The Biltmore Estate was constructed by George Washington Vanderbilt II, from 1889-1895. The original estate covered 125,000 acres, although Edith Vanderbilt sold portions of the land after George’s death. A significant amount of the parceled off land became the Pisgah National Forrest.
The 250 room home is still privately owned by Vanderbilt’s decedents; it is the largest privately owned home in America. Apparently George took a strong hand in decorating Biltmore, his fondness for prints is obvious in nearly every room. He acquired a number of 15th-16th century European tapestries as well. There is a strangeness at Biltmore. The house is large, somewhat ornate on the outside (gargoyles and grotesques), but is actually not all that opulent inside.
Is this because George Vanderbilt had to survive on approximately $6M (plus the income from a $5M trust fund)? That certainly sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but consider the costs of Biltmore. At any given time the Vanderbilt family would have had 30 or more servants living on the grounds. They all needed to be housed, fed, and paid. There were animals, intricately landscaped grounds, and numbers of guests to be cared for.
I would post pictures from the interior, but photography is not allowed inside the home.
The audio tour reveals almost nothing about the Vanderbilt family. I suspect this stems largely from George’s position in the family. He did not join in the family business, choosing instead more intellectual pursuits. It would be wrong to imply that G.W. Vanderbilt had regular dealings in these matters. Some kind of history about the family would have given the audio tour more weight. Attempts at engaging with the staff resulted in abject failures.
It is a lovely estate, and visiting is definitely worth it. Understand that it can cost up to $45 dollars to get in however. If you book a week in advance, they will knock 10 bucks off. If you do a “biltmore estate promo code” search, you can probably find a good discount code. I bought our tickets one day ahead for $27 each. Included in the ticket price is the house and its grounds, the winery (go, but don’t expect too much), the newly opened Antler Village, and Deer Park. We bypassed Deer Park because it appeared to be just an eating establishment. The audio tour was free, but that appears to be a limited time offer. If this offer ends before you get to go I would suggest reading up on the Biltmore, GW Vanderbilt, and Asheville, NC and skipping the guide. There are docents stationed in nearly every room, you can ask them for more information.
Who knows, they may even open up to you.