Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Life and History at Biltmore Estate

Biltmore was officially opened on Christmas Eve 1895 with a holiday feast and a coaching party. It was the first of many gala affairs at the Estate with luminaries like novelist Edith Wharton and Henry James as honored guests.  Here in society’s new playground was an array of activities from tennis, croquet and archery, hunting, riding, and picnicking with concerts, dancing and parlor games.

This is what George so long for, a home for entertaining and displaying his treasured art, a reflection of his vision.  George was a man who enjoyed sharing his advantages with others. 

Looking around at his dream, George saw there was one very important element missing, someone to be his significant other, a loving wife. Mr. George Washington Vanderbilt and American socialite Edith Stuyvesant Dresser (1873-1958) were married in Paris, June 1898, honeymooning in Europe.  Two years later they announced the birth of their only child, Cornelia (1900-1976) a life long resident at Biltmore.

George had everything he ever dreamt of, a mansion to house his collection, a productive self-supporting enterprise, more land than anyone could conceive but most importantly, a family all his own with a beautiful daughter to carry on the Vanderbilt legacy.

The Vanderbilt's were dedicated to helping others. They purchased the nearby town of Best which housed most of the estate’s employees and renamed it Biltmore Village in 1889.  The quaint town grew under the Vanderbilt’s guidance between 1896 and 1902, with a church, school, hospital and shops. Estate employees lived in cottages that were equipped with central heating and plumbing, not the norm for the late 19th Century. 

The Vanderbilt's maintained a rather large staff at the Biltmore, providing good wages and accommodations.  At Christmas time the Vanderbilt's would decorate an enormous tree in the Great Hall and have a special celebration with gifts for their staff and their children.

In 1889 the Vanderbilt's took considerable pleasure in founding the Biltmore Forest School, the first institute for scientific forestry in America. George and Edith also founded Biltmore Estate Industries in 1901, for the purpose of creating an apprenticeship program to teach traditional crafts such as weaving and woodworking. Students enjoyed creating many things, including reproductions of furnishings within the mansion and were encouraged to sell their works for income.

The success of the apprenticeship program encouraged Edith Vanderbilt to start the School for Domestic Science, where young women were instructed in housekeeping skills such as cooking and cleaning enabling the students an advantage in obtaining job opportunities. 

The Vanderbilt’s owned several residences, including his parent’s original Fifth Avenue mansion.  Yet it was apparent that Biltmore was their favorite.  Their involvement in the operations of the estate was a personal joy.

Life was great, and remained good until an unfortunate day in March 1914 when George was rushed to a hospital in Washington D.C. where he received an emergency appendectomy to no avail. George Washington Vanderbilt passed on and was buried in the family mausoleum, on Staten Island, New York. 

Devastated by her loss, yet championed by duty, Mrs. Vanderbilt returned to Biltmore to carry on her responsibilities at the estate and within the community.  She advocated many worthwhile causes; literacy programs, she helped build a new hospital as well as served as woman president of the state agricultural society.

In 1915 Edith Vanderbilt sold nearly 87,000 acres of land to the federal government in respect for George’s wishes to preserve his forest land for the public.

Selling Biltmore Estate Industries in 1917 and Biltmore Village in 1921 helped Mrs. Vanderbilt consolidate her responsibilities to Biltmore Estate.  In 1925 Edith married Senator Peter G. Gerry, the couple maintained several residences, Providence, Rhode Island and Asheville.

George and Edith’s only child, Cornelia (1900-1976) was married at the All Soul’s Church in Biltmore Village in 1924 to the honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil (1890-1954). Cecil was a descendant of Lord Burghley, the Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I. 

Cornelia and John Cecil continued to live at the Biltmore giving birth to two sons, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil (1925) and William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil (1928). 

Back to the Biltmore Estate Main Page

Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains
Sign up for the Blue Ridge Highlander Newsletter, Messages from the Mountains
to find out first about our new feature stories, road trips and special offers


Your e-mail addresses will not be sold or given away to anyone.
Privacy Policy


Interested in your business being on the Highlander, click here...


Let our visitors tell you about the Highlander...



Click the feathers to go to the Highlander site map...
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain Highlander

Highlander Special Interests

Blue Ridge Highlander Mountain Emporium • Art Gallery • Photo Gallery • Handmade Products • Book Store
Magazine, Virtual Tours and Scenic Road Trips Great Mountain Attractions and Destinations
Great Mountain Retreats • Adventure • Art • Cooking • Corporate • Family • Friend • Yoga • Wellness • Youth
Links to All Highlander Advertisers Just for Kids Creative Mountain Classes
Living Green and Eco Friendly in the Mountains Gardening in the Mountains Mountain Recipes
Mountain & Native American History Nathanael O. Smith - Storyteller Mysteries, Myths and Legends in the Mountains
Mountain Cathedral Charities and Fundraisers

Learn More About the Towns and Cities in the Mountains

North Georgia Mountains Western North Carolina Mountains Tennessee River Valley and Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains Blue Ridge Parkway Up Country South Carolina

Move to or Invest in the Mountains

Real Estate • Log Homes • Cabins • Homes • Land • Acreage • Commercial Real Estate
North Georgia Mountain Real Estate Western North Carolina Real Estate
Tennessee River Valley and Smoky Mountain Real Estate
Featured Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain Developments
North Georgia Mountain Developments Western North Carolina Developments Tennessee River Valley Developments
Long Term Rentals • Apartments Park Model Cabins and RV Communities
Log Homes • Log Cabins • Post and Beam • Timber Frame Builders Classic and Conventional Mountain Home Builders
Building Services and Building Supplies Interior Design and Furniture Shops
Schools in the Mountains

Traveling • Living • Enjoying
the Mountains

Log Cabin Rentals • Vacation Rentals • Resorts • Condos • Inns • Hotels • Bed and Breakfasts
Luxury Resorts and Spas in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains
North Georgia Mountain Lodging Western North Carolina Lodging Tennessee River Valley Lodging
Plan a Mountain Wedding or Gatherings Conference, Meeting and Retreat Facilities
Vineyards • Wineries • Tasting Rooms Agri-Tourism Farmer's Markets
Yoga Retreats • Spas in the Mountains • Therapeutic Massage All Things Healthy and Natural in the Mountains
Events and Festivals in the Mountains Theatre • Concerts • Mountain Entertainment
Restaurants, Dining and Catering in the Mountains Tea Rooms Coffee Houses and Coffee Roasters
Shopping in the Mountains Blue Ridge Highlander Mountain Emporium and Art Gallery
Artists, Art Galleries and Art Associations in the Mountains Museums, History and Culture in the Mountains
Gold and Gem Mines Family Fun in the Mountains Just for Kids

Adventure and Outdoor Fun in the Mountains

Mountain Adventure Horseback Riding, Stables and Trails Mountain Bike Trails
White Water Rafting and Adventure Zipline • Canopy Tours Fishing in the Mountains Adventure Outfitters
Camping and RV Parks in the Mountains ORV Adventures and Specialists
Scenic Mountain Drives Mountain Golf Courses Mountain Day Use and Picnic Areas
National Parks in the Mountains National Forest Service in the Mountains State Parks in the Mountains
Waterfalls in the Mountains Lakes in the Mountains Rivers, Creeks and Trout Streams in the Mountains
Nature and Wildlife in the Mountains Mountain Birding Hiking Trails in the Mountains

For More Information

Contact Publisher
Home Site Map Advertise on the Highlander Link to the Highlander Contact the Publisher
Legal Privacy Policy Copyright Policy