Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Holiday

I traveled to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with my son, daughter in law, granddaughter, grandson and his wife. I paid my first visit to their new, one story house, met my new little granddog (a Cavalier King Charles terrier) and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the southland.

One of the highlights of my time in the south was a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. Built by George Vanderbilt and officially opened on Christmas Eve 1895. In 1898, he brought his bride, Edith, to the Biltmore. In 1900, their only child, Cornelia, was born there.

Today, the estate remains in the family. A grandson, William A.V. Cecil owns the home and his son, A.V. Cecil, Jr. serves as the CEO. The enterprise employs 1800 people.

The house was lavishly decorated for Christmas, with lots of huge, trimmed Christmas trees, luxurious, trailing pine mantle piece garlands. Sadly, no cameras were permitted in the mansion. Therefore, all my pictures will be of the outside of the home.

During the depression, in response to requests to increase tourism in the area and raise funds to preserve the estate, the Cecils opened the house to the public in 1930.

During the time the first generations lived in the home, the estate was completely self sustaining. Farming, viticulture, hunting, and fishing were all part of daily life at the Biltmore. The house, itself, was run by 30-35 servants. In the servants domain, you'd find vegetable pantries, walk-in refrigerators, pastry, rotisserie, and main kitchens, kitchen pantry, laundry and drying rooms.

For the pleasure of the guests and the home's residents, there was 70,000 gallon heated, tiled pool, a bowling alley, gymnasium, dressing rooms. There were 43 bathrooms when (in 1895) most homes did not have one indoor bathroom.

George Vanderbilt kept his valet busy laying out clothing for his various activities. Different attire was required for each activity and may have necessitated 4-6 changes of clothes a day. (Sounds like my granddaughters). A specific outfit was required for horseback riding, another for tea, and yet another for formal dinner.

The outdoor areas - gardens, bowling green, parks, trails, ponds, etc. were designed by famous garden architect, Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in NYC, the U.S, capitol grounds and Highland Park in Rochester, NY. He was a personal friend of George Vanderbilt and spend much time at Biltmore. John Singer Sargent visited Biltmore to paint portraits of the Vanderbilt mentors, among them Frederick Law Olmsted. His portrait hangs in the salon at the Biltmore.

Automobiling was an outdoor activity that the Vanderbilt's and their guests were fond of. It required it's own attire including a linen motoring duster, touring cap, gloves, and goggles. Most of the Biltmore guests probably traveled to NC on the railroads that an earlier Vanderbilt built (Cornelius).

There is so much more to see on a visit to the Biltmore. If you have an opportunity to visit NC, this is a "must see".


  1. Thanks for the history and tour of the outside of the mansion. What a great way to spend some of your time away!

  2. I love visiting the Biltmore Mansion! I have always wanted to go during Christmas time.

  3. Wow! You remembered all that information, or you transcribed it from a brochure? I *believe* I have been to a Vanderbilt... either on Long Island, or up in Poughkeepsie... not sure which, but it was outstanding.