Asheville, North Carolina is in the north west of the state and is nestled in the Smoky Mountains. George Vanderbilt was so taken with this locations climate and scenery that he purchased 125,000 acres including Mount Pisgah and the surrounding mountains. (About the size of Rhode Island). He hired Hunt as his architect and Olmsted as his landscape architect. They built a summer mountain home in the style of a French Chateau. Sargent was hired to paint quite a few portraits including those of Olmsted and Hunt.
Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore. It is derived from “Bildt,” Vanderbilt’s ancestors’ place of origin in Holland, and “More”, Anglo-Saxon for open, rolling land.
The summer home has more than 250 rooms 34 of which are guest bedrooms. As large as it is, it is hidden from view until you enter the main gate, several miles from the property entrance. Today the family owns 8,000 acres. The family sold most of the land to the government stipulating that it be maintained as a national forest (Pisgah National Forest). This preserved the land for the public and the view for the home.
The self guided audio tour walked us through the mansions rooms including the music, dining and living rooms and the kitchens and laundry room too.
Outside we explored the formal gardens and greenhouses, and a timber forest. The estate has a successful vineyard, vegetables growing on it’s farmland, horses, steer and sheep. There is a small village and museum near the winery where we enjoyed a wine and chocolate tasting. There are also two elegant yet comfortable hotels on the property. There are miles of hiking and biking paths and lots of other outdoor activities.
The Biltmore is still the largest privately owned home in America. Nice!