Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction near Asheville, North Carolina.
Today, it measures 2,812 hectares (6,950 acres) or 28.12 square kilometers (10.86 square miles).
In the 1880s Vanderbilt, who belonged to one of the wealthiest families in the country, began acquiring land in Asheville, eventually obtaining some 50,600 hectares (125,000 acres).
Vanderbilt commissioned prominent New York architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the house in the Châteauesque style, using French Renaissance chateaus that Vanderbilt and Hunt had visited in early 1889.
Construction of the house began in 1889 and continued well into 1896. In order to facilitate such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite, and a three-mile railroad spur was constructed to bring materials to the building site. Construction on the main house required the labor of well over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons.
Biltmore House is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 16,623 square meters (178,926 square feet) of floor space and 12,568 square meters (135,280 square feet) of living area.
The house has 250 rooms including 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, indoor pool and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.
In addition to a 10,000-volume library, the home also featured an extensive art and antiques collection.
The surrounding grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Especially notable was the 5-kilometer (3-mile) lane leading to the mansion. Designed to convey that the estate was a retreat, it featured scenic views that included stands of bamboo, which Olmsted believed made visitors feel that they were “closer to the sun.”
In addition to numerous gardens, the landscape architect also established the first managed forest in the United States on the estate. Vanderbilt hired Gifford Pinchot and later Carl Alwin Schenck as professional foresters, and in 1898 Schenck opened the country’s first forestry school there.
In 1914 Vanderbilt died, and the estate passed to his family. That year his wife sold some 35,200 hectares (87,000 acres) to the U.S. Forest Service, and by the early 21st century, the estate’s size had been reduced to current size.
The mansion was first opened to the public in 1930, and it became a popular tourist attraction.
By the early 21st century, more than 1 million people annually visited the estate, which included an inn and hotel as well as a small village that featured restaurants and various shops.
Biltmore closed during World War II and in 1942, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were moved to the estate by train from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to protect them in the event of an attack on the United States.
The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, and remains a major tourist attraction in Western North Carolina with 1.4 million visitors each year.
In 1971 the Vanderbilts established a vineyard and a winery on the property. It is the most visited winery in the United States.
Deer Park was created as a scenic game preserve covering 100 hectares (250 acres) of rolling-meadows and groves of oak, hickory, poplar, and beech trees.
Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, Biltmore Estate stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.
The house is assessed at $157.2 million but due to an agricultural deferment, county property taxes are paid on only $79.1 million of that.
As the country’s largest, privately-owned residence, Biltmore House is among the country’s most elaborately-decorated homes during the Christmas holidays. More than 30,000 Christmas lights and 150 candles are used to illuminate just the house’s interior. A total of 75 Christmas trees adorn the estate, including the iconic, 10-meter (34-foot) tall Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall.
Asheville is enjoying more spring-like days due to a trend of warmer than average temperatures, prompting Biltmore’s gardeners to prepare for an early flowering season for Biltmore Blooms, the estate’s annual spring celebration. There are over 130,000 flowers on the estate gardens during this flower festival.
The Easter Egg hunt at the estate draws approximately 5,000 children each year.
Because of the natural beauty, over 6,000 weddings occur at Biltmore Estate each year.
The Biltmore Estate licenses its name and design elements to a line of housewares, linens, and luggage called “Biltmore For Your Home”, marketed exclusively by Belk stores.
The grounds and buildings of Biltmore Estate have appeared in a number of major motion pictures and TV series inluding: Being There (1979), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Forrest Gump (1994), Patch Adams (1998), Hannibal (2001) One Tree Hill (TV series 2003) and Hannibal (TV series 2015).