Raise A Glass To Our Newest Masterpiece

Raise a glass to our newest masterpiece–a delightful blend created exclusively for the 2023 release of our Masterpiece Collection White Wine.

Tasting notes

Two bottles of Masterpiece Collection White Wine for 2023 on a table
Sip something special this spring and summer with the 2023 release of our Masterpiece Collection White Wine.

“Crisp, smooth, and refreshing, this off-dry white wine was handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy as a passionate collector of extraordinary art and exceptional vintages,” said Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker. “It echoes the return of warm weather with citrus and orange blossom aromas, plus wonderful flavors of honeydew, lime, and peach.”

Inspired by a masterpiece of preservation

View of the Tyrolean Chimney Room in Biltmore House
The hand-painted ceramic tiles on the overmantel above the fireplace in the Tyrolean Chimney Room provided inspiration for our 2023 Masterpiece Collection White Wine labels.

For 2023, our Masterpiece Collection White Wine features a set of four labels inspired by hand-painted floral tiles on the overmantel of an 18th-century tile stove known as a kachelöfen that George Vanderbilt likely purchased in his European travels, possibly in Switzerland. 

Created in the 18th century, the kachelöfen in Biltmore’s Tyrolean Chimney Room is made of tin-glazed earthenware tiles hand-painted with exquisite floral designs.

Handpainted ceramic tiles in the Tyrolean Chimney Room.
Each of the tin-glazed earthenware tiles is adorned with a lovely bouquet of lush blooms.

While the tile was in relatively good condition for its age, Biltmore’s conservators spent hundreds of hours cleaning and in-painting damaged areas of the overmantel in conjunction with the Louis XV Suite restoration project.

A conservator repaints flowers on ceramic tiles with a tiny brush
Our conservators carefully restored the hand-painted tiles in the Tyrolean Chimney Room.

The painstaking work required a combination of conservation experience and artistic ability. The results show the vivid colors and delicate florals that inspired the room’s striking design.

Choosing the label

“We chose the bouquets on these floral tiles as the label for our new Masterpiece Collection White Wine because the blooms are so beautiful, and they capture the feel of warmer weather and the desire all of us feel to enjoy the outdoors during spring and summer,” said Lisa Vogel, Art Director.

In fact, all of the tiles were so unique that Lisa couldn’t choose just one for the 2023 Masterpiece Collection label; she selected four separate tiles and created a whole set!

Masterpiece Collection press sheet of individual labels
The press sheet for our Masterpiece Collection White Wine shows different versions of the labels.

“When you see the four labels together, you may notice slight variations in the background behind each bouquet,” Lisa said. “That’s because of the age of the original tiles and the fact that they were painted by hand–it gives them subtle shadings and textures that we worked to preserve in these lovely labels.”

Pairing this masterpiece with your favorite flavors

Masterpiece Collection White Wine bottles with a pitcher of sangria
Perfect with your favorite warm-weather fare, our Masterpiece Collection White Wine is also refreshing as the base of a refreshing white sangria!

According to Shruthi, our Masterpiece Collection White Wine pairs perfectly with the lighter fare we favor during warmer weather.

“Perfect for spring and summer sipping and entertaining, this wine pairs well with classic fare such as pasta Alfredo and lighter seafood dishes like crab, fried oysters, and salmon. Make a moment memorable by packing a bottle for your next picnic, or enjoy it with friends at brunch or lunch,” said Shruthi.

In addition, you can stir up a cool, refreshing pitcher of Refreshing White Sangria with our Masterpiece Collection White Wine. Enjoy with friends and freeze any leftovers for a fun take on grown-up popsicles or slushies.

Select this special masterpiece for spring!

Masterpiece Collection White Wine being poured into a glass
Indulge your senses with our delicious Masterpiece Collection White Wine.

If you’re looking for a special gift for spring and summer occasions such as Easter, Mother’s Day, bridal luncheons, weddings, and college graduations, this wine’s one-of-a-kind labels make each bottle a charming gift for flower lovers and those who appreciate all things Biltmore.

Look for our 2023 Masterpiece Collection White Wine in estate shops and online while supplies last*.

*If you order online, your shipment will contain one or more of the label designs chosen at random.

George Vanderbilt: A Passion For Italy

George Vanderbilt–traveler, collector, and patron of the arts–appreciated the finer things in life, but had a special passion for the culture and creativity of Italy. His trips there and other regions he visited across Europe helped shape his appreciation for art, architecture, and fine wine.

