I mentioned before that I’ve always been obsessed with Biltmore Estates. The first time I decided I wanted to visit this crazy huge home, I was a freshman in college. Despite planning to head that direction for Spring Break one year, the trip fell through, life got in the way, and I never quite got around to making the drive across the Smokies.
Last week, however, that goal was finally reached and I had the opportunity, finally, to see this huge old estate in all of her springtime, blooming wonder. I found, as well, that I really had no idea about the history of the mansion, the Vanderbilts, or their life and influence in Asheville, other than the fact that their fortune came from shipping and railroading. I had no idea that they as a family had such and incredible impact on the local economy.
Apparently, when the stock market crashed, Asheville, North Carolina was the hardest hit city in the US, with a higher debt per capita than any other town. It was in 1930 that the only daughter of George and Edith Vanderbilt, Corlnelia, opened the home for the public to view. People came to visit the 178,000 square foot home, ate at local eateries, stayed in local inns, and boosted the local economy. You could say that Cornelia was single-handily responsible for keeping the area afloat during the Great Depression, and even now, run by Cornelia’s grandchildren, the Estate keeps Asheville busy year round.
The home itself was really something to see. Completed in 1895, it was- and still is- the largest private home in the nation. It boasts the first in-home swimming pool on record, is home to an indoor bowling alley, has 38 bathrooms (kind of a rarity in itself in the 1800’s), and over 250 rooms! I do love the connection that the house has to my little city- Frederick Law Olmstead, the gentleman responsible for the park system here in Louisville, as well as the White House gardens and NYC’s Central Park, also designed the amazing gardens on the property. Between the walled garden, the Azalea garden, the Italian garden and the amazing indoor conservatory full of every type of Orchid imaginable, it was hard to know where to look!
I’m so pleased I finally got the chance to visit. If you have the opportunity, you really must take a weekend to visit Asheville and Biltmore Estates. I guarantee you’ll thank me!