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The Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.)
In that period the Vanderbilt grandsons built ornate palaces to showcase their wealth including The Breakers in Rhode Island and The Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park.
The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina is the largest privately owned house in the United States. The home is 179 thousand square feet and sits on a huge estate that includes a winery, stables and other attractions open to the public.
The mansion was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 as a summer home. Having fallen in love with the mountainous countryside, Vanderbilt bought up over 700 parcels of land to build his summer retreat.
In 1900, Cornelia, the only child of George and Edith Vanderbilt, was born. She grew up in this vast estate.
In 1914, the Vanderbilts sold a large tract of their land to the federal government which became Pisgah National Forest. During the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband opened the mansion to the public in order to attract tourists to Asheville.
Today, the estate is run by a trust set up by the Vanderbilt Family and has a hotel, restaurants and other amenities on site. It attracts 1.4 million visitors a year.
My daughter and I toured the estate while on a road trip several years ago. At the time, photography was not allowed inside the home, though we enjoyed the guided tour through the many opulent rooms.
- Hyde Park (Frederick Vanderbilt)
- The Biltmore (George Washington Vanderbilt II)
- Eagle’s Nest (William K Vanderbilt) Coming Soon
Location: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
Designation: National Historic Landmark
Date designated or established: 1963
Date of my visit: November 2007