“Throughout his life, George Vanderbilt traveled the world, first with family and friends, and after he married, his wife Edith and their daughter Cornelia often accompanied him,” said Meghan Forest, Associate Curator.

George Vanderbilt’s first Italian visit

Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy
Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy.

Based on correspondence in our archives, Italy seems to have been a favored destination for George Vanderbilt. He first visited the country in 1880 when he was 18 years old, taking in notable sites such as Rome and Vatican City.

The visit included a stop in Milan where the church and Dominican convent of Sante Maria della Grazie was of particular interest as its refectory contains The Last Supper fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Further travels in Italy

The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1495–1498.

In 1887, George Vanderbilt took an extended trip to Italy, taking in some of the well-known sites including Pisa Cathedral with its famously tilted bell tower, better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He also visited Venice with its winding canals and Florence, the city long considered the epicenter of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Florence offers some of the most iconic treasures of the era, including the Uffizi Museum and the Cathedral de Santa Maria dell Fiore, generally referred to as the Duomo because of its two free-standing domes.

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Seven years later, George Vanderbilt returned to Italy with members of his family including his niece Adele Sloan. They visited Taormina and the ruins of the Taormina Amphitheatre built by the Greeks and renovated 600 years later by the Romans. Such sites were popular destinations during the American Renaissance of the late 19th century as travelers sought to understand the ancient world.

Honeymooning in Italy

Villa Vignolo near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.
Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.

“Another reason we believe George Vanderbilt had a passion for Italy is because he chose to take his new bride Edith there after they were wed in Paris in 1898. The Vanderbilts spent the first six weeks of their four-month honeymoon at Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy,” Meghan said.

While there, the Vanderbilts took short trips to various museums and galleries, taking in sights such as the iconic Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice. In Edith, George found a partner who shared his passion for history, literature, and the arts.

In a letter to artist James McNeill Whistler, George wrote of their time in Italy, “It was Mrs. Vanderbilt’s first visit… It has been an added pleasure of course to see her delight and interest… “ *

Italian Renaissance wellhead, c. 1500
Made of Rosso di Verona marble, this fountainhead was likely originally used to decorate and protect an active well in Venice during the Italian Renaissance, c. 1500. It has become known as the “Hunt Fountain” as it is depicted in the John Singer Sargent portrait of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.

Explore Ciao! From Italy Sculptural Postcard Display

As a delightful complement to our new Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition, we’ve partnered with our friends at Applied Imagination to create a series of eight sculptural postcards that showcase George Vanderbilt’s Italian travels in a big way.

Located in Antler Hill Village from April 1, 2023 to February 19, 2024, Ciao! From Italy combines intricate botanical designs with authentic messages from the Vanderbilts in a large-scale format that’s sure to charm all ages. The experience is included with estate admission.

Featured blog image: George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

*George Washington Vanderbilt to James McNeill Whistler. 10 Jul 1898. The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. Glasgow University Library, University of Glasgow: 05919.

World Premiere: Italian Renaissance Alive At Biltmore

“This is no ordinary art exhibition,” said Travis Tatham, Director of Destination Entertainment and Events. “If you’ve ever tiptoed through a silent gallery to view paintings from afar, prepare to be amazed by this experience!”

The stunning new larger-than-life digital art exhibition, created and produced by Grande Experiences, invites you to be transported to one of the most influential eras in art history.

Continue reading to learn about the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, on display daily inside Amherst on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, through January 7, 2024!

Preview the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.

“From start to finish, you’ll interact with art in ways you never imagined, surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound–even fragrance. It is truly an unforgettable event for all the senses,” Travis said.

What was the Italian Renaissance?

Detail of The Entombment of Mary by Giotto
The Entombment of Mary by Giotto, ca. 1310

Renaissance means “rebirth,” and the era brought cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth to Europe following the Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire. A new vision of civilization was portrayed on canvas, in fresco, and sculpture, and the epicenter of it all was Italy.

Italian Renaissance Alive traverses the entire Renaissance time frame, from the 14th to 17th centuries. It celebrates the exceptional artistic and cultural influences of the period, immersing audiences in culture, architecture, sculpture, and literature of this iconic movement.

Italian Renaissance Alive

Detail of The Creation of Adam by Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam, a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted ca. 1508–1512.

