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Title: Biltmore House and Gardens - Biltmore Estate, Biltmore-Asheville North Carolina
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Biltmore House and Gardens - Biltmore Estate, Biltmore-Asheville North Carolina" ***

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                      _Biltmore House and Gardens_

                            BILTMORE ESTATE

                             North Carolina

                            OPEN TO VISITORS

    [Illustration: _Biltmore House From The Esplanade_]

    [Illustration: Decorative capital A]

Approached from the Biltmore Lodge Gate of Biltmore Estate, along a
three-mile drive of paved roads which wind their way through plantations
of flowering shrubs and forests of pine, hemlock and hardwood, Biltmore
House, for nearly half a century unique among the great country houses
of America, comes into view with almost startling suddenness. A sharp
turn through the wrought iron gates of the north entrance gives one the
first view of the magnificent mansion completed by George W. Vanderbilt
in 1895.

    [Illustration: _Banquet Hall and Its Triple Fireplace_]

Following in many details the lines of French Renaissance chateaux,
particularly those of Blois and Chambord, Biltmore House was designed by
Richard M. Hunt, of New York. The landscape setting of the mansion and
the estate was planned by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central
Park, New York, and executed under the direction of C. D. Beadle, for
more than sixty years Superintendent of the Estate. By many, the great
estate surrounding the mansion is believed to be the finest example of
landscape design in America.

The visitor can profitably study the exterior of the mansion before
passing through the main portal. The structure has a frontage of 780
feet. The breadth of the house, from the main door to the west front, is
150 feet. The facade rises in three distinct levels, graduated from
portals to finials. The characteristic French peaked roof, with its
dormer windows and lofty chimneys, relieves any tendency toward
severity. The walls are of hand-tooled Indiana limestone; the roof is of

Biltmore House, begun in 1890, was completed and opened in 1895 after
five years of intensive construction. Special railroad tracks were laid
from what is now Biltmore station to the site—three miles away—for the
conveyance of the great mass of construction material required. Hundreds
of skilled artisans from various parts of this country and Europe worked
unremittingly, while other hundreds of laborers from the mountain
sections of North Carolina were given steady employment during the
period of construction.

The visitor gains the first impression of the mansion’s magnitude when
passing through the main entrance door, flanked by sixteenth century
lions of Italian marble, into the great hall which gives access to the
main rooms. The self-supporting arches surrounding the Palm Court are
ceiled with tiles especially made by the celebrated artist and
architect, Rafael Guastavino, while the arches and dome of the broad
circular stairway which spirals to the topmost floor from the left side
of the hall are of Indiana limestone. Facing the entrance door from the
rear of the hall is a ceremonial furnishing of Cardinal Richelieu,
showing the Cardinal’s coat-of-arms, motto and hat; it is one of a pair,
the other is hung on the wall of the second-floor corridor. The grand
staircase, modeled after that of the Chateau Blois, winds its way around
the massive wrought iron chandelier which extends downward from the roof
to the Entrance Hall ceiling, and bears a light cluster for each

While visitors are free to choose their own itinerary, the tour of the
mansion usually begins at the Court of Palms, adjoining the Entrance
Hall. This court is a sunken area, encircled with marble and, in almost
every season, adorned with masses of flowers from the gardens and
greenhouses. The central fountain is surmounted by a statue of a boy and
swan, the work of Karl Bitter, the Austro-American sculptor. On the
walls are copies of the Parthenon Reliefs, now in the British Museum.

From the Court of Palms the visitor enters the Oak Drawing Room,
panelled in Norwegian oak. Most of the engravings hanging here are after
paintings by Landseer. Heads of deer, buffalo, moose, and bear also
adorn the walls. The three bronzes over the fireplace are by Barye,
while on the bookcase at the left are four Chinese Celadon vases. The
Spanish table in the center is of late eighteenth century origin, as is
the writing desk facing the entrance.

From the Oak Drawing Room one enters the great Banquet Hall, one of the
chief centers of attraction. Copied in large measure from an old Norman
banquet hall, this room is 72 feet long; its ceiling reaches a height of
75 feet. At one end a triple fireplace, extending almost across the
entire width of the room, is surmounted by a frieze by Bitter, “The
Return From The Chase.” High above the frieze are grouped the flags of
the great powers of Europe at the time Columbus discovered America.

