Last Updated on March 22, 2023
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
By Jim Ferri
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC is one of the most outstanding examples of Gilded Age mansions ever constructed in the United States. In fact, its history is fascinating.
Away from the hustle and bustle of New York society, George Vanderbilt II saw a place where he could give life to his dream of recreating an English country estate. An avid traveler, Vanderbilt was also captivated by European country estates. He commissioned Richard Morris Hunt, the unofficial Vanderbilt family architect, to help design his new home.
Built between 1889 and 1895, the construction project involved about 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons.
The Biltmore Estate: An Incredible Undertaking
To accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of building a European chateau in rural North Carolina, Hunt certainly focused on efficiency. The land in front of the Biltmore site became mini-town with buildings and small factories. They produced materials necessary for the construction of the house. In addition, an on-site kiln produced up to 32,000 bricks daily. And a woodworking factory also supplied oak and walnut for the house’s floors and walls.
Three specific French chateaux – Blois, Chenonceau and Chambord – were certainly the inspiration for the stair tower and steep pitch of the roof line. Inside, the house was distinctively English. The country estates of Knole, Hatfield House and Haddon Hall provided guidance for the design of the interiors.
The Biltmore’s Banquet Hall is 42 feet wide by 72 feet long with a 70-foot high ceiling, three fireplaces and an organ gallery.
Equally important was the 90-foot-long Tapestry Gallery in the Biltmore, which served as a sitting room and a ballroom. It was designed to display three 16th-century Flemish tapestries, which currently adorn the walls. The massive library, with its dramatic ceiling painting, The Chariot of Aurora, contains approximately half of Vanderbilt’s 23,000-volume book collection.
This historic Châteaux-style mansion, now a museum, is the largest private house in America. The Biltmore has 178,926 sf (16,622.8 m2) of floor space has 250 rooms – including 34 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms.
Editor’s note: you may also enjoy Asheville, NC – Not Your Typical Small Southern City, Road Trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Experiencing the Heritage of Winston-Salem, NC