“Since Biltmore is hosting the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, our guests will be the very first in the world to experience this fascinating new exhibition,” said Travis.

According to Travis, visitors will be instantly transported by the history and splendor of this extraordinary period, surrounded in its beauty, and able to explore hundreds of masterpieces from some of the world’s most revered artists and sculptors in grand and glorious detail.

Detail of The School of Athens fresco painted by Raphael
The School of Athens by Raphael, ca. 1509–1511

Highlights include Michelangelo’s breath-taking Sistine Chapel, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and other glorious works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Veronese, and more, in an awe-inspiring, large-scale, immersive experience.

Dertail of The Last Judgment fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, ca. 1536–1541. This enormous fresco painting covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

“Accompanied by a powerful Italian operatic score including works by Puccini and Verdi, combined with a compelling narrative, this multi-sensory experience will deliver audiences a captivating, educational and entertaining moment to remember,” said Travis.

Connections to George Vanderbilt and the American Renaissance

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Although he was born 200 years after the Italian Renaissance ended, George Vanderbilt was part of what is known as the American Renaissance–a cultural period from 1876 to 1917 in which the United States experienced a renewal of national self-confidence, embracing both modernism and new technologies along with classic art and architecture.

Vanderbilt traveled to Italy several times, even choosing to spend his honeymoon there, and collected a number of Renaissance-era and Renaissance-inspired treasures for his magnificent home.

Detail of View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Canal
View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Canaletto, ca. 1755

“This new exhibition is a fitting tribute to George Vanderbilt’s lifelong passion for fine art,” Travis said. “It helps you see the connection between Biltmore and this exhibition while enjoying some of the world’s best known masterpieces in an entirely new way, immersed in the beauty and brilliance of a major artistic period in history as it comes to life all around you.”

Be among the first to enjoy Italian Renaissance Alive at Biltmore!

You will not want to miss Italian Renaissance Alive, the fourth and final exhibition in our remarkable Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Biltmore and extend your visit with a reservation at one of our hotels or private historic cottages with an Italian Renaissance Alive package that includes a special memento of your exhibition experience.

In addition, enhance your stay with a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, a wide range of outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and so much more!

Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.
Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.

Featured image: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, ca. 1484–1486

Patron of the Arts: George Vanderbilt

As a patron of the arts, George Vanderbilt remains a remarkable example of the difference one man can make in the field of fine art and education.

With his deep appreciation and understanding of arts and languages and his vision for a self-sustaining country estate, George Vanderbilt was part of the American Renaissance that flourished during the Gilded Age.

Detail of George Vanderbilt portrait by John Singer Sargent, painted in 1890.

A patron of the arts

George Vanderbilt did more than simply collect and appreciate art, however; he was also a passionate patron who befriended artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, commissioning their works for his home and corresponding with them far beyond the particulars of portraiture.

Literary writers including Edith Wharton and Henry James were welcomed at Biltmore, and George Vanderbilt’s close friend and author Paul Leicester Ford spent several weeks at the estate while working on his novel Janice Meredith: A Story of the American Revolution

(left) George Vanderbilt’s personal bookplate.

Library patron

In addition to his personal friendships with artists, George Vanderbilt was a great proponent of public access to the arts, using his philanthropic values to ensure that others could benefit from institutions such as free lending libraries.

While most libraries of that era required patrons to pay for the books they borrowed, Vanderbilt provided funding to build the Jackson Square Free Circulating Library of the New York Public Library System and filled it with books that he donated. This library was one of the first open to the general public.

Rhinocerous print by Albrecht Dürer in Biltmore’s collection.

Support for young artists

Another of George Vanderbilt’s most significant donations was to The American Fine Arts Society in support of young artists. In 1892, Vanderbilt donated $100,000 to pay for the property and construct the building that the Society would use for exhibiting members’ work.

Named the Vanderbilt Gallery in his honor, the inaugural exhibition was a show of prints by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, plus prints based on the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, all from George Vanderbilt’s personal collection.

While some of the Durer prints and those after the style of Reynolds remain in the Biltmore collection, the original Rembrandt prints were sold to J.P. Morgan. You can see a selection of detailed reproductions in the Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House.

Formal photo portrait of young George Vanderbilt (detail)

Living the legacy

We continue George Vanderbilt’s passion for the arts today by hosting exhibitions such as Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore featuring four separate large-scale, multi-sensory events created and produced by Grande Experiences using the very latest in immersive technology.

