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Your guide to

Biltmore House
Asheville, North Carolina
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Title
Intro text in this space

Left: George Vanderbilt.


Above: Cornelia Vanderbilt with
her mother, Edith.
Below: Scaffolding surrounds the
stair tower of Biltmore House.

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Welcome to
Biltmore House,
home of the Vanderbilts
On Christmas Eve 1895, George W. Vanderbilt officially opened Biltmore
House. Three years later, he brought his bride Edith Stuyvesant Dresser to
Biltmore, and in 1900, their only child Cornelia was born here.
After Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, Edith and Cornelia continued to call
Biltmore home, with Edith assuming management of the estate. In 1924,
Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, and they
lived and entertained in Biltmore House. In response to requests to
increase area tourism during the Depression and to bring in money to
preserve the estate, the Cecils opened the house to the public in 1930.
Today, Biltmore remains a family business. Vanderbilt’s grandson,
William A.V. Cecil, owns Biltmore; his son, William A.V. Cecil, Jr., serves as
chief executive officer, and his daughter, Diana Cecil Pickering, is vice
chair of the board of directors and advisors. Along with 1,800 employees,
they continue the preservation of this national treasure.

Our
preservation
story
Learn about the estate’s
restoration and preservation
work with our exhibition,
If These Walls Could Talk,
included in your admission.

Need to take a break?


Please exit through the Front Door. If you have an audio tour,
leave it at the Front Desk to pick up when you return.
Please show your ticket to re-enter the house.

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Main Floor
Begin your visit at the Main Floor entrance.
George and Edith Vanderbilt welcomed their guests to relax and
enjoy all the estate offered. Biltmore House was a collaborative
effort between Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and
landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who brought their
distinctive talents to bear on their greatest project.

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MAIN ENTRANCE

1 ENTRANCE HALL: Guests of the Vanderbilts entered Biltmore House


through this impressive space, just as you do today.
2 WINTER GARDEN: A glass roof illuminates the center fountain
sculpture Boy Stealing Geese by Karl Bitter, placed just weeks before the
house opened.
3 BILLIARD ROOM: The Vanderbilts and their guests enjoyed playing
billiards on the custom oak tables made in 1895.
4 BANQUET HALL: This impressive room with a seven-story high ceiling
was the scene of dinner parties, holiday celebrations, and intimate family
meals enjoyed in front of the triple fireplace. The Flemish tapestries are
from the 1500s. The ORGAN LOFT houses a 1916 Skinner pipe organ.

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5 BREAKFAST ROOM: The family and guests ate breakfast and luncheon
here. Portraits include two men who founded the family fortune: Mr.
Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt (above door on
right), and his father William Henry Vanderbilt (above display case). There
are two paintings by Renoir: Young Algerian Girl (on left) and Child with an
Orange (on right).
6 SALON: Two portraits by John Singer Sargent show Vanderbilt’s mentors
who were instrumental in creating Biltmore: architect Richard Morris Hunt
(on left wall) and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (on right wall).
7 MUSIC ROOM: This room was completed in 1976; it is not known why
it was unfinished in Vanderbilt’s time. During World War II, the National
Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. stored priceless paintings and sculptures
here for safekeeping.
8 TAPESTRY GALLERY: Guests relaxed in this 90-foot-long room before
and after meals. In addition to 16th-century Flemish tapestries, the art includes
portraits of George Vanderbilt (above Library door) and his mother (to the
left) by John Singer Sargent. To the right is a portrait of Edith Vanderbilt by
Giovanni Boldini, painted 12 years after her marriage to Vanderbilt.
9 LIBRARY: This room showcases Vanderbilt’s
favorite passion: books. There are more than 10,000
volumes in eight languages here, attesting to the
1900 quote from a New York journalist that Vanderbilt
was “the best read man in the country.” Napoleon
Bonaparte once owned the chess set and gaming
table. The Pellegrini ceiling painting, The Chariot of
Aurora, came from the Pisani Palace in Venice.
10 TAPESTRY GALLERY: As you return through
the Tapestry Gallery towards the Entrance Hall,
note the portrait of Edith Vanderbilt in an oval
frame by James McNeill Whistler.

Once in the Entrance Hall, turn right Edith Vanderbilt


to climb the Grand Staircase. by Boldini

AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

107 Edith Vanderbilt Portrait


101 Banquet Hall Design 104 Vanderbilt’s Prints
108 Library Ceiling Painting
102 Christmas at Biltmore 105 Music Room Mystery
109 Napoleon’s Chess Set
103 Renoir Paintings 106 Loggia
110 Tapestries

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Second Floor
George and Edith Vanderbilt’s private bedrooms and sitting
area comprise this section of the house.

