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Sneaking up on the big Biltmore House

The first question is appearance.

Not the house, you.

What do you wear if you’re visiting the biggest privately owned house in America?

This isn’t Disneyland and Sleeping Beauty Castle, so shorts and flip flops aren’t good enough?

If that’s true, you’ll find dress code violations at every turn.

So wear your day to day and save your travel tux for a more formal occasion.

North Carolina is casual, so is Biltmore for tourists.

Why even go there?

Like so much in life, if you’re near something that might be a great experience, why not go?

Stunning walk up to Biltmore House from the parking lot


From a distance it looks like a Harry Potter set.

Add a few broom over-flights and a Quidditch match for effect.

You won’t feel like moving in.


The closer you get the smaller you feel.

It’s got European cathedral size, just without the spiritual element.

You might wonder why a rich man, the youngest grandson of the richest man in the world Commodore Vanderbilt, shows up in Asheville, North Carolina?

Size and cost? One is still a Biltmore mystery


From wiki:

He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to create his own summer estate in the area, which he called his “little mountain escape”, just as his older brothers and sisters had built opulent summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York. Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore derived from “Bildt,” Vanderbilt’s ancestors’ place of origin in Holland, and “More”, Anglo-Saxon for open, rolling land. A portion of the estate was once the African-American community of Shiloh.


He commissioned a house to keep up with his brothers and sisters?

No, more that he was a momma’s boy.

In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, began to make regular visits with his mother, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt (1821–1896), to the Asheville, North Carolina, area.

More than a momma’s boy, he made Biltmore to the standards of his social set


Modern and forward looking, the entire estate seems planned to the smallest detail.

Vanderbilt went on extensive buying trips overseas as construction on the house was in progress. He returned to North Carolina with thousands of furnishings for his newly built home including tapestries, hundreds of carpets, prints, linens, and decorative objects, all dating between the 15th century and the late 19th century. Among the few American-made items were the more practical oak drop-front desk, rocking chairs, a walnut grand piano, bronze candlesticks and a wicker wastebasket.

The right wicker wastebasket always pull European decorative arts together.

Don’t forget the flowers


The planned estate feeling kicks in with the landscape.

Like a golf course built on pasture land, the entire place got the treatment to make it look natural and appealing.

Wanting the best, Vanderbilt envisioned a park-like setting for his home and employed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds. However, Olmsted was not impressed with the condition of the 125,000 acres (195 sq mi; 510 km2) and advised for a park surrounding the house, establishing farms along the river and replanting the rest as a commercial timber forest, a plan to which Vanderbilt agreed. Gifford Pinchot and later Carl A. Schenck were hired to manage the forests, with Schenck establishing the first forestry education program in the U.S., the Biltmore Forest School, on the estate grounds in 1898.

The final Biltmore surprise


Like a museum exits through the gift store, Biltmore exits with a drive by.

Cruise down one side with the big house in the windshield like you’re coming home.

Leave on the other side of the yard with a rear view mirror memory.

While it stands alone in grandeur, Biltmore isn’t the only castle in Asheville.

About David Gillaspie


  1. Mark Mullins says:

    Good story, liked the part about Gifford Pinchot a lot, and a forestry school to boot

  2. Mark Mullins says:

    Like your new header

    • David Gillaspie says:

      It took a lot of thought and a lot of strategy meetings to find the right black bar.

      Minimalist without the annoying distractions. My posts do that job.

      It’s the opposite of Biltmore and the decorative elements inside and out.

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