Scenic USA - North Carolina
|Photo by Chris Henn
Inset photos courtesy of the Biltmore Company
The world famous Biltmore House, a 250 room mansion, was conceived by
George Vanderbilt II in 1895. Designed by architect Richard M. Hunt, the Chateauesque style 179,000 square foot home took six years to complete and is ranked among the top 10 leaders of America's Favorite Architecture. Its towering facade, standing 375 feet, is topped off with a steep slate-tile roof and 16 chimneys. Built of Indiana limestone, the four story home is the largest privately owned house in the United States. Asymmetrically balanced, the facade's central tower is punctuated with two wings, all highly decorated with dormers and carved decorations.
The Biltmore Home interior boasts 33 guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, an indoor pool and bowling alley. The home had electricity from the start, but its safety was questionable during the early years. The Banquet Hall, the largest room in the house, could accommodate 64 guests. Interior artwork includes many paintings, family portraits, tapestries and sculptures.
Landscape designer Fredrick L. Olmsted, of Central Park fame, was chosen to follow Vanderbilt's dream of a park-like setting. Balanced with both formal and informal gardens, Olmstead also suggested replanting a large section of Vanderbilt's 125,000 acres with a tract of timber forest. Vanderbilt's forest manager Carl A. Schenck went on to establish the first forestry education program in America. The Biltmore Forest School, located on the estate grounds, was formed in 1898.
George Vanderbilt spent most of his large inheritance on this property, living there until his death in 1914. His widow conveyed a large tract of land, which surrounds the house, to the United States Forest Service, creating today's Pisgah National Forest. The Biltmore Estate is open to visitors every day, but hours vary each season.
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