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11 THE LOUIS XVI ROOM and SECOND FLOOR LIVING HALL host
our temporary exhibition, If These Walls Could Talk. Please turn off your
audio tour and remove your headphones to enjoy the exhibit focusing on
preservation, restoration, and family history.
12 MR. VANDERBILT’S BEDROOM: With a
commanding view of his estate, Mr. Vanderbilt’s
Bedroom highlights his attention to detail, such
as the gilded wallcovering and the decorative
locksets and sconces. While enjoying his luxurious
surroundings, Vanderbilt was also involved in
philanthropic endeavors including establishing
All Souls Church in Biltmore Village, the Biltmore
Parish Day School, and the Young Men’s Institute George Vanderbilt
for Asheville’s African-American community. in family portrait

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13 OAK SITTING ROOM: Joining the family bedrooms is this paneled


sitting area where the Vanderbilts may have had breakfast and where Edith
planned the day’s meals with the head housekeeper. The portraits by Sargent
are of Mr. Vanderbilt’s aunt, Mrs. Benjamin Kissam (left), and his cousin,
Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon (right).
14 MRS. VANDERBILT’S BEDROOM: After her parents died when she
was 10, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and her three sisters were raised by their
grandparents. When Edith was in her teens, her grandparents died; the Dresser
girls eventually moved to Paris under the watchful eye of their governess,
who became like a mother to them. After meeting on a transatlantic voyage,
Edith and George fell in love and were married in 1898. At 25, Edith became
mistress of Biltmore and quickly became involved in estate life.

Carved oak paneling


and an intricate
plaster ceiling lend warmth
to the Oak Sitting Room.

Purple and gold silk


fabrics and furniture in
the Louis XV style make
Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
a feminine retreat.

AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

111 “Going to the Opera” 113 Mr. Vanderbilt’s Spirituality


112 Mr. Vanderbilt’s Valet 114 Sargent Portraits

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Third Floor
Turn left from Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom and take the stairs to
the Third Floor. Go down the steps to the left and continue down
the corridor.
Guest bedrooms on this level were named for their location, works
of art, or for artists whose works are displayed. Since house parties
during the early 1900s lasted for days or weeks, families like the
Vanderbilts needed plenty of bedrooms for their guests.

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15 THIRD FLOOR LIVING HALL: Guests staying in nearby suites came


here to relax, listen to music, write letters, and unwind after dinner. The
Vanderbilts’ visitors included diplomats, politicians, artists, and writers,
who often celebrated special occasions while staying on the estate. Joseph
Hodges Choate, Ambassador to England, was a guest at Biltmore’s 1902
New Year’s party and wrote of the games, dancing, and revelry.
Proceed up the steps to your right.
16 GUEST BATHROOM: One of Biltmore House’s 43 bathrooms—a rarity
in 1895 when many homes did not have a single indoor bathroom.
17 SOUTH TOWER ROOM: This circular room is decorated in a subdued
neoclassical style. While staying at Biltmore, Larz Anderson wrote of the
comfortable rooms he and his wife Isabel enjoyed, his ten-mile hike over the
mountains, and how Isabel’s horse bolted with her during one afternoon ride.

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18RAPHAEL ROOM: Highly detailed engravings after the Italian


Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio d’Urbino add interest to the room’s
understated décor. Vanderbilt was an avid print collector who purchased
more than 1,600 woodcuts, engravings, and etchings in his lifetime.
19 EARLOM ROOM: The room was named for the English painter and
engraver Richard Earlom. A letter written by Ambassador Choate during
his stay made note of getting dressed for dinner in his spacious room with
a fine fireplace.
20 NORTH TOWER ROOM: This oval-shaped room mixes styles from the
late 18th and early 19th centuries. When staying at Biltmore, guests did not
have to worry about unpacking and packing their trunks. A ladies’ maid would
take care of those tasks and make sure their clothes were ready for travel.

Vanderbilt inherited
the elaborate display
cabinets in the
Third Floor Living Hall
from his father,
William H. Vanderbilt.

The oval-shaped
North Tower Room
features a printed sateen
fabric on the walls
and furniture.

AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

115 Vanderbilt the Book Collector

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Fourth Floor
Turn left after exiting the North Tower Room, and take the wooden
staircase to the Fourth Floor. This floor contains bedrooms for female
domestic staff and rooms used by George Vanderbilt and his guests.

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21 SERVANTS’ BEDROOMS: Housemaids, laundresses, and other female


servants in Biltmore House lived on this floor in 21 rooms similar to these
three bedrooms. Many of the women living here were used to sharing a bed
in an unheated room, but at Biltmore they had comfortable, heated private
rooms with matching furniture. Most servants were allowed two hours off
daily but were still on call. They received one afternoon and one evening off
per week, and a half day every other Sunday.
22 SERVANTS’ HALL: This centrally-located room provided maids a place
to relax and socialize when not on duty, as well as room for mending
household textiles and their own uniforms. For nearly 20 years, housemaids
reported to Mrs. Emily King, the head housekeeper, who was responsible for
making sure the entire household ran perfectly.
23ARCHITECTURAL MODEL ROOM: Richard Morris Hunt had this
architectural model of Biltmore House constructed in 1889 to show
Vanderbilt his proposal for the house. Each inch of the model represents
four feet of the actual house. The oak cabinet is original.

