In 1893, the foundation and first floors were complete and work on the structural interiors was well underway. Construction began on the second floor exteriors, but the process was not universally smooth. Late deliveries continually caused strife for the supervising managers.

When the Pittsburgh Bridge Company failed to deliver needed iron beams in 1893, architect Richard Morris Hunt bemoaned the company was “…impervious to shame or other moral feelings.” While not all supply delays could be remedied, in this case superintendent Charles McNamee leveraged family connections to the manufacturer to urge the process forward with great success.

Even when materials arrived on time, they were subject to the high quality standards of McNamee and supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith. In 1894, the estate’s on-site kilns produced a load of inferior quality brick rejected by Smith upon their arrival. The bricks were replaced, but work was slowed as a result.

Such delays became more problematic as George Vanderbilt began pushing for a completion deadline. He stayed involved throughout the construction process, receiving frequent updates and photographs taken by those on site as well as visiting three times a year. As work on the second floor commenced, Vanderbilt’s desire to see his new home coalesced into an ambitious goal: Biltmore House must be complete in time for the Vanderbilt family to gather there for Christmas of 1895.

“Every effort will be made to complete the Chateau ready for occupancy Christmas 1895.”

—Richard Sharp Smith to Charles McNamee, December 21, 1891.


George Vanderbilt escorts a group of guests on the South Terrace. He visited in the winter, spring, and fall each year of construction to view progress on his home. 1893.

Interior work begins on the first floor in the area surrounding the Winter Garden, facing toward the Tapestry Gallery. Supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith stands with construction employees on the right, wearing a dark suit and bowler hat. February 1893.

White and Black workers in overalls in front of limestone blocks on first floor of partially-constructed Biltmore House. Below them three granite archways are under construction with scaffolding.