The History Behind The Biltmore Estate & Vanderbilt Family

October 22, 2021

The History Behind the Biltmore Estate & Vanderbilt Family
Source: Deposit Photos

The magnitude and majesty of the Biltmore Estate are undeniable. Imagine a stately home with more than 178,000 sq. ft. set on 8,000 acres. Better yet, visit this one-of-a-kind architectural tour de force!

The Vanderbilts and the History of the Biltmore Estate

Vanderbilt’s history emerges from humble beginnings. The story begins with a Dutch farmer from De Bilt. In 1650, Jan Aertson arrived in New Amsterdam (Manhattan today) as an indentured servant. The Dutch “van” means “from.” Eventually, Van de Bilt became Vanderbilt. Railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt was Aertson’s great-great-great-great-grandson. At the time of his passing in 1877, Cornelius was the wealthiest person in the United States. George W. Vanderbilt was one of his numerous grandsons.

The Blue Ridge Mountains have long attracted those seeking relief from the summer heat and humidity, and George Washington Vanderbilt was no exception. After an initial visit to Asheville, he committed to construct a massive home there.

As one heir to the Vanderbilt family fortune, he had the resources to make that dream come true. To realize his vision, he hired architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Construction of the Biltmore Mansion began in 1889. The nation’s largest home ever took six years to construct. The 250-room mansion has 65 fireplaces and four acres of floor space. In today’s dollars, construction costs exceeded a billion dollars.

From the architecture to the artwork, the chateau invokes the spirit of the French Renaissance. George first welcomed family and friends to the Biltmore Estate on Christmas Eve, 1895. The following year, he built the Cathedral of All Souls right across from the estate’s main gate. He is also responsible for Biltmore Village, originally built to house those in the employ of the estate

Vanderbilt was known for his wealth and his philanthropy. For example, he covered all the Cathedral’s expenses. This meant that all proceeds from the collection plates would go to outreach and charity. He also sold 87,000 acres of the estate’s holdings to the U.S. Forest Service for five dollars per acre.

The Biltmore Estate opened for public tours in 1930. Plans to accommodate increasing numbers of guests continued over the years. For example, The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened for business in 2001. Antler Hill Village opened in 2010. The Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is a Biltmore Estate hotel in Antler Village that opened in 2015.

Things to do in Biltmore Village

The Biltmore Estate opened for public tours in 1930. Plans to accommodate increasing numbers of guests continued over the years. For example, The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened for business in 2001. Antler Hill Village opened in 2010. The Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is a Biltmore Estate hotel in Antler Village that opened in 2015.

Although the Biltmore Estate is the main attraction, there’s also much to see and do at Biltmore Village.

Tour a historic cathedral

The sanctuary of The Cathedral of All Souls is typically open on weekdays. From April to December, docents answer questions as they tell the story of this historic house of worship. The Westminster Peal Bells ring on the hour and half-hour.

Browse the shops

You’ll find many of the village’s 40 shops housed in quaint cottages. Enjoy the period architecture as you stroll the brick sidewalks. Christmas is a year-round event at The Old World Christmas Shoppe.

Eat and drink

Grab a quick bite or enjoy dinner at one of 10 restaurants. Biltmore Village is also a great destination if you enjoy beer. Hi-Wire Brewing, Catawba Brewing, and Hillman Beer all maintain a presence here.

Peruse art and antiques

The New Morning Gallery is one of the nation’s largest craft shops. At the Southern Highland Craft Guild, you’ll find the work of 200 Appalachian craftsmen representing nine states. There are more than 500 antique dealers with displays at Biltmore Village. The Antique Tobacco Barn and Sweeten Creek Antique Mall are two popular destinations.

Make a record

When you’re at Biltmore Village, check out the vintage Ford Econoline van housing a 50s-style mobile recording studio. Visitors step up to record music, and they leave with a vinyl recording.

Finally, consider timing your visit to coincide with dazzling seasonal displays. For example, Biltmore Blooms celebrates stunning spring splendor. Bright colors grace the Walled Garden and the surrounding landscapes. It’s all set against the rich green forests carpeting the surrounding mountains.

Hotels in and around Biltmore Village

Asheville visitors select from a variety of quality accommodations at Biltmore Village.

Hampton Inn & Suites

117 Hendersonville Road

Hampton Inn & Suites is minutes from Biltmore Village and the Cathedral of All Souls. Asheville’s Fun Depot and the Smith-McDowell House Museum are also nearby. The 118-room hotel offers an indoor pool and a 24-hour health club.

Baymont Inn & Suites

204 Hendersonville Road

Baymont Inn & Suites is near Biltmore Village and the historic district. Tour the Cathedral of All Souls only minutes away. The hotel is also close to Asheville’s Fun Depot and the Asheville Mall. Baymont’s 71 rooms feature pillowtop beds. Amenities include an indoor pool, spa tub, and fitness center.

Clarion Inn

234 Hendersonville Road

Guests at the Clarion Inn are minutes from the Cathedral of All Souls and Biltmore Village. The Smith-McDowell House Museum and Asheville’s Fun Depot are also nearby. The Clarion Inn has an outdoor pool and a fitness center.

Country Inn & Suites

1914 Old Haywood Road

Those visiting Biltmore Village also stay at Country Inn & Suites. It is close to Treetops Adventure Park, Antler Hill Village, and Asheville Outlets as well. The 80-room hotel offers guests an outdoor pool and a fitness center.

Doubletree by Hilton

115 Hendersonville Road

DoubleTree by Hilton is in the historic district just minutes from Biltmore Village. The Cathedral of All Souls, Smith-McDowell House Museum, and Asheville’s Fun Depot are all nearby. The 197 rooms include pillowtop beds with down comforters. Guests enjoy an indoor pool, spa tub, and 24-hour fitness center.

Hilton Asheville

43 Town Square Boulevard

When you stay at the Hilton Asheville, you’ll enjoy easy access to Biltmore Village. The North Carolina Arboretum and Bent Creek Experimental Forest are nearby. Biltmore Park Town Square is as well. Guests at the 165-room hotel enjoy visits to the spa, health club, and indoor pool.

Home2Suites by Hilton

61 Thompson Street

Home2 Suites By Hilton is at Biltmore Village only a half-mile from the Biltmore Estate. Amenities include an in-suite kitchen and a complimentary hot breakfast. After a day of exploring all things Biltmore, guests can relax at the heated outdoor pool.

Residence Inn by Marriott

701 Biltmore Avenue

The Residence Inn by Marriott is just north of the Biltmore Estate. Browse the shops of Biltmore Village and tour the historic Cathedral of All Souls. The hotel’s 72 rooms include kitchens with refrigerators and stove tops. There’s also an indoor pool, a spa tub, and a 24-hour fitness center.

Plan Your Visit Today!

Want to explore all the accommodations around Asheville? Check out our list of all hotels in Asheville, NC. Guest ReservationsTM offers comprehensive access to more than 100,000 hotels worldwide.

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