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The Biltmore Estate
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The Biltmore Estate is the realization of George Washington Vanderbilt's bold and enduring vision to create an estate both sustainable and beneficial to its surrounding community. As America's largest home, the estate now encompasses acres of gardens, park lands, and managed forests. The home itself features four acres of floor space, making up 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces complete with an underground swimming pool, gymnasium, bowling alley, and kitchens. A treasure no less marvelous today than at its inception over 100 years ago, the Biltmore Estate has become one of the largest draws for tourism in North Carolina. Its opulence has been utilized in films such as Forrest Gump, Being There, The Swan, The Last of the Mohicans and many others. With such widespread interest in the grandeur of the Biltmore Estate, one can't help but wonder how such a vision was brought to life.
It all started in the 1880s when George Washington Vanderbilt, the fourth son of William Henry Vanderbilt , became understandably infatuated with the stunning beauty and temperate climate of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Following the example of his siblings, he resolved to create a summer estate in a land he had come to love, but few at the time could imagine the sheer scale of his vision. The mammoth task of building the home would require the construction of an on site brick factory, woodworking shop, three-mile railway spur for the transport of of materials to the site, and the erection of the Biltmore Village merely to house the community of workers required for the six year long project. To ensure the realization of his vision, Vanderbilt took into employment the celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the home in imitation of France's Chateau de Blois.
Sustainability was as important to George Vanderbilt as luxury; the development of the Estate's 125,000-acre grounds was entrusted to no less than the father of American Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted, the mastermind of New York City's Central Park, was responsible for developing the gardens, park lands, and America's first managed forest.
After six long years, George Vanderbilt's unique vision of unifying Seventeenth Century French Chateux architecture, modern technology, and sustainability was realized in the form of the Biltmore Estate. Opened to family and friends on Christmas Eve of 1895, the beauty of Biltmore has endured to this day where it is, fortunately for us all, open to the public year round. Let's take a look at the grandeur that awaits modern visitors to the estate.
In true Biltmore Spirit, the Biltmore Estate Winery fuses rich wine making tradition with state of the art technology. Reknowned wine maker Bernard Delille oversees both the cultivation of the estate vineyard's wide variety of vinifera grapes well as the operation of the estate winery which produces 75,000 cases of roughly 15 varieties annually. The winery offers guided tours, tastings and seminars on their award winning wines, culinary demonstrations, live music and more. The Biltmore house itself must be seen to be believed and the estate offers a variety ways to go about this. Visitors are welcome to enjoy self guided tours of the house, but for the more curious among us, guided tours, rooftop tours, behind the scenes tours and more are available.
Of course, no visit to Biltmore (or for that matter, Western North Carolina) is complete with out a stroll through the immaculately maintained pleasure gardens of the Estate. Olmsted's masterful work remains alive today, literally. Some of the Estate's original plantings continue to thrive into the 21st Century. The Biltmore Estate also offers variety of dining options from wood-fired pizza to gourmet specialties and for those looking for luxury accommodations, the Four Star Biltmore Inn is the perfect match. There's so much to see, so much history to learn, so much opulence to absorb; truly, George Washington Vanderbilt's vision lives on today as a priceless experience to be enjoyed by the whole family.