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Home North Carolina Buncombe County City of Asheville Historical Markers Biltmore House

Biltmore House

McDowell Street, Asheville, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 34' 33.8232", -82° 33' 2.9556"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Designed for George W. Vanderbilt by Richard M. Hunt. Constructed, 1890-1895. Opened to public, 1930. Three miles west."
     George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914), grandson and heir of steamship and railroad magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), was a guest at Asheville’s Battery Park Hotel in 1887. He liked the area so much that he began investing in local real estate and, by 1890, had purchased 125,000 acres south and west of the city, including Mount Pisgah. In 1890 construction began on his country house.

     Vanderbilt, a well-traveled and somewhat bookish man, rejected the idea for a typical southern home in favor of a French Renaissance chateau and retained Richard Morris Hunt, leading architect of the day. Frederick Law Olmsted was commissioned to design the grounds and Gifford Pinchot was hired as director of forestry. The house was designed to accommodate the most advanced technology of the day, such as central heating, plumbing refrigeration, elevator and dumbwaiter service, and sophisticated electrical engineering. Construction occupied 1,000 laborers and artisans for five years. A three-mile railway spur was built from the present Biltmore Village. Upon completion the house had 250 rooms, four acres of floor space, and required eighty servants.

     The opening of “Biltmore” on Christmas Eve of 1895 attracted worldwide press attention. The New York Times, in a front-page article, called the estate “the most valuable as well as the most extensive private property in America.” George W. Vanderbilt died in 1914 and his widow Edith over the next eight years sold much of their land to the federal government, forming the nucleus of Pisgah National Forest. Cornelia Vanderbilt, their only child, married British diplomat John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924. Today their descendants lead the corporation that operates the house. First opened to the public in 1930, the Biltmore House did not make a profit until 1968. The National Historic Landmark, marketed as “America’s Finest Home,” is now a major tourist attraction.

William A. V. Cecil, Biltmore (1975)
Susanne Brendel, Biltmore House and Gardens (1976)
Doug Swaim, Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1981)
New York Times, December 26, 1895
Smithsonian (September 1992)
Biltmore House and Gardens website: http://www.biltmore.com/
Biltmore House Historical Marker Location Map, Asheville, North Carolina