Friday, January 8, 2016

A Visit to Biltmore House

As part of our Christmas gift to each other, Mr. Forest Manor and I decided to take a candlelight tour of Biltmore House this past year.  My husband made reservations online for an evening tour and dinner at the Stables Cafe restaurant right on the property.

Our tickets were for Wednesday, December 30, 2015.  Those of you who live in North Carolina may remember that week -- we had continuous rain and terrible fog (like pea soup).  We had not planned to spend the night in Asheville because we didn't want to board Duncan, so we knew we'd be driving back home (a two-hour drive) very late at night.  

On Tuesday night, I was determined to watch the 11:00 p.m. local news and weather to see what the forecast was for the next day.  When the news announcer mentioned that two people had to be rescued from the top of their minivan, in Asheville, on Tuesday evening due to a flooded road, it didn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about our trip the next day -- especially since they were calling for more of the same weather.  There was actually a flood warning online for the French Broad River, which happens to run quite close to Biltmore House, so that really decided me.  I told my hubby we would have to try and change our plans.  I'm pleased to report that the people at Biltmore were so accommodating when he called and asked them to change our reservations to Friday, January 1st.  They didn't give him a hard time and even changed our dinner reservations for us, as well.  A good thing to know if you're interested in visiting; we found the employees there to be very friendly and helpful.

I'd only ever visited Biltmore once, and that was over 30 years ago.  There is so much more available for the public to see and do there now.  This was Hal's first visit, and I think he was impressed.  We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house, which didn't surprise us, but Hal was able to take a lot of pictures outside.

I mentioned on my personal Facebook page the next day that Biltmore House is probably as close as we get here in the U.S. to Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey).


The two houses are actually very comparable in size.  The current mistress of Highclere Castle, the eighth Countess of Carnarvon, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying, "I suppose if you know how many rooms you have, you haven't got a very big house." (source)  Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.  ;)  According to another source, the current countess of Highclere has said, "There are probably 200 to 300 rooms, and 50 to 80 bedrooms."

Biltmore House has four acres of floor space and a total of 252 rooms in the house.  The rooms include 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced air heating, centrally-controlled locks, fire alarms,  and an intercom system.  (source)

There is a wonderful article you can read online Here from the North Carolina "Our State" magazine.  This article was first published in 2011 and details a personal, behind-the-scenes tour of Biltmore House.  The article is full of interesting facts about the owners, George and Edith Vanderbilt, as well as the house and estate.  Biltmore Estate was originally comprised of 125,000 acres; it is now 8,000 acres.    A total of 86,700 acres of Pisgah Forest were sold to the federal government in 1914 to become part of what is now Pisgah National Forest.  Biltmore House took six years to build, and measures 175,000 square feet.  It remains the largest private home in the country.

It's hard to believe, but Biltmore House was originally a bachelor pad.  George Vanderbilt opened the house with a large party on Christmas Eve of 1895.  He remained single for the first three years he lived there, until he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser.  They had one child, Cornelia, and she married John Francis Amherst Cecil, a British diplomat in 1924, at Biltmore House.

I'll have to publish this post in two or three parts; there's so much information about the house that I wanted to share with you -- too much for one post.  I can recommend the Christmas candlelight tour as a wonderful way to view the home and exterior.  The house was filled with beautiful, flickering pillar candles (battery-operated) in hurricane glass.  The chandeliers were lit, and there were fires burning in the fireplaces of most of the rooms we toured.  In addition, there were lots of beautiful Christmas trees, including a 35-foot North Carolina Fraser fir tree in the banquet room.  As for the outside of the house,

our shuttle driver told us as we approached the house that the tree on the left is a 55-foot Norway Spruce covered with over 7,000 lights.  It was a beautiful sight that night.

There were also luminaries lining the driveway and the reflecting pool.

George Vanderbilt commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to build Biltmore in the style of French Renaissance chateaus.  Some of the inspirations for the ultimate design of Biltmore House were Chateau de Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord in France, and Waddesdon Manor in England.

 Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor was a principal source of inspiration for the east elevation and the iconic staircase.  The Chateau de Blois, in the Loire Valley of France, also has a similar staircase.

There are stone lions on either side of the steps to the front door.

