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Housekeeping in High Altitudes

Written By LeeAnn Donnelly

Posted 02/10/22

Updated 03/04/24

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“I feel like a kid, climbing up on a jungle gym,” said Samantha Bridges, as she secured her hard hat. Stepping onto an elaborate scaffold built by Biltmore’s in-house carpentry team to safely access a 1,700-pound chandelier, the Biltmore housekeeping team starts work on a multi-day cleaning project. The dusting of this enormous light fixture happens annually in Biltmore House.

Photo of housekeepers cleaning Biltmore House's Grand Staircase chandelier

The dramatic Grand Staircase chandelier dates back to 1895, the year George Vanderbilt moved into the home. The staircase’s appearance from the outside is one of the home’s most distinguishable architectural features. Arguably, thousands of our guests have taken pictures of this engineering marvel.

Picture of the Grand staircase external architecture from outside the Biltmore House

Samantha and co-worker Cindy Crabtree spend the next hour carefully dusting the fixture’s top-level candle lamps. Using goat hair brushes and vacuum cleaners, the women stand inside the fixture, slowly working their way around its perimeter gently swooshing away dust and cobwebs.

Picture of duster brushes used by Biltmore housekeeping to clean fragile items

Focused on the intricate iron designs around the lamps, Cindy steps back slightly, and holds up her brush. “It’s swaying,” she said, pausing to let the chandelier settle back into place. The chandelier is suspended by a single bolt, held in place by a copper dome on the rooftop of Biltmore House.

Close up of Biltmore housekeeping cleaning lightbulbs on Grand Staircase chandelier

Above the lamps on this level is a decorative element so high up that Cindy and Samantha must extend long-handled dusters as far as they’ll stretch to reach it.

Biltmore housekeeping extends long duster to clean high up details of the grand staircase chandelier

With rooms that soar high above, the housekeeping team is accustomed to working several stories up. Safety precautions are taken to make sure they are secure, and that equipment is out of guest pathways.

Below visual of Biltmore's housekeeping team cleaning the Grand Staircase chandelier

Cindy says that any nerves she might have about working at such heights have diminished over the years, as this is her third year working on the Biltmore housekeeping team. Samantha said she keeps in mind to be aware of her surroundings. “Know your space and what’s around you and if you move, you know you have to remember that something fragile is around you.”

Even a 1,700-pound chandelier is considered a “fragile” heirloom? Indeed.

Cindy Crabtree and Samantha Bridges, Biltmore Housekeeping Team Members

Cindy Crabtree and Samantha Bridges, Biltmore Housekeeping Team Members

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