Past exhibitions have illuminated the remarkable lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Da Vinci, while the current Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition showcases a wide range of timeless masterpieces from that dramatic era in European history.

Each individual exhibition offers fascinating ties to Vanderbilt’s collection of treasures on display in Biltmore House, his magnificent family home, in Asheville, North Carolina.

Featured: Bronze bust of George Vanderbilt by Mary Grant

The Lasting Legacy of John Cecil

The lasting legacy of John Cecil is founded on his contributions to Biltmore during his lifetime, which helped preserve the estate for future generations. Let’s take a look at how he became such an important part of Biltmore’s history.

John Cecil’s early life

Photographic portrait of John Cecil
The Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, 1924

John Francis Amherst Cecil grew up in the English countryside of Norfolk. He was the third son of Lord Cecil and the Baroness Amherst of Hackney. His father was a descendant of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth 1.

As a young man, John studied history and international law at the New College of Oxford University before becoming a member of the British diplomatic corps. He served in Egypt, Spain, and Czechoslovakia before being posted to Washington where he rose to the position of First Secretary of the British Embassy.

John Cecil met Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt in Washington, D.C., where she and her mother Edith Vanderbilt spent a great deal of time in the years following George Vanderbilt’s death. Ten years older than Cornelia, John was one of a group of eligible gentlemen known as the “British bachelors” in the capitol’s social circles.

A grand wedding

Cornelia and John Cecil engagement photo
The Honorable and Mrs. John Francis Amherst Cecil, 1924. This portrait, shot by noted London photographer Langfier, was taken when Cornelia was presented to Queen Mary of the United Kingdom following her wedding. Since John Cecil was a member of the nobility, the couple followed the tradition of formally presenting his bride to English society. Cornelia wore a dress made out of her modified wedding gown and veil.

Of all the romantic celebrations Biltmore Estate has witnessed, none have been quite as spectacular as the wedding of American heiress Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt to the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil on April 29, 1924.

Hundreds of invitations were extended to friends and family, and the guest list included many well-known public and diplomatic figures of the time.

Life at Biltmore

Cornelia Vanderbilt (front center) and John Cecil (back right) at party with friends in front of Biltmore House, 1925
(L-R back row) Leander McCormick-Goodhart, John Cecil; (front row) H. H. Sims, Amelia “Mitzi” Sims, Cornelia Vanderbilt, Rachel Vanderbilt, and Benjamin Bernard in front of Biltmore House, 1925

Shortly before his marriage to Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, Cecil resigned his diplomatic position, announcing that after the wedding he would make Biltmore his primary residence and would take an active role in managing the estate.

After their honeymoon, the couple lived at Biltmore, continuing the legacy of hospitality for which the estate was known, as well as managing the property and farming operations.

Cornelia and John Cecil (center) at the 1930 opening of Biltmore House
Cornelia and John Cecil (central figures) at the opening of Biltmore House to the public in 1930.

During the Great Depression, in a bid to boost the local economy and bring tourists to the region, the Cecils worked with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to open Biltmore House to the public in 1930. 

Building a legacy

John Cecil driving in front of Biltmore House
John Cecil driving in front of Biltmore House, c. 1925

The Cecils divorced in 1934, with Cornelia taking the couple’s two young sons with her to Europe to be educated. John Cecil remained at Biltmore, enjoying the life of a country gentleman while taking an active role in the management of Biltmore House and becoming involved with several community organizations including the Biltmore Hospital and All Souls’ Church.

Together with Edith Vanderbilt and Judge Junius Adams, John Cecil provided leadership for The Biltmore Company, which was organized in 1932 to manage the estate. He returned to his native England during World War II as Minister of Information, but came back to Asheville and took up residence at Biltmore again when the conflict ended.

A tribute to John Cecil

John Cecil dressed as Santa Claus with a group of children dressed as Santa's elves, ca. 1950
The Hon. John F. A. Cecil (left) dressed as Santa Claus with Santa’s elves at a Christmas party at the Biltmore Forest Country Club, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Biltmore Forest Country Club and Sheila Fender, Asheville, N.C.

John Cecil developed enduring relationships with estate residents who remembered him as a kind, down-to-earth gentleman. At annual Christmas parties, he often portrayed Santa Claus, emerging from one of the vast fireplaces in the Banquet Hall with a giant bag of gifts over his shoulder, much to the delight and wonder of the children in attendance.

