15”
  • Time to complete: 275+ hours
Image 1: Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Orchid Room

About the Conservatory Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, pine bark, anise, honeysuckle, ash, winged euonymus, contorted Filbert, and oak bark
  • Dimensions: 21”x52”x14”
  • Time to complete: 350+ hours
Image 1: Photograph of Biltmore House from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Palm House

About the Biltmore House Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: baby acorns, acorn caps, star anise, pine cone, contorted Filbert, grapevine, honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, bamboo, ash bark, oak bark, and elm bark
  • Dimensions: 66”x122”x55”
  • Time to complete: 1700+ hours

The enchantment of Biltmore Gardens Railway is a semi-annual event at Biltmore. Check our event listing for upcoming dates and plan your visit today!

Exploring Biltmore’s Conservatory in Asheville, NC

Imagine the luxury of having a house full of tropical plants to delight your senses—ranging from 40-foot palms to four-inches tall bromeliads. George and Edith Vanderbilt enjoyed that experience with Biltmore’s Conservatory, a beautifully designed greenhouse built for nurturing plants. 

Beneath its expansive glass roof, the Conservatory contains hundreds of plant varieties grown in several purposefully designed spaces, including the Orchid Room, Hot House, and Cool House. From spring to late summer, the Biltmore Gardens Railway is on display. The seasonal botanical model train display features small-scale replicas of the estate’s structures and includes approximately 800 feet of miniature rails.

Palm House at Biltmore

As you enter into this section of the Conservatory, you’ll immediately see why it was designated as the Palm House on architect Richard Morris Hunt‘s original plans. The grand space rises 40-feet high and contains our tallest plants, including the Queen Palm and Golden Hawaiian Bamboo that reach to the ceiling. Other notable specimens are the Mast Tree, a tall and narrow tree species once used to build ship masts, and the broadest plants in the building: Silver Bismark Palms, spreading 15 to 20 feet wide.

Orchid Room at Biltmore

To the left of the Palm House is the Orchid Room, filled with exotic orchid blooms in myriad colors and forms. There are more than 1,000 orchid plants in the Conservatory’s collection, ranging from the familiar corsage and lady slipper varieties to rare examples that perfume the air with tantalizing fragrance. Our year-round orchid display is made possible by Biltmore’s expansive collection. Blooming orchids are rotated into the room year-round, ensuring an endless show of color.

Exhibit Room

From over-the-top spring floral designs to a holiday wonderland, the Exhibit Room to the right of the Palm House hosts seasonally changing displays. This is a favorite location for guests to capture photos year-round.

Hot House at Biltmore

You might recognize some of the residents of the Hot House, as the tropical environment promotes the lush growth of philodendrons, pothos, and other species sold as popular houseplants.

Cool House at Biltmore

This is a subtropical zone, featuring Australian tree ferns, banana trees, and the aptly-named Lollipop plants and Shrimp plants. Note the overachieving Thai Giant Elephant Ear; with leaves 4–5 feet long, this plant has the biggest leaves in the Conservatory.

Alleys

Each summer, the alleyways adjoining the Hot House and Cool House are filled with plants for guests to enjoy. The Hot Alley features Bromeliads, while the Cool Alley showcases plants from the ginger and Heliconia families.

Potting Room at Biltmore

This workspace in the Conservatory has been used for over a century to re-pot plants as needed.

Enjoy 365 Days of Biltmore with an Annual Pass

Enjoy the grandeur and beauty of the 2,000+ plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory year-round. Purchase a Biltmore Annual Pass so you can return season after season to enjoy our gardens!

Keeping Track of Biltmore Gardens Railway

Twice a year, Biltmore’s Conservatory is home to Biltmore Gardens Railway, an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and rail cars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks – even one of the Conservatory itself! A second railway display is located in Antler Hill Village where trains travel past replicas of the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, and other European landmarks visited by George Vanderbilt during his world travels. 

Working from original floor plans, drawings with elevations, and photographs of Biltmore House and other estate structures, a team with Applied Imagination constructed the Biltmore replicas using natural materials they gathered from estate grounds. The result is a stunningly accurate version of Biltmore. 

Scale model replica of Biltmore House inside Conservatory.

Some fun facts and figures to consider about Biltmore Gardens Railway: 

“Luxuriant” bamboo, as Frederick Law Olmsted called it when planning George Vanderbilt’s gardens and grounds, was harvested and used as the roofing material on the Biltmore House replica. Grapevine was also collected and fashioned into Biltmore’s iconic gargoyles. 

1,700 – The number of hours it took to construct the 10-foot-long replica of Biltmore House, compared to… the 6 years it took to build the 250-room Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

6 – The number of artists it took to build the scale model of Biltmore House, compared to… the 1,000 workers it took to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

5,000 – The number of tons of Indiana limestone used to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s, compared to… the 25 types of items harvested from estate grounds to create replicas of Biltmore House and other buildings. This included horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, hickory nuts, lotus pods, bamboo, pine cone scales, acorn caps, winged bean, star anise, grapevine, honeysuckle, ash bark, oak bark, pine bark, elm bark, hickory bark, eucalyptus leaves, day lily stem, rose of sharon, cedar branch, walnuts, stewartia, wisteria, turkey tail fungus, and contorted Filbert.

Artists from Applied Imagination suited up in waders to snip a few treasures from the Italian Garden pools. The lotus pods growing there were just too perfect to pass up, and ended up in the creation of the Stables. 

Woman gathering seed pods from the Italian Garden pool.

6 – The number of separate railroad tracks running through the Conservatory carrying locomotives and rail cars around the buildings. The trains cross bridges and trestles on varied levels and through multiple rooms.  

8 – The number of estate building replicas in the Conservatory. 

7 – The number of artists it took to create all of the replicas in the Conservatory.

3,745 –The number of combined hours it took to construct eight estate building replicas for the Conservatory exhibition.

Overhead trellis carries scale model train through the Conservatory.

8 – The number of buildings in the display at Antler Hill Village. 

1,050 – Amount of railroad track in feet required for the displays.

1 – Amount of weeks to install Biltmore Gardens Railway at two locations on the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway is a wonderful, fun-for-all-ages feature at Biltmore this summer. Plan your visit now