North Carolina Mountain Getaway, Part Two

The second day of our getaway was all about visiting Biltmore House in Asheville. Brett and I have long wanted to visit and moving to Nashville provided the opportunity. We all got up early once again on Sunday morning and were packed, checked out, and on our way to Asheville before 10:00 a.m., arriving at Biltmore House a little before noon. M, K, and I had tickets to tour the house at 12:15, and Brett had a 2:00 admission. Dogs are welcome at the Biltmore Estate but are not allowed in the house, so the two shifts allowed at least one of us to explore outside with Kaipo while other toured.

It had been scheduled to rain all day Sunday, but while it was overcast the rain never showed up so we were able to make the most of our visit.

Through the main gate and on our way up to the house. The overall estate is huge – it’s a three mile drive from the gate to the house. Leaving the house, it took us over a half hour of driving to get off the property. The landscapes surrounding the house were the work of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park, Vanderbilt honored Olmstead and Richard Morris Hunt, the house’s architect, with full size portraits, permanently hung in the upstairs living room. Both were painted by famed American portrait artist John Singer Sargent.

The approach to Biltmore House was dramatic. We walked about eight minutes from the parking lot, turned a corner, and this beautiful sight greeted us. I can imagine how exciting it must have been for guests to arrive back in the day. The entrance to the house tour is over on the right, next to the white bus. Behind and to the left of it is the former stable courtyard, now a classy food court with the stable containing a variety of gift shops (all currently selling Christmas items).
One of the first rooms on the tour, and my third favorite, is the dining room. The ceiling sits seven stories above the floor and yet everything in it, from the three fireplaces to the tapestries to the dining table is perfectly proportioned. It was a gorgeous room.
The two views above, from the loggia, are of the Biltmore Estate deer park and looking out to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I loved Olmstead’s use of open space to define and enhance the views.
This is the tapestry gallery, my second favorite room, is a 90-foot long space that served as a formal living room for guests of Biltmore House. Three large tapestries hang from one wall and the other side looks out to the loggia. The change in our visit to late October meant we were able to see all the interior Christmas decorations without paying the increased holiday ticket price.
My favorite room of all was the library. The proportions, the design, and the decor was breathtaking (and I’m not crazy about red).
The Tyrolean Chimney room is one of 33 guest rooms at Biltmore House, and although beautiful it was not the fanciest guest room in the house! Each guest room had its own bathroom (although not all with running water). There are 43 bathrooms in the house, built in a time when most homes did not have indoor plumbing. However, there were no washing machines. Laundresses still stood over sinks and washed items by hand.
One of the colorful murals in the Halloween Room, a large brick storage room located in the house’s basement. The slightly eerie murals were painted in December 1925 by Cornelia Cecil and her husband John for a New Year’s Eve party. Cornelia was the only child of George and Edith Vanderbilt, born in the extremely luxurious Louis XV guest room which overlooked the grounds. She inherited the house upon her father’s death in 1914.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Another amazing feature of the house was the huge 12-foot deep, lighted indoor swimming pool in the basement. The house also had a two-lane bowling alley and a fully equipped gymnasium, complete with massage showers. Guests of the Vanderbilts could also enjoy horseback riding, hunting, croquet, tennis, and other outdoor sports while staying at the Estate.
The main kitchen in the basement was like something out of Downton Abbey. The stove in the back is eight feet long, and the copper pots were original to the house. Besides the main kitchen there was also a separate pastry kitchen, a modern roasting kitchen with two giant electric rotisseries, walk-in refrigerators, and multiple pantries.

M, K, and I walked the Biltmore gardens following our house tour. They were filled with colorful plants in fall colors including beautyberry, giant chrysanthemum arrangements, and Japanese maple. The gardens provided all the flowers used in the house as well as vegetables.

The Conservatory

Walking through the conservatory with its abundance of tropical plants was like being back in Hawaii.

Looking up to Biltmore House from the gardens.

Visiting Biltmore House is not inexpensive, with ticket prices ranging from $69 to $99 per person, depending on the time of year one visits (November and December are the most expensive, January through March the least). We were initially put off by the price, but after visiting Brett and I both felt we more than got our money’s worth – days later we are still talking about the things we saw there. Some might feel the place is too over the top, too ostentatious, etc. but George Washington Vanderbilt had money to burn, and the lasting quality of Biltmore House, from the architecture to the artworks and furniture inside to how its employees were treated, still surpasses any private rocket trip into space or vanity purchase of a social media site.

22 thoughts on “North Carolina Mountain Getaway, Part Two

  1. Thanks for sharing. We almost toured it but the price was too high.
    This is their summer house, right?

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    1. The price was high but we decided this was our one chance to see it so we splurged. It was worth it – we are still talking about almost a week later.

      The Vanderbilts used the house year-round; it actually opened to guests on Christmas Eve. They did have other home but I believe Biltmore was their primary home.

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  2. I was there a few years ago and your photos triggered happy memories. A beautiful home. Loved the pool!

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    1. It’s a remarkable place, isn’t it? Truly beautiful in so many ways. The pool just amazed me, although later I began to wonder how they filtered the water. Located where it was, I could imagine things going badly fairly quickly.

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  3. We were nearby at one time, too, but also decided the price was too high! I appreciate your sharing? Quite a few areas have tours of their “fanciest”, most- impressive local homes, and I always love to see these when I can. Usually less than $25, guided or independent, casual or high-security- all are amazing, but of course nothing like Biltmore! I think as a child your granddaughter’s age, who had lived in a different country, I would have been flabbergasted! Or, as a child without preconceptions, maybe not. We lived in a modest house, so the idea of houses having multiple bathrooms was very exciting, I remember!

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    1. I think if we had been passing through we would have skipped the visit because of the price, but because we planned and budgeted in advance it was doable. I joked with our DIL this evening that our tickets were helping to keep the Vanderbilts rich, but i can only imagine what the upkeep of the house costs year-round. They originally opened the house to tours during the Great Depression to keep up with the costs.

      There was a very ingenious system to let guests know if a bathroom had running water or not (design in the floor tile at the door) – but apparently at the time most people still preferred a bowl and a pitcher of water in their rooms, or baths filled by hand, to running water (the tubs were huge, BTW).

      I asked our granddaughter about the house and what she liked best: “The house was okay but I liked the gardens more.”

      Have done local house tours in the past and enjoyed them immensely. We’re living in an area where it might be fun to try one again, if available.

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  4. Really lovely tour pictures and info. Loved riding along on your visit. The ticket price is high, but like you, I would definitely go. So many unique rooms and what history! (Yes, I thought of Downton Abbey looking at that kitchen pic!) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. P.S. The gardens are also stunning. I love a great mum display in fall. And the conservatory with the tropical plants. Just great.

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      1. Our granddaughter told us yesterday that the gardens were here favorite part, especially the chrysanthemums – those colors! The conservatory was just flat out lush, and full of delights and color at every turn.

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    2. Biltmore House is not a “drop in” spot (IMO) – the cost makes it something to plan for, but also requires one to pay attention as well. The upkeep, curation, gardening, and business end of things etc. must all cost a fortune which accounts for the ticket price. It was simply an incredible place to visit. We came away wanting to know more, and we’re *still* talking about it and things we saw there!

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      1. Thanks for your photos, it brought me back there! I’m very conservative on spending tickets money but I have been there twice. About 4 and 6 years ago (with a friend and then my daughter). I’m from Minnesota so touring Tennessee and surrounding areas and planned for this. It was very much worth the price. On one of my visits they had Downton Abby costumes on display throughout the house.

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      2. This was something we normally would not have paid for, but from what we’d heard felt it would be worthwhile, for us and our DIL. We are so glad we went! The Christmas decor was fabulous, but I would have LOVED seeing the Downton Abbey costumes on display – they would fit in that interior perfectly!

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  5. If I remember right, they paid for their employees education, if desired. It’s been a while since I was there. They also had electricity before pretty much anyone.