In his book Lady on the Hill, John Cecil’s younger son William A.V. Cecil wrote that his father “had a deep appreciation for the treasures in the house and entertained his guests by translating the Old Latin woven into the tapestries. He brought a sense of British propriety to the chateau’s new role as tourist attraction with an approach that was both Old World and Madison Avenue. For example, he insisted that the staff place fresh-cut flowers in the rooms opened to visitors to discount the appearance of a dusty museum. His philosophy became a standard throughout Biltmore’s public life.”

John Cecil’s lasting legacy

Evening reflection of Biltmore House in the Front Lawn fountain
John Cecil’s contributions to Biltmore have helped preserve the estate for future generations.

Today, we honor John Cecil’s contributions to the legacy of Biltmore with the John Francis Amherst Cecil Scholarship established in his honor. This scholarship is a tribute to his devotion to the preservation and well-being of Biltmore and its employees, and the scholarship helps assist the dependents of Biltmore employees with the rising costs of higher education.

Featured image: Candid photograph of John Cecil

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin is the delightful result of a collaboration between two family-led companies in Asheville, North Carolina.

With the addition of Biltmore Estate’s rose petals and red wine barrels, this outstanding small-batch gin distilled by Chemist Spirits delights with its soft pink hue and layers of distinctive flavor .

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Chemist Conservatory Rose Gin
Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin crafted is a collaboration with Chemist Spirits in Asheville, NC

Mixed or muddled, handcrafted botanical gins are very much on trend, and none surpass the pure elegance of Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“This is the fourth time we’ve collaborated with Chemist Spirits to handcraft this limited-edition, small-batch Rose Gin,” said Geoff Campbell, Wine Marketing Manager. “It’s a remarkable way to evoke the classic refinement of Biltmore’s gardens in bloom.”

Barrels at Biltmore's Winery
Oak barrels in the Barrel Room at Biltmore Winery

The 84-proof base gin crafted by Chemist Spirits expresses soft juniper notes bursting with bright citrus. It is then matured for several months in red wine-soaked estate barrels for a rich infusion of warm fruit and toasted oak flavors.

Perfect petals

Pink roses blooming in Biltmore's Rose Garden
Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden provides perfect pink petals for our collaboration with Chemist Gin

To preserve the peak freshness of this limited-edition small-batch gin, hand-plucked rose petals from Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden are infused into the barreled, rested spirit just days before it is bottled and released.

The result is a palate-pleasing botanical gin with a subtle pink hue from the wine barrels and sweet nuances of pink and white rose, lemon cream, vanilla, ripe strawberry, and grapefruit peel that finishes with a smooth, velvety note of dry red wine.

Perfect blooms in Biltmore's historic Rose Garden
May to June – Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden takes center stage as multiple species of roses are in full bloom. Petals from our roses were selected for a spirited collaboration with Asheville’s Chemist Spirits that resulted in Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“The rose is symbolic of many powerful emotions, and Chemist Spirits’ Conservatory Rose Gin captures this essence in a bottle that makes for a perfect gift to be enjoyed with friends and family,” said Debbie Word, who founded Chemist Spirits along with her daughter Danielle Donaldson, an accomplished chemist who is also a young mother.

“Chemist Spirits is particularly proud to make this special release available in time for Mother’s Day, when roses are traditionally gifted to celebrate our admiration for and the grace of the women in our lives,” Debbie noted.

We invite you to enjoy Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin in the ‘spirit’ in which it is intended–as a reminder to slow down and savor those lingering moments that capture the sweeping romance of Biltmore Estate and inspire us to pause and drink in the roses.

Create cocktail chemistry

Create instant cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Rose Gin
Enjoy a refreshing French Rose 75 Cocktail featuring Biltmore Estate Brut sparkling wine and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

To honor this exclusive collaboration in which Chemist Spirits locally distilled gin is carefully aged in Biltmore wine barrels—along with a fragrant profusion of petals from estate roses—we’re shaking things up by pairing our wines with a splash of spirits to create instant cocktail chemistry:

Try an elegant French Rose 75 cocktail with Biltmore Estate® Brut Sparkling and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin—it’s perfect for any occasion.

Find Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin and Biltmore wines

Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin
Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin and Biltmore wines

Enjoy this signature Rose Gin in cocktails at estate restaurants, and find our award-winning wines in estate shops and online.

To purchase Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin by the bottle while supplies last, visit or contact Chemist Spirits in downtown Asheville.