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24 OBSERVATORY: This two-story space offers magnificent views from its


central vantage point. The circular staircase leads to a wrought iron balcony
with doorways to rooftop balconies, with spectacular vistas and close-up
views of gargoyles, chimneys, and other architectural features on the exterior
of Biltmore House, which can be seen on the guided Rooftop Tour.
Return to the Architectural Model Room and turn left to exit.
Before descending the stairs, note the detailed carvings at the top of the
staircase and ceiling medallion crowning the chandelier.

Architectural model of Biltmore House, ca.1889.

AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

116 Servants’ Hall Technology

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Third Floor
Continue your visit by descending the Grand Staircase to the
Third Floor and turning right for another view of the Third Floor
Living Hall.

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25 WATSON ROOM: Named for the engraver James Watson, this is the
only guest room in Biltmore House with twin beds. A guest at Biltmore’s
1895 opening was Vanderbilt’s 20-year-old niece, Gertrude, who wrote a
friend about her visit. “It has been so delightful down here—so, so much
nicer than I thought it would be that I hate the idea of going home.”
26 VAN DYCK ROOM: This room features prints after paintings by the
17th-century artist Anthony Van Dyck. American novelist Edith Wharton
had been a friend of Edith Vanderbilt since they were girls, and was a frequent
guest at Biltmore. During her 1905 visit, she wrote a friend about the Christmas
fête for 350 people on the estate featuring a 30-foot decorated tree.
27 MORLAND ROOM: Named for the English painter George Morland,
this bedroom attracts attention with exotic Indian-style fabrics and Rococo-
style furniture. The bed draperies are exact reproductions of hand-painted
originals from George and Edith Vanderbilt’s honeymoon villa in Stressa, Italy.

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28 MADONNA ROOM: The walls are hung with prints after famous
Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child. A close friend of
Vanderbilt’s, Paul Leicester Ford, wrote the historical novel Janice Meredith
while staying at Biltmore. He dedicated the book to George Vanderbilt,
saying in part “As I have read the proofs of this book I have found more
than once that the pages have faded out of sight and in their stead I have
seen Mount Pisgah…or the ramp and terrace of Biltmore House, just as
I saw them when writing.”
Turn right after the Madonna Room and go down the staircase to the
Second Floor.

Above: The Watson Room reflects a


refined Neoclassical style accented with
vivid fabric patterned with purple irises
and multicolored flowers.

Left: In the Madonna Room, an engraving


by Frederick Muller is after the painting
“La Madonna di San Sisto” by Renaissance
artist Raphael Sanzio.

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Second Floor
After descending the staircase, continue to the Damask Room.
The four newly restored guest rooms on this floor are known
as the Louis XV Suite.

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29 DAMASK ROOM: This room is the first in a suite comprising the most
grand guest rooms in Biltmore House. The wallpaper and fabrics are exact
reproductions of originals from Vanderbilt’s collection. Biltmore curators
discovered small fragments of the original paper underneath door moldings,
and were able to match these fragments to full-sized wallpaper samples in
storage for more than a century.
30 CLAUDE ROOM: Named for the French painter Claude Lorrain, one of
Vanderbilt’s favorite artists, whose prints are on the walls. Close friends and
family stayed in these rooms when they visited, such as William O. B.“Willie”
Field, Vanderbilt’s good friend who played a major role in his 1898 courtship
of Edith Dresser.
31 TYROLEAN CHIMNEY ROOM: Vanderbilt purchased the dramatic
hand-painted 18th-century Swiss porcelain tile chimney during his European
travels and asked Richard Morris Hunt to incorporate it into Biltmore House.

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32 LOUIS XV ROOM: Named for the French king who inspired the
furnishings, this room played a pivotal role in the lives of the Vanderbilts.
George and Edith Vanderbilt’s only child, Cornelia, was born in here in 1900.
In the 1920s, Cornelia gave birth to her two sons in this room. Ornate cut
and uncut silk velvet wallcoverings were re-created in France as part of the
room’s restoration.
33 LOUIS XV HALLWAY: Cornelia Vanderbilt was a welcome addition to
the family and frequently traveled with her parents to Europe or their other
homes. When at Biltmore, she studied and played with children of estate
workers, growing into an accomplished young woman.
Descend the short flight of stairs, turn right, and continue down the hall to
the Grand Staircase. Go down the staircase to the Entrance Hall.
34 GRAND STAIRCASE: Note the four-story iron chandelier that
illuminates the Grand Staircase. It is suspended from a single point to
light this impressive space.
At the base of the staircase, make an extreme right turn to continue to the
Basement level.

Detail of Louis XV Room fabