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George Washington Vanderbilt


  • Name: George Washington Vanderbilt
  • Born: November 14, 1862, New Dorp, Staten Island, New York
  • Parents: William Henry Vanderbilt, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt
  • Spouse: Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, married 1898–1914
  • Child: Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt
  • Notable Projects: Biltmore House, Biltmore Forest School, All Souls Church, Biltmore Village
  • Death: March 6, 1914, Washington D.C.

About George Washington Vanderbilt

“I came to this spot and thought the prospect finer than any other I had seen.”

—George Vanderbilt

A Contemplative Youth

The youngest of eight children born to William Henry and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt, George Washington Vanderbilt was known from childhood for his reflective demeanor and thoughtfulness towards others. Quiet and patient like his father, he also inherited William Henry’s appreciation of art and antiques and would grow up to become a patron of the arts, an early adopter of new technology, and a collector of rare and beautiful objets d’art.

A Place of His Own

Even as a child, George’s active imagination and insatiable curiosity were fueled by his passion for reading. He became a scholar and world traveler who learned to read in eight languages. When George was 26 years old, he discovered the resort town of Asheville, North Carolina, on a trip with his mother. He fell in love with the scenic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in 1888 recruited architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the mountain retreat he envisioned. Construction on Biltmore House began in 1890, and Vanderbilt welcomed his friends and family to his new home for the first time at Christmas in 1895.

Building a Family

Two years later, the nation’s most eligible bachelor was introduced to 24-year-old Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and a courtship began. They married in June of 1898, and Edith gave birth to their only child, Cornelia, in 1900. Respected and cherished by members of the community, George and Edith helped revitalize and energize Asheville’s economy, and brought national recognition to the Blue Ridge Mountain town.

The Vision Lives On

Biltmore served as the epicenter of George’s life and contributions, providing a home for his prized art collection, an outlet for his interest in innovation, a model of scientific forestry in America, self-sustaining agricultural practices, and, most importantly, a warm and hospitable respite for those whom he held most dear. Edith, Cornelia, and the city of Asheville mourned George’s untimely death in 1914, but his thoughtful legacy continues as his descendants own and operate the estate, which was first opened to the public in 1930 as a means to boost the tourism economy of the area.

Images of George Washington Vanderbilt

Portrait of George Vanderbilt around age 12, circa 1873

George Vanderbilt with newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia of Biltmore House, September 30, 1900

George Vanderbilt (seated, third from left) with unidentified gondola companions in Venice, 1887.

Afternoon tea on the Loggia, May 1903
Left to right, Edith Vanderbilt, Mademoiselle Rambaud (Edith Vanderbilt's former chaperone),
Lila Vanderbilt Webb (George's sister), Mary Webb (Lila's sister in law),
Isabella Stewart Gardner, William Blodgett II, and George Vanderbilt