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    1. Edith Vanderbilt knew the names of every employee, and brought gifts when a new baby was born or for weddings, etc. Yes, they provided for employees education and for other things as well. The Vanderbilts were respected, Edith especially. Many current employees are descendants of the house’s original employees. One thing that was pointed out was that each servant, from the lowest kitchen maid to the butler, had their own room, whether in the house (women) or above the stable (men), a real luxury in those days. They were provided with basics (bed, linens, dresser, etc. were otherwise free to decorate the room as they wanted).

      We are still talking about the technology they had versus what wasn’t available yet. Yes, they had electricity throughout the house, but there were still no washing machines, vacuum cleaners, etc. so lots of heavy labor still involved.

      George Vanderbilt had an eye for Impressionism when it was just getting started – he bought Renoir’s and Monet’s work (and others) before they were RENOIR and MONET, if you know what I mean. He also spent time in Japan and brought back many works from there as well.

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  6. Amazing! I think it was well worth the price of admission. When I saw the photo of the pool, it reminded me of a pool I’ve been to at the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago. This is a list of historic hotel pools that are still in use and there is a photo of the InterContinental pool: https://savingplaces.org/stories/splash-down-into-these-four-swimming-pools-at-historic-hotels#.Y2bzrnbMKSk. I was there in 2016 and swimming around in the pool I felt transported to a different time! They just don’t make anything with the same ambience as they did back then. The quality and attention to detail are stunning.

    Have you ever been to Newport, RI? There are a lot of similar historic homes there, although maybe not as large as the Biltmore. Not sure. I was there about 20 years ago. I’ve never been to NC, oddly enough, so I have added the Biltmore to my list of places I’d like to visit. It looks like a definite Downton Abbey vibe! Thanks for posting about the Biltmore and your previous post about your trip to NC.

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    1. Wow! Those pools you linked to are fabulous! And, it seems in spite of their ages someone figured out how to filter the water – that was the one drawback to the pool at Biltmore House that I could see. But otherwise I thought it was fabulous, and that they even installed lights in the bottom for night swimming.

      I haven’t been to Newport, but know I would love seeing all those “cottages” (i.e. mansions) that were built there. The Vanderbilt house there, the Breakers, was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, brother of George Vanderbilt, who built Biltmore House. After touring Biltmore, I’d love to tour the Breakers – I’m adding it to my long list of places to see.

      There was a very big Downton Abbey vibe going on at Biltmore House, especially downstairs in the kitchen area, although I think in comparison the Biltmore kitchen was even bigger than the one in Downton.

      Highly recommend a visit to Biltmore House and the whole mountain area around it – it was all so beautiful!

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  7. Thank you for sharing your visit to the Biltmore Estate. It brought back a lot of memories from our visit there 20 years ago. In addition to being tremendously impressed by both the house and gardens, I remember drinking a mint julep on the veranda of the Biltmore Inn.

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    1. We looked at staying overnight at one of the hotels on the property but at their price point and with a six year old along . . . no. But it sounds lovely and what a memory! Everything about Biltmore is going to stay with me for a long time – such a intensely beautiful place.

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  8. I’ve “heard” of the Biltmore but don’t know much about it, now I’ll be on a Google Search!! You provided amazing photos and a great deal of information!! Thank you for sharing!!

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    1. I had only heard of Biltmore as well – I’d never even seen pictures of the interiors. But, since we were going to be in the area we thought we should go and we are so glad we did! Just an incredible site and worth the price of the tickets.

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  9. Thanks for the wonderful review of Biltmore! I was there maybe 12 years ago and was just blown away by the extravagance. You might enjoy checking out a YouTube channel called “This House”. He focuses on the mansions of that generation of American aristocrats. So many of the mansions lasted only a few decades because they were too expensive to maintain.
    Don’t forget to check out the Christmas decorations at Opryland Hotel. It is free to walk around, but they do have paid tours and activities also. Taking Briley Pkwy avoids the horrible mess in central Nashville.

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    1. I will check out that YouTube channel – I love looking at old homes, from simple to elegant. Biltmore House was opened to paying visitors during the Depression in order to keep up with maintenance costs (I think they sold off some land then as well).

      Thanks too for the tip about Opryland Hotel – we’ll definitely check that out! We hoping to visit Radnor Lake State Park tomorrow!

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