BILTMORE, NORTH CAROLINA
Updated: Aug 11
The first thing you notice about Biltmore is its grandeur, its opulence and its sheer majesty. You pass in your car through a magnificent arch which has no other use other than the statement of wealth and importance.
The private drive to the house reminds me of that old story of the Texan millionaire who visited Buckingham Palace with an English friend. 'Call this a house? At my place back home, it takes me 15 minutes to drive from the front gate to my front door'.
'Yes', said the Englishman, I used to have a car like that'.
The drive to Mr Vanderbilt's mansion is over three miles long, taking you through woods, around green pastures, over lakes across beautiful bridges. And when you arrive, you pass through another arched portal to reveal the extravagant house, the chateau-esque palace of extraordinary proportions set back against Versailles-style, formal gardens. It is the biggest private house in America with over 250 rooms covering 179,000 square feet. Surrounded by incredibly beautiful gardens, George Washington Vanderbilt spared no time or expense in giving his jewel home the perfect setting. It sits overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, with views over forests and open grassland.
Mr Vanderbilt built it between 1889 to 1895. The family had made its vast fortune of over $200 billion from shipping and railroads and George decided to build this house as the ultimate definition of the 'Gilded Age'. He set out to create the most opulent home in the country and succeeded. But he did it with style and class. He had searched Europe for the finest art and designs; paintings by Goya and Van Dyke, huge medieval tapestries and regal furniture.
As with most of these flights of billionaire fancy, the house had to be opened to the public not long after his death, in the 1930's to be precise. Only George could afford to keep it going.
Our lasting impressions was one of the sheer scale of Biltmore (he even built a spur of railroad for artisans, workers and materials to the site) and the quality. Mr Vanderbilt loved beautiful things. Biltmore encapsulates beauty in a monumental scale but, to his eternal credit, without any ugly ostentation or vulgarity. Simply magnificent.
The Main Entrance Hall
The Banqueting Hall
The Breakfast Room
The Music Room
A Drawing Room
Indoor Bowling Hall
Indoor Swimming Pool
The Italian Garden
The Rose Garden