If any of you have been following my book journey for any amount of time, you know I LOVE LOVE the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The house and grounds are a magnificent look at a ‘chateau’ of the mountains built at the end of the 19th century by millionaire George Vanderbilt.
The story goes that George was traveling through Asheville in 1888 with his mother and fell in love with the land and the surrounding blue-hued mountains. Wasting no time, in 1889 he began constructing his 250-roomed French Renaissance style home. After six years, and the creation of a rail station and village to support the running of the estate, George opened Biltmore on Christmas Eve 1895. (The town of Best was purchased and became known as Biltmore Village – it grew under Vanderbilts hands. The servants lived here and even had central heat and plumbing, a BIG improvement in 19th century Appalachia.
With his great masterpiece, he hoped to make Biltmore a self-sustaining estate.
The home ushers in new opportunities for the small town of Asheville and the surrounding Appalachian community.
France plays an important part in George’s life, particularly a few years later when he meets, falls in love, and married Edith Dresser Stuyvesant. The two met while on a ship to France and then…after a brief courtship married in Paris.
It is said that when George brought Edith to Biltmore for the first time, the employees of Biltmore lined the street holding a tool from their trade in their hands. A large ‘horseshoe’ shaped bush wished the newlyweds toward their new home with good luck and…later that evening as the newlyweds watched from their balcony, fireworks lit the night sky.
The people of Biltmore must have thought George Vanderbilt had returned to the house with a princess.
Both George and Edith were generous of heart, mind, and money. Breaching the social divide, they believe in making a place better when they left than it was before, and their energies and kindness touched thousands. Edith was known for visiting servants’ houses without one hesitation. She was also a prolific letter writer.
George and Edith valued education. Within their lifetimes, they founded Biltmore Forest School (a school for forestry, George’s passion), and the School for the Domestic Sciences (a women’s school). They both encouraged and created adult literacy classes, particularly The Moonlight School, and developed internships to help created a culture of learning.
From all accounts, even though George and Edith had other grand houses, this one was their favorite. Over the next few months, we’ll take a deeper look at the beautiful house and history associated with it…and someday, I hope to bring this amazing home, couple, and story to life on the page.
Don’t forget to stop by HERE to enter to WIN a copy of my new release Just the Way You Are!