The outstanding objects of interest in the Banquet Hall are five
sixteenth century tapestries depicting the story of Vulcan and the loves
of Venus and Mars. It is the unconfirmed legend that these tapestries,
woven of silk and gold, adorned the tent of the French King, Francis I,
on the occasion of his historic meeting with Henry VIII of England on
the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The various figures on the tapestries,
which were made in Brussels after the cartoons of the Bolognese painter,
Primaticcio, stand out in striking relief. Particularly does one note
the beauty and naturalness of the four medallions, one at each corner.

On the walls are replicas of the flags of the thirteen original states,
and the Biltmore Estate World War service flag, with its fifty-three
stars—three of them gold—hangs proudly over the center arch. At the
opposite end of the Banquet Hall from the fireplace, sets of shelves
display brass and copper pieces of Dutch, Spanish and French origin
which are attributed to artisans of the seventeenth century. The large
pipes in the organ loft above are flanked by wood carved reliefs by Karl
Bitter, depicting scenes from Wagner’s operas.

From the Banquet Hall the visitor proceeds to the Dining Room, the walls
of which are wainscotted in red marble, surmounted by tooled Spanish
leather; the upholstery is of Genoese velvet in red and gold. On the
right is the fireplace by Wedgwood. Portraits of members of the
Vanderbilt family hang from the walls. In this room are displayed
beautiful ivory carvings and lustre-ware.

In the Print Room are rare engravings by Earlom, McArdell, Turner,
Cousins, Ward and Cole. On the center pillar of the entrance is the
remarkable engraving, “The Executioner,” by Prince Rupert, after
Spagnoletto; underneath it is “The Virgin and Child,” engraved by
Theodore Caspara Furstenbergh, after Correggio. The large reassembled
engraving on the left wall shows the family pedigree of Maximilian the
Great, by Albrecht Durer (1515); the six engravings on either side of
this piece are also by Durer.

A Spanish cabinet of the sixteenth century is placed on the left of the
large Durer engraving; on the right a Dutch cabinet of the late
seventeenth century. On the right of the entrance, in the center of the
end wall, is an Italian ebony dresser of the sixteen-seventeenth
century; between the windows are a number of bronze busts by Meunier.

An antique that attracts much interest, especially among students of
history, is found in the right hand corner of this room, near the
entrance—the chess table and set of chessmen once owned by Napoleon
Bonaparte, and used by him during the six years of his imprisonment on
the island of St. Helena. Tradition has it that the emperor’s heart was
placed in the drawer of this table, after being sealed in a silver box,
following the autopsy performed by Antommarchi. Doctor O’Meara, a
physician placed in attendance on Napoleon by the British government,
says in his memoirs that Lady Holland, of England, presented the famous
Corsican with a chess table, and it is probable that this is the table
referred to by O’Meara.

From the Print Room visitors enter the Tapestry Gallery. Covering almost
the entire 90-foot length of the walls are Flemish tapestries of the
late fifteenth century, depicting Prudence, Faith and Charity. On the
left of the first fireplace is a sofa in French tapestry of Henry III
period, late sixteenth century; the six tapestry chairs in the center of
the gallery are Louis XIV. Four chairs and the sofa under the middle
tapestry are of Louis XIV period.

    [Illustration: _In The Tapestry Gallery_]

    [Illustration: _The Grand Spiral Stairway_]

In the center is a large refectory table from an old English monastery,
probably removed from its original setting during the reign of Henry
VIII. Twelve Dresden china figures of the Twelve Apostles, bearing
imprint of the Imperial Arms of Austria, are believed to have come from
a private chapel of the Hapsburgs. Over the door into the Library is a
portrait of George W. Vanderbilt by Sargent; on the left a Sargent
portrait of his mother, Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt, and on the right a
portrait of Mrs. Peter Goelet Gerry (formerly Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt)
by Boldini.

    [Illustration: _The Dining Room_]

Moving into the Library the visitor’s attention centers on the famous
ceiling painted by Tiepolo, the last outstanding artist of the Venetian
school, who died in 1770. The canvas, which covers the library ceiling,
was obtained by Mr. Vanderbilt from an old Italian palace, on his pledge
that the name of the former owner should never be revealed.