Edith Vanderbilt & Photography

Photography was one of Edith Vanderbilt’s many passions. In turn, her photographs of life at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC help inform our curatorial interpretations today.

With the introduction of roll film and the hand-held camera in the 1880s, photography became truly accessible to casual amateurs for the first time. There are a few distinct ways that we know that Edith embraced this new medium and enjoyed photography throughout her lifetime.

Edith Vanderbilt with camera on tripod
Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod along the banks of the French Broad River, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Photos of Edith Vanderbilt with a Camera

One of the most concrete ways we know of Edith’s interest in photography is thanks to photographs in the Biltmore collection in which she is pictured with a camera in hand. Many of these photos came from one series in particular.

In the winter of 1905-1906, George Vanderbilt’s niece Edith Fabbri and her husband Ernesto visited Biltmore. During their trip, Edith Vanderbilt and Ernesto appear to have gone on a photography excursion on the estate and in nearby Biltmore Village.

Multiple images from this series taken by Ernesto capture Edith with her camera and a tripod.

Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.
Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.

Photos with Edith Vanderbilt’s Handwriting on the Back

Additionally, there are more than a dozen photographs in our archival collection that we know were captured by Edith as her distinct handwriting is on the back of the images.

Not only was she taking these photos, but Edith was also learning to develop many of them herself. She seemed very proud of this skill set, writing on the back of one photograph: “Taken, developed and printed, without help.”

Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt demonstrating her practice of photography techniques
Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt on the Loggia, October 1900. These photos were presumably taken by Edith Vanderbilt.

Multiple Copies of Photos of Family Moments

There are also many photographs we presume to have been taken by Edith, including shots of more intimate family moments. For instance, she was likely responsible for the images of George Vanderbilt with their newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia.

In our archival collection, there are 14 copies of what appear to be essentially the same image from that series. However, each of the copies varies slightly in exposure and cropping, which speaks to Edith’s experimenting with development techniques as she worked to hone her craft.

Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903
Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903. This archival object is currently on display in The Biltmore Legacy as part of our “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” exhibition.

Location of the Edith Vanderbilt’s Darkroom

We know that Edith was developing her own photographs, but we do not know with certainty the location of the darkroom she used.

One archival manuscript includes mention of a “Photograph Room” in the Bachelors’ Wing of Biltmore House. However, we’ve yet to find additional sources to confirm where this space was located and how it was used.

There are also employee recollections of darkroom equipment being present in the Basement, though it is unclear if this was the location of the equipment when Edith lived in Biltmore House or if it was later moved.

Our curatorial team continues to research this topic.

While we may not know the full extent of Edith Vanderbilt’s engagement with the modern hobby of photography, her photographs—as well as others presumed to have been taken by her—offer glimpses into life at Biltmore during the Vanderbilts’ era that we would not have otherwise.

Feature image: Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod in Biltmore Village, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Preserving the Legacy of Cornelia Vanderbilt’s “Baby Tree”

In honor of the arrival of George and Edith Vanderbilt’s first and only child, a “baby tree” was planted just after her christening.

The Baby Tree: A Cucumbertree Magnolia

The Vanderbilts welcomed Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt in the late summer of 1900. In October of that year, a cucumbertree magnolia, known to botanists as Magnolia acuminata, was planted in Cornelia’s honor.

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

The cucumbertree is a deciduous magnolia with large oblong leaves. Unlike most other magnolias, its flowers are yellowish green and not very showy, causing them to often go unnoticed when they bloom in late May or early June. In its early stages, the green, fleshy fruit roughly resembles a small cucumber, hence the tree’s name.

Biltmore’s botanist, Chauncey Beadle, had collected the scarlet seeds of this indigenous tree found growing along the banks of the French Broad River near the estate. Beadle propagated the seeds in the Biltmore Nursery

In a letter within Biltmore’s archives, Beadle wrote:

“The seedlings resulting from this sowing were planted out in nursery rows, cultivated and pruned and eventually, placed along the roads and paths of the Estate with the exception of one tree, a particularly beautiful and thrifty individual, which remained on [sic] the nursery until chosen for the noteworthy occasion of which this writing bears record.”

The planting ceremony for Cornelia's Baby Tree, October 1900
The planting ceremony for Cornelia’s Baby Tree, October 1900

The Planting Ceremony

The planting of the cucumbertree magnolia, known fondly as the “baby tree” or “Cornelia’s tree,” was a small and intimate event. The Vanderbilt family, Beadle, Dr. Samuel Westray Battle, and a few estate workers were the only attendants.

A 1900 Asheville Daily Citizen article states:

“The spot selected is in a beautiful grassy dell near Biltmore House. The tree itself, now but a sapling of twelve feet in height, is expected to be 60 feet above the ground when little Cornelia reaches the age of 20 years. A few years after that event, it is expected that it will reach a height of 100 feet. It lives centuries, and is one of the prides of our beautiful southern forests.”

The baby tree grew to be massive, standing proudly in the Azalea Garden, just below the junction of the two main paths leading into the garden below the Conservatory and greenhouses.

The second generation cucumbertree magnolia, located in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
The second generation cucumbertree magnolia (center), located in Biltmore’s Azalea Garden

The Baby Tree’s Second Generation

After surviving more than a century, the cucumbertree succumbed to decay. Though a difficult decision, it was removed in September 2008. By that time, the baby tree had lost most of its bark and had just a few remaining branches.

Fortunately, the historical significance of the tree along with the gorgeous color and diversity of its wood grain made its timber ideal for repurposing. The usable wood was custom-sawn into thick slabs and dried to create “high boy” cocktail tables at Cedric’s® Tavern in Antler Hill Village.

Today, the second generation cucumbertree magnolia, which seeded naturally when the original baby tree was still living, can be found thriving in the same exact location in the Azalea Garden, preserving the legacy of this historic tree

Off The Beaten Path: Hidden Gems of Biltmore

Discover the “hidden gems” of Biltmore Estate–special spots that may be off the beaten path, but are worth exploring during your next visit to this welcoming destination in Asheville, NC.

“Our guests tend to be familiar with Biltmore House and its historic gardens, but there are many hidden gems around the property that you might miss if you’re not looking for them,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.

The Vista and statue of Diana

The statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House is a hidden gem in the landscape.
Statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House

At the top of the long, sloping Vista overlooking Biltmore House, you’ll find a marble statue of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, under a wooden arbor. Accompanied by one of her dogs, she gazes out over the landscape.

“The statue is beautiful all by itself,” said Bill, “but when you combine it with a perfect view of Biltmore House framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond it, it’s a spectacular place to have a picnic or watch the sunset.”

Three women enjoy a picnic with a view of Biltmore House
The sloping lawn below the statue of Diana offers picnickers a perfect view of Biltmore House!

Tip: The area behind the statue of Diana is a popular site for weddings and group events, so it may be tented, especially during summer and fall.

The Bass Pond is one of Biltmore’s hidden gems

Boat House at the Bass Pond is a hidden gem of Biltmore
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

The Bass Pond is located at the end of Biltmore’s formal gardens, and though it’s a bit of a walk, the end result is well worth it.

“Keep following the path through the Azalea Garden and you’ll come out at the Bass Pond,” Bill said. “There’s a rustic boathouse on the shore and a bridge over the waterfall at the far end. It’s a beautiful spot for seasonal color and birdwatching.”

Canadian geese on an island at the Bass Pond
The Bass Pond offers wonderful opportunities to view the wilder side of the estate!

Tip: The return trip to Biltmore House is uphill, so take your time and set your own pace. If you don’t have time to walk to the Bass Pond, you can drive to it and use one of the convenient pullouts along the way to park your car and admire this hidden gem designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect.

Explore the Conservatory

Two women in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory in the Walled Garden is a hidden gem that’s worth exploring in every season.

Created as both an indoor garden filled with tropical treasures and a production greenhouse for nurturing plants, the Conservatory forms the back wall of the formal English-style Walled Garden.

“The design of Biltmore’s Conservatory was a collaboration between Biltmore’s architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted,” Bill said. “And we still maintain the original intent to showcase exotic specimens like orchids and palms, and we also grow some of the plants we use around the estate, like a portion of our Christmas poinsettias.”

Pink Ball Tree flowers
There are hidden gems within the Conservatory, like the fragrant flowers of this Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallichii)

Tip: There is always something blooming inside the Conservatory!

Linger by the Lagoon

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

Just below the 250-acre Deer Park portion of the estate, Frederick Law Olmsted created the Lagoon as a peaceful, natural water feature that also serves to reflect the west facade of Biltmore House.

“The Lagoon is raised above the level of the French Broad River that flanks it, which helps keep the water at a more consistent level,” Bill noted. “It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a picnic or watch for wildlife and waterfowl in every season. Many guests drive right by it on their way to Antler Hill Village and don’t realize they’ve missed another of Biltmore’s hidden gems.”

Tip: If you’re looking for a flat, easy trail with lovely views, park at Antler Hill Village and bike or walk the paved path all the way to the Lagoon and back.

Learn more about hiking and biking on Biltmore Estate and download our Trail Map on our Activities page.

More hidden gems of Biltmore Estate:

Hidden Gem: Antler Hill Village. This European-inspired village celebrates our estate agricultural legacy with learning experiences, field-to-table dining, outdoor adventure, unique shops and restaurants, and our award-winning Winery.
Hidden gem: In late summer months, sunflowers line the path from Antler Hill Village to the Lagoon.
Hidden gems: meet friendly farm animals at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village.
Hidden gems: discover beautiful views along our network of hiking and biking trails.
Hidden gems: discover colorful koi in the Italian Garden pools
Hidden gems: explore a world of outdoor sculpture at Biltmore, like this cherub in the Italian Garden.
Hidden gems: a winged dragon carved into the base of a stone fountain near the Front Door of Biltmore House.
Hidden gems: the booths inside Stable Café are the original horse stalls from the estate’s stable complex!
Hidden gems: three large bronze turtle fountains at the base of the Rampe Douce were designed to handle the overflow from the estate’s reservoir system.

While we invite all our guests to enjoy finding some of these often-overlooked areas during your next visit, you may want to consider the benefits of purchasing a Biltmore Annual Pass. As a Passholder, you’ll receive exclusive benefits such as FREE unlimited visits for the next 12 months to discover your own hidden gems in every season!

Featured image: The Conservatory is a hidden gem of Biltmore that offers a tropical escape any time of year!

Create A Biltmore-Inspired Spring Centerpiece

Create a Biltmore-inspired spring centerpiece with easy ideas from our Floral team and the glorious arrangements they design for Biltmore House during our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration!

Spring is a favorite season at Biltmore

Spring centerpiece in Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom at Biltmore
See stunning spring arrangements like this in Biltmore House during Biltmore Blooms

“I think spring is a favorite season for many of us at Biltmore,” said Lizzie Borchers, Floral Manager. “We love to celebrate the season by creating spring centerpieces and arrangements that harmonize with the décor in Biltmore House, and we also love to highlight special features with our designs.”

Spring arrangement in the Library at Biltmore House
Lovely blooms, including early spring branches, add interest to any spring centerpiece

Each year during Biltmore Blooms, Lizzie and her team delight guests with lush floral arrangements that highlight some of the priceless portraits and fantastic furnishings in America’s Largest Home®.

Ready to create your own spring centerpiece inspired by Biltmore?

Blue and white spring blooms
Create a stunning centerpiece that’s perfect for spring!

With some helpful suggestions from our Floral team, you can create a stunning design that evokes the fresh feeling of spring with a classic blue-and-white theme.

“Although we’re used to making arrangements that suit the grand scale of Biltmore House, you can use our techniques to achieve a spring centerpiece that works for your space,” said Lizzie. “Just choose a smaller container as your starting point!”

In addition to the blue-and-white blooms recommended below, try adding pretty pops of color with unexpected touches like peacock feathers or a decorative egg-filled bird’s nest as a special nod to spring.

Suggested Materials:

  • Neutral-colored container
  • Floral oasis foam
  • Dutch iris
  • Caspia (white and lavender varieties)
  • Cream-colored stock
  • Pittosporum (potted version used in this arrangement)
  • White roses
  • White hydrangea
  • Peacock feathers (optional)
  • Decorative bird nest with eggs (optional)

Begin by cutting a piece of floral oasis foam to fit snugly inside your container. Soak it well, then begin adding the larger flowers first. Step back from time to time to see the overall effect. Once you’re satisfied with the placement of the larger elements, begin filling in with smaller flowers and greenery.

Tips from Biltmore’s Floral Team:

  • Try letting some floral elements hang over the sides of the container to create movement and interest.
  • Create an equally pretty spring centerpiece by using small potted plants (or permanent botanicals) rather than freshly cut flowers.
    • Choose green and flowering plants of different heights for texture and interest, and add pieces of Styrofoam to lift some pots higher than others.

Plan your spring visit today!

Family activities at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds all year long!