When George Vanderbilt moved to Asheville in 1888, at the age of 26, he was immediately struck by the beauty and majesty of the area, especially the Blue Ridge Mountains. He quickly envisioned a massive homestead operated in the style of European estates.
Construction would begin a year later on an incredible house in the style of the French Renaissance. To date, it is the largest residential home that has ever been build, with 250 rooms. For the next six years, the entire community of Asheville would be consumed (and largely supported by) the construction of this home, with craftsman arriving every day to help build the house and shape the grounds. It became more than just a home—it became a symbol of architectural excellence and supreme luxury and style.
The house opened in 1895, on Christmas Eve. With more than four acres of space, it had more than thirty bedrooms, over forty bathrooms and some sixty fireplaces. The family threw a huge celebration for their friends and family in the house both to commemorate the holiday and to christen the newly finished, lavishly decorated home.
George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898, and, after a lavish wedding in Paris, the couple returned home to the Biltmore. A year later, their daughter and only child, Cornelia, was born in the house. It was also at this time that the Vanderbilt family began more construction on the grounds, including the main dairy and the horse barn. The horse barn quickly became a gathering place and community area for the people that worked on the estate’s farm.
In 1914, George Vanderbilt died at the young age of fifty-one. He was interred on Staten Island, in a mausoleum that, while grand, pales in comparison to the feat of architecture that he left behind. After George’s death, Edith sold a large portion of the estate to the Forest Service at a cut rate.
After marrying John Frances Amherst Cecil in 1924, Cornelia bore a son, named after her father, at the estate. Her second son, born in 1928, was born in the very same room she was born in, a year earlier. Throughout their lives, the house continued to be a cultural center for the community, and in 1942, art that might have been seized had the Germans or the Japanese invaded. An inn was established in 2001. The house still is home to some of the most important environmental and cultural initiatives in the area.
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