The second day of our extended weekend consisted of saying goodbye to new and old friends and heading back towards Asheville from Sapphire. I believe it was around an hour and a half to the Biltmore Estate from there. We stopped for fast breakfast in Biltmore Village,hoping to beat the crowds to the ticket booth. It was a Saturday so we asumed it was going to get busy.
This marks my 12th Biltmore adventure. I used to go two or three times a year,I just can’t get enough! Every season there has something beautiful and different to offer. Christmas and then Autumn will always remain my favorites though! This trip was a pre Autumn visit but magical none the less. Leaves were already falling and the air was already cooler. It was a perfect day!
If you buy your tickets online a week in advance you get $10 off each ticket. I believe this is an ongoing deal. You can then print them yourself,have them sent for a small fee or just pick them up at will call. Will call at Biltmore didn’t require you to stand in the main line. It’s a kiosk and someone will print them out for you! Easy Peasy! Then you’re on your way through the forest to the parking lot. From here you ride the shuttle to the house.
Biltmore Estate: The main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area). Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. In 2007, it was ranked eighth in America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects. It is a sight to behold.
Can I live here??
Biltmore has four acres of floor space and a total of 250 rooms in the house including 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and an intercom system. Yowsa!
Immediately I’m always looking up up UP to the grotesques on the rooftop and the beautiful patina. Biltmore has the BEST of both. If you take the rooftop tour you get to be among the gargoyles and see the architecture up close and personal. I highly recommend that tour! There is one gargoyle that has a carved human butt. You get to pat it for good luck. So yes,not for those who are afraid of heights,it takes you around where you see the gargoyles in this next photo. That is a walled and very narrow walkway! Amazing views from up there!
We visited on a Saturday which is always a busier time. I like to go during the week to avoid that BUT it’s also sometimes fun to be around many people who are excited. The fair was also in town so I think it was extra busy from all that tourism as well. It took a while for us to get moving in the house. BUT there is must to look at while waiting!
For the first time ever,since I started going,you can take non flash photos inside. So..I was in heaven. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was…heck,still am!
One of my favorite parts of the house is to the right of the marbled Entrance Hall, the octagonal, sunken Winter Garden. Is surrounded by stone archways with a ceiling of architecturally sculptured wood and multifaceted glass. At Christmas there is a small ensemble type orchestra that plays in there…surrounded by poinsettias. It’s gorgeous. It is actually having some renovation done right now…pretty cool to see also.
The Banquet Hall is the largest room in the house, measuring 42 feet wide and 72 feet long, with a 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling. The table could seat 64 guests surrounded by rare Flemish tapestries and a triple fireplace that spans one end of the hall. Most people will be familiar with the room if they have ever seen the Biltmore Christmas tree on t.v. or in photo. Words can’t describe it.
“I use antlers in alll of my decoratinggggg!!”
On the opposite end of the hall is an organ gallery that houses a 1916 Skinner pipe organ…which makes you feel very tiny. Everything in this area is quite large.
Moving on through,we hit the music room for a photo op that Biltmore does. This used to be done in the Winter Garden but has been moved,I’m guessing,due to renovation. We forgot to look at it after the tour,we were too excited about other things 🙂
The music room has a fabulous ceiling….fabulous!
A brief warning…there isn’t air conditioning really in the house. There are fans throughout but if there’s a lot of people in one area it can get quite warm. The nice thing is there are open window areas that let some air in and you can see beautiful views from. Also…the veranda. Stepping out here is magical. It’s difficult to get around all the many people wanting selfies and their photos taken in front of the view…but who can blame them?
When in Rome….hehe
Another favorite room in the house,for me,is the library! The two-story Library contains over 10,000 volumes in eight languages, reflecting George Vanderbilt’s broad interests in classic literature as well as works on art, history, architecture, and gardening.
The second-floor balcony is accessed by an ornate walnut spiral staircase. The baroque detailing of the room is enhanced by the rich walnut paneling and the ceiling painting, The Chariot of Aurora, brought to Biltmore by Vanderbilt from the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice, Italy. The painting by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini is the most important work by the artist still in existence.
On to the second floor! The second floor is accessed by the cantilevered Grand Staircase of 102 steps spiraling around a four-story, wrought-iron chandelier holding 72 light bulbs. The Second Floor Living Hall is an extension of the grand staircase as a formal hall and portrait gallery.
Located nearby in the south tower is George Vanderbilt’s gilded bedroom with furniture designed by Hunt. His bedroom connects to his wife’s Louis XV-style, oval-shaped bedroom in the north tower through a Jacobean carved oak paneled sitting room with an intricate plaster ceiling. And I’ll take either….thanks!!!!
After this you tour the 3rd and 4th floors. The third floor has a number of guest rooms with names that describe the furnishing or artist that they were decorated with.
The fourth floor has 21 bedrooms that were inhabited by housemaids, laundresses, and other female servants.
Beautiful views of the house from here!
From here we move to the basement,which has always included my favorite room in the whole house. The Halloween Room! It had been a mystery since forever as to why there were these painted walls…and I love a good mystery. They just look fantastical and out of place in this setting.
…and that’s not wrong. These were done in the 1920’s..thought,for years,to be a fun event where the guests of the Halloween party were invited to leave their marks on the walls. But in recent research they discovered something quite different and much cooler!
The paintings were created in December 1925 to prepare the room for a New Year’s Eve celebration,gypsy themed! The paintings took three weeks and were based on a touring theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris, which translates to The Bat. Most of the designs painted onto the walls were based off art in a program for this Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe. Mystery solved! This room houses blue prints and photos from the Biltmore construction now so it’s really difficult to get a full photo. The one below,shows one side of it and is courtesy of Biltmore.com
Guests of the estate could enjoy other activities that were found on the basement level, including an indoor 70,000-gallon heated swimming pool with underwater lighting; one of the nation’s first bowling alleys installed in a private residence; and a gymnasium with once state-of-the-art fitness equipment.
The service hub of the house is also found in the largest basement in the US, as the location for the main kitchen, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, walk-in refrigerators that provided an early form of mechanical refrigeration, the servants’ dining hall, laundry rooms and additional bedrooms for staff.
After this part the house tour itself is complete. You can move onto walking the land,gardens and possible walk to the waterfall or move on to Antler Hill where the winery is located. There are also many places located right here at the house for dining but the prices can be steep. I suggest checking out the menus online before you visit. If you have the budget and want for that then I am sure the food is marvelous.
Also lots of cute shops for buying souvenirs! We checked out a few of these,as we had other plans for dinner. We try to get a shot glass and possibly and ornament whenever we visit somewhere new together. We also picked up some Wassail that we tried at one of the shops. There are plans to add vodka to that later 🙂
So that is the end of the house tour! We moved outside to the gardens from here and then to Antler Hill. The next blog will pick up there!!