Have you ever seen something so breathtakingly beautiful you want to tell everyone you know what you've experienced yet you can hardly find the right words to describe what you've seen or encompass the full impact of its beauty? This was my experience as I, for the first time, approached the Biltmore Estate. What a testament to our American Heritage and architecture. The below photos merely highlight a few of my most favorite features of this magnificent home but perhaps they'll be just enough to tempt you to travel to the fairytale home atop the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Biltmore: Built to Last
"Biltmore is a testament to the uncompromising ideals of an exceptional man - George Washington Vanderbilt. What began as his vision of a country retreat became the largest private residence in America and stands to this day as a celebrated historic landmark. To visit Biltmore is to cross the threshold into a world of hospitality, beauty and luxury that has remained unchanged for more than a century and is being preserved for many generations yet to come." - Biltmore: An American Masterpiece.
While George Vanderbilt was the visionary, Biltmore house and its gardens are the result of a collaborative effort between Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Together they created a harmonious blend of finest architectural details, interior design and furnishing and landscaping from England, France, Italy and Asia. Added to this is the very best in American ingenuity of its day.
The house alone is 175,000 square feet or 4 acres of floor space, boasting 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. The architect Hunt, incorporated many of the innovations being introduced at the 1893 World Exposition; electricity, electric lights, refrigeration and 2 Otis elevators still operating with the original motors.
It took 6 years and 1000 artisans working 6 days a week to complete this architectural masterpiece. The limestone, brought in from Bedford Indiana, was set in place then carved to create the countless architectural details that cover the exterior and line the roof tops. Each of the many gargoyles that watch over the estate are unique and one of a kind.
The above pictures show the exterior of the Grand Staircase, which has 102 steps that lead from the ground floor to the fourth floor. Typically photos of the interiors are not allowed, however, our docent allowed our group to sneak a couple of the wrought iron chandelier suspended through the center of the staircase.
This incredible work of art is illuminated by 72 electric bulbs and is suspended by ONE bolt. Only recently has this bolt be replaced as a precautionary measure!
Because of the many influences, our docent remarked the house is "like a English woman wearing a French dress".
There is so much beauty in this home, so much to be said about its many rooms and the treasures each room holds, I feel my little newsletter can hardly do it justice. So I'll conclude with my favorite room and hope you too will one day visit the America's Downton Abbey.
Graceful and feminine, Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom is as fresh and lovely as the day in 1898 it was completed. Decorated in preparation for their wedding, it appears today the same as when Edith saw this room for the first time upon her return from their honeymoon. Decorated in the Louis XV style, circa 1725, this oval shaped room incorporates all things feminine; luxurious silk wallcoverings, gilded mirrors and velvet draperies and is furnished with French period pieces typified by carved floral motifs and curving profiles. What woman today wouldn't relish such elegance?
As I said before, there is so much more to this cultural and historic feast for the eyes that it is my hope you will find your way to this magnificent American Landmark. But if you can't, I hope you'll at least visit the website to learn more about the history of this home. It's something you don't want to miss!