By the spring of 1894, the exterior walls reached their full height and framing of the roof commenced. Like much of the structure, the roof of Biltmore House contained no wood in an effort to improve fire safety. Slate tiles were hand-tied with copper wire to iron cross beams, and the roof was finished with copper ridge caps and gutters.

With the roof in place, work on the decorative interiors could begin. An army of artisans applied floor, wall, and ceiling treatments between September 1894 and March 1895. Also installed during this period were the modern conveniences that made Biltmore House a marvel of the Gilded Age, including 288 electric light fixtures, 43 bathrooms featuring indoor plumbing, and two electric Otis elevators.

Despite efforts to meet Vanderbilt’s deadline, Biltmore House was not complete when guests arrived on December 24, 1895. The Tapestry Gallery, Winter Garden, and Banquet Hall were mostly done, but several interiors were less complete. The walnut woodwork in the Library and George Vanderbilt’s own bedroom needed to dry before installation, so neither room could be put to full use. While most of the interior work was completed by July 1896, some of the artistic finishes continued through 1898.

“In regard to the work to be done at the Chateau, there is so much to be done…”

—Richard Sharp Smith to Charles McNamee, January 6, 1896.


Scaffolding rises around the main entrance tower and Grand Staircase while stonecarvers finish decorative limestone exteriors. 1894.

Carved limestone exterior elements await installation in front of partially-constructed Biltmore House in the background.

Iron beams riveted together to form trusses provided the roof structure for slate tiles sourced from Philadelphia. March 1894.