Biltmore Estate...a Legacy in Stone

A solitary figure leaned over the balcony rail surveying what seems to be the endless sight of mountain ridges, rolling hills and valley farmlands. His almond shape eyes pierced through the veil of evening light, the sky was filled with peach colored clouds cast against a sea of turquoise blue. The sun's flickering light slowly fades behind the mountain ridges along the western sky. As the light diminished, the lone figure pondered on the inspiration he felt earlier that day.  So inspired his thoughts held a haunting sense of destiny. Lost in a daze, his eyes continuously scanned the floor of the immense valley in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. With his thoughts drifting, he followed the winding path of the French Broad River to the distant southern horizon, then honing his sights onto the ridges to the south he drew his focus along a line of mountains to the east.  He watched with restrained excitement as dazzling rays of sunlight played a mysterious game of light and shadows against the ancient folds of the mountain slopes.

Welcome to Biltmore Estates in Asheville, North Carolina. I'm not sure exactly what was going through George Washington Vanderbilt’s mind when he visited Asheville in 1888.  The historical facts state that he fell in love with the mountains while on a visit with his mother Mrs. Maria Louisa Vanderbilt.  They were drawn to the breathtaking scenery, hot springs and the mild mountain climate that brought in a steady flow of tourism and summer residents. It was the Gilded Age, a time when wealthy “Victorian Era” Americans were living for social fare, travel and leisure.

What I do know as many others have felt while visiting this area, is that there’s something mysterious about the natural wonders, beauty and mystic of these Blue Ridge Mountains.  It has caused men and women to dream dreams, and have visions concerning their life as a part of these natural ancient monuments.

With a bankroll large enough to move a mountain, George W. Vanderbilt brought his dream of a country estate to life with a sense of worldliness, evolving around education, travel, style and exquisite taste, along with a vision for the future of this vast mountain wilderness.

The vision of George Vanderbilt’s mountain estate had been influenced during his tours of the country estates of Europe.  There, he marveled at the land barons and their ability to create a self-supporting estate. that would preserve both family and national heritage for centuries.  He was also largely impressed by his sister Lila’s 3,500-acre Vermont estate, Shelburne Farms, an extravagant home in a countryside setting. 

This is a fascinating tale of the creation of a 250-room estate house, vast land holdings of 125,000 acres and the family legacy of a unique American.  Today, his descendents have graciously made available for viewing the inner sanctuary of George Washington Vanderbilt's own creative concept of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Biltmore House

George W. Vanderbilt took special pride in entertaining the many guests at Biltmore Estate who’s likes ranged from the famous and worldly to the neighboring children.  Yet, I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt would have thought about the number of visitors who wander around their property today, strolling thru their private quarters, peering into their luxurious bedroom chambers, viewing their personal effects and enjoying their share of this monument to a man and his vision.

George W. Vanderbilt left behind a treasure trove of architecture, art and furnishing, all enclosed within a self-sufficient estate offering luxury, beauty and tranquility to its honored guests.  Mr. Vanderbilt also had the foresight to establish an institution dedicated to the protection and preservation of forest lands.

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 in 1898 and the birth of their daughter Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt in 1900. Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924. John Cecil is a descendant of William Cecil (1520-98), and Lord Burghley, who was the Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.  Today the descents of John and Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil offer the opportunity to share the beauty and elegance of Biltmore Estate with the public.

Join the Blue Ridge Highlander as we venture back two centuries into the world of the Gilded Age..."Biltmore Estate, a Legacy in Stone."

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