by Linda Laughter, guest blogger
In Asheville, North Carolina, is a wonderful home anyone can visit. It just happens to be the largest private residence in America. Still owned and cared for by the Vanderbilt family, they create a welcoming feeling as you traverse the four acres of floor space and 8,000 acres of land.
Built in a Chateauesque style by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, it stands as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. It was opened to the family in 1895, with a Banquet Hall with seating for 64 guests, a Billiard Room, Winter garden, Smoking room, 33 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms.
All the rooms have incredible ceilings walls and original furnishings. The art work also was amazing. My favorite was the portrait of Edith Vanderbilt by Giovanni Boldini. One of the amazing thing we got to see was a 70,000 gallon heated swimming pool with underwater lighting, one of the nation’s first bowling alleys in a private residence and a gym with once state of the art fitness equipment.
With the world’s current addiction to BBC’s Downtown Abbey, the tourists come in to see not only the Upstairs, but the Downstairs area with the largest basement in America. It includes 3 kitchens, walk-in refrigerators, servant’s dining hall and laundry. There is an entire tour you can take just to see these areas.
In an attempt to bolster the estate’s financial situation in the Great Depression, Cornelia Vanderbilt and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in 1930. The attraction also helped boost the tourist trade in the area. This gave everyone the chance to see an incredible bygone lifestyle.
The gardens are also open to the public with your pass. Unfortunately, we were there in February and not much was blooming. The interiors were full of flowers from the greenhouse. In the spring, the Italian, Shrub, Walled, Rose and Azalea Gardens come to life. It would be worth a return trip!
We were fortunate to be able to see one of the homes events, “Fashionable Romance – Wedding Gowns in Film”. The exhibition showcased award-winning costumes for iconic movies including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Out of Africa. The costumes travel across time and seem to bring a sense of scale and glamor to the already opulent rooms.
This was definitely a trip back in time and one we thoroughly enjoyed. Tickets can be bought online which guarantees you an entry time. We purchased earphones to be able to walk at our leisure through the building. We called ahead and made dinner reservations at one of the three restaurants on site. We were so glad we did, the food was excellent and the staff made you feel you were dining in Vanderbilt Style.
Linda Laughter is a practicing interior designer and part-time painter in Ada, MI. She and her architect husband love to travel and enjoy all the architectural details and God’s beauty the world has to offer.