The unique library, panelled in Circassian walnut, contains more than
20,000 volumes, among them rare works on art, architecture and landscape
gardens. Over the fireplace hangs an Italian tapestry, of the late
seventeenth century. Two white porcelain vases of eighteenth century,
three large Chinese goldfish bowls, credited to the Ming dynasty, and a
piece of sixteenth century Spanish embroidery on the long table at the
end of the room, are other rare objects of interest. The carved black
marble fireplace on the left is nine feet wide and six feet high; the
figures on the andirons are by Bitter.

Leaving the Library one mounts the grand staircase to the second floor
and enters the First Hall, a room 72 by 35 feet. Here are hung many
valuable paintings, among them Sargent’s life-size portraits of Richard
Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted, designers of the house and the
estate respectively. Here also is seen a large Persian palace or temple
rug, middle sixteenth century, 33 by 25 feet. The furniture here is
Venetian, late eighteenth century. Another object of interest is a
Spanish Wedding Vestment Chest. Above is an Italian mirror, nineteenth

Opening from the hall is the Louis XVI Bedroom with furniture of that
period. The South Bedroom, once occupied by Mr. Vanderbilt, commands
from its windows views of rarely excelled scenic splendor. In this room
the carving and panelling are of walnut; the furniture is Spanish,
Italian and Portuguese of the early eighteenth century. The bed, hung in
red and gold, is Spanish.

The North Bedroom is upholstered in purple and gold Genoese velvet. The
Oak Sitting Room, between the North and South Bedrooms, contains several
large and beautiful bronzes by Barye, Meunier and Mene. There also is a
Maria di Medici settee bearing the private monogram of that tempestuous
queen, and on the wall are displayed Sargent’s portraits of Mrs. Kissam
and Mrs. Bacon.

The visitor emerging from the mansion looks down upon a grassy
Esplanade, in the center of which are a fountain and pool, with
driveways on either side. Beyond the Esplanade is a magnificent
structure of stone, the “Rampe Douce,” with its three turtle founts,
erected to enable one, whether mounted or afoot, to reach the bridle
paths and glades above and beyond. Below the level of the Library
Terrace and the Esplanade, surrounded by boxwood and holly hedges, are
the Swimming Pool and Italian Garden. The holly hedge is studded at
regular intervals with Italian sculptured urns. Here is the wall with
ivy from Kenilworth Castle, and a veritable forest of old Wistaria vine
greets the visitor in the Pergola. Here, as in almost every other part
of the grounds adjacent to the mansion, are rare examples of beautiful
statuary procured by Mr. Vanderbilt on his travels abroad.

Beyond the Library Terrace are the Italian Garden, the Shrub Garden, the
Walled Garden, the Spring Garden and the Azalea Garden, in the aggregate
containing about thirty-five acres of rare and beautiful plants and
flowers in almost endless variety, which bloom in seasonal succession.

The greenhouses at the end of the Walled Garden are devoted to the
cultivation of plants and flowers used in the adornment of the mansion.
The giant palms and ferns of many varieties present a truly tropical

An estate of some 12,000 acres surrounds Biltmore House; formerly it
comprised more than 100,000 acres, but a large portion of the forest
area was granted to the government by Mrs. Vanderbilt after Mr.
Vanderbilt’s death, as the nucleus of Pisgah National Forest, and 1,500
acres were allotted for development of the Biltmore Forest Country Club
and the Town of Biltmore Forest. The estate, with its 17 miles of paved
and macadam roads, and 120 miles of equestrian trails and earth roads,
gives employment to more than 500 people, the greater number of these
being engaged in the operation of the Biltmore Dairy Farms and kindred
activities. The Biltmore herd of some 1200 pure-bred Jerseys is one of
the largest, and is recognized as one of the finest, in the country.

As a result of the efforts on behalf of the Asheville Chamber of
Commerce, Biltmore House was opened to the public March 15, 1930,
sixteen years after Mr. Vanderbilt’s death. Admission tickets are on
sale at the Biltmore Estate office on the Plaza in Biltmore, and at the
Asheville Chamber of Commerce.

    [Illustration: _A Section of The Library_]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—There was no publication information in the printed edition: this eBook
  is believed public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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