Sunday, October 7, 2007
As wonderful an awe-inspiring as it is, I had never heard of the Biltmore Estate until a co-worker mentioned it to me this past summer.
Being that it is not far from Virginia Beach, I certainly plan to give it a visit very soon. It is a French Renaissance-inspired chateau near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1888 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at 175,000 square feet. Still owned by Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.
Vanderbilt's idea was to replicate the working estates of Europe. He commissioned Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various family members, to design the house in imitation of several Loire Valley chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois. Wanting the best, Vanderbilt also employed Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, including the deliberately rustic three-mile Approach Road, and Gifford Pinchot to manage the forests. Intending that the estate could be self-supporting, Vanderbilt set up scientific forestrypoultry farms, cattle farms, hog farms and a dairy. The estate included its own village (today Biltmore Village) and even a church. Family members and friends invited from all over the United States and beyond came to experience the opulent estate with the splendor of Olmsted's sweet-smelling gardens, rich foods at the 64-seat banquet table, and the stunning beauty of Vanderbilt's mountainous grounds. Famous guests through the years include author Edith Wharton, novelist Henry James, Presidents McKinley, Wilson, Nixon, and Charles, Prince of Wales. >more