Check out the gargoyle high above the front door.  Personally, I think everyone needs a few of these to discourage door-to-door salesmen and other unwelcome visitors.  ;)

The front doors were wide open, so before we went in, I got Hal to take some pictures of the entrance hall.  Do you see the two, V-shaped wreaths?  I'm thinking "V" for Vanderbilt.

I love those windows with the unusual panes of glass.

Mr. Forest Manor took this amazing picture -- I think the clouds add such drama to the background.  He took a series of pictures to form the panorama above.  I love the sky here and the reflection of the house in the pool.  You can click on the image to enlarge and get the full effect.

Well that's all for today; I hope I didn't put you to sleep with all the facts about the house.  Next time, I'll tell you about our meal and share a few more pictures.  I hope you've all had a great week -- thanks so much for visiting!

For more pictures and information about Biltmore's history, you can read Part 2 Here.



  1. Oh Denise, I loved the post. I toured Biltmore House about 20 years ago and it was decorated for Christmas. IT was during the day and I know that I would love to tour the evening one.
    Looking forward to the future post on Biltmore House. How is your father doing?

    Have a great weekend.

  2. I visited about 10 years ago and would love nothing more than to see it at Christmas time.
    Lovely photos.

  3. This estate is so impressive. I've read a lot about people's visits via my blogging friends. It has to be pretty amazing. I can't imagine having a home so large that I wouldn't know how many bedrooms there were! (I wouldn't even want to. Sounds labor intensive.) Glad that the staff was accomodating so that you could switch your reservations. There certainly have been some major weather events. Thanks for taking us along...

  4. It's been a very long time since I visited the Biltmore, about 23 years ago. It was gorgeous, and I remember that my favorite room was the library. A candlelight tour would be an amazing event. What beautiful photos! I'm glad it was such a great experience for you. I hope to get back there someday, and I suspect that anytime of year is quite beautiful in Asheville. I enjoyed your post.

  5. Now I recognize where you went, Denise! The night view fooled me! Rich and I visited there, you may remember, a year before he passed away. It must've been so impressive to have the candlelight tour. We ate on the property, too, in a cute pub-like restaurant, but I can't remember the name. I believe it was named after their dog. That was a wonderful trip for us.

  6. I'm glad you were able to change your time to visit, you had a much better day! The photos are wonderful. Its been a few years since we visited there, but someone gave us a pass for a year so we were able to visit in each season, and saw the wonderful Christmas decor. It's quite an amazing place and your post makes me want to go again!

  7. What a wonderful outing for the two of you. Visiting the Biltmore Estate would be a delightful experience. Looking forward to reading more about your time there.

  8. Wow wow wow! How very wonderful to have a candlelight tour of this estate. The photos with reflections are all so beautiful. So glad they changed the tickets for you graciously. Looking forward to seeing the photos from your meal, too. Katie and I were able to visit, a first for both of us, on our road trip from Seattle to Jacksonville N.C. back in 2014. I enjoyed reading all the history you provided.

  9. Hi Denise, I'm looking forward to your next post! If you remember we live near Asheville, and I have been to the house many times, but not since the 1980s. I always loved the Christmas decor and was surprised to see another blogger post that she thought the Christmas decor was "dated" and shabby. I was shocked because I know they plan each year's decor well in advance and put a lot of thought, planning and execution into each year's theme. I think this year was "The Gilded Age," so expected that it would be fabulous again. Anyway, I need to take my husband there as he has never seen it and hate we missed the Christmas season. Maybe next year. Glad you all enjoyed it, though!! And the weather has sure been crazy here:-)

  10. ...And that last photo is gorgeous!!

  11. What a lovely time to visit Biltmore at Christmas. I know the candlelight tour was extra special. I've been once years ago but not at Christmas.
    Great post, Denise.
    We've had flooding in our area as well. We haven't been personally affected but many have.

  12. I am excited to see the rest about the Biltmore. I have seen it on various TV shows and would love to tour it, so I am very much enjoying your visit. A great way to begin the new year.

  13. Mr. Decor's mother lived in Asheville and I was so blessed to see the Biltmore at Christmas, fall and the spring. It truly is a wonderful place.

    I was in Michael's yesterday and thought of you they have a Valentine theme of Scotties and they are everywhere. :)



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