The Biltmore Estate: Not Just a Pretty House

The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's summer home in Asheville, North Carolina, includes thousands of acres of beautiful property and gardens in addition to the ever popular mansion.
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is the largest private residence in the United States and is also one of the most popular houses to visit, with over one million visitors annually. Views such as the one below are commonly found on postcards and in coffee table books.

My kids were impressed at the size of this potential football or ultimate frisbee field in the “front yard” of the house. The kids wanted me to go back to the car to get our frisbee, but I told them no.

The construction of the Biltmore was completed in 1895 and features an elaborate architecture that highlights ornamentation and detail in every nook and cranny. This was built by George Vanderbilt as his summer house, modeled after estates he had seen in Europe.

The Biltmore has more than 250 rooms (including 80 or more bedrooms) and is approximately 175,000 square feet. My kids thought this would be a great house to play hide-and-seek, but when they asked if they could go hide and have me find them, I had to say no.

I'm just happy that I don't have to sweep or vacuum the floors. Photographs of the interior are not permitted and thus are not shown here. Suffice it to say that the rooms are impressive and beautifully furnished and decorated.

The house itself also has an indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley. When one of my kids asked, “Dad, what if …” I quickly had to respond with a no.

Gargoyles and statues are everywhere, both on the house and on the estate grounds. A view such as this does not leave the onlooker with feelings of peace and serenity, but it is fascinating nonetheless. The gargoyles reminded me of something that might be found on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The kids thought these statues were really cool, but when they asked if we could put a gargoyle statue on our roof at home, I had to say no.

Visitors to the Biltmore are often surprised at the extensive and beautiful gardens and surrounding property, designed by Frederick Olmstead. The Biltmore has multiple large greenhouses with plants and flowers, and I particularly enjoyed walking through the greenhouses. This particular visit was in November, so the gardens were not as beautiful as they are in the spring, but still they were impressive.

I am not good at identifying flowers or plants — if it is not a dandelion or poison ivy then it is out of my league — but many of the trees and plants on the property are labeled. I thought that was a great idea and that it could make a nice project for the kids to do in our yard when we got home. Apparently they knew what I was thinking when I turned to mention it to them, because before I could get a word out they responded in unison, “No!”

The property originally had more than 100,000 acres, but most of it was sold over the years to help cover the cost of maintaining the estate. The estate still has more than 8000 acres, and we only walked through a small portion of it.

Walkways throughout the property are beautiful and well designed. Several times during our visit I began feeling envious, and my wife pointed out that with a yard like this I would be cutting grass 24×7.

I loved the statues that we found, though I must say that I was disappointed to not run across a statue of someone playing a tuba. Perhaps I missed that one.

Statues in the gardens, statues around the property, statues attached to the house — statues were everywhere.

The statues added so much to the feeling of elegance. Each statue was chosen and placed with careful consideration to meaning and historical significance, and it left me with the feeling that perhaps back in “those days” there was a more acute awareness of the relevance of history than we see today. Perhaps I'm wrong (I hope I am).

The Biltmore also has its own vineyard and winery with an informative tour describing the whole wine-making process, and it includes a delightful wine tasting.

The whole family thoroughly enjoyed our day at the Biltmore Estate. I must warn you though. Regardless of where you live, your house will seem small when you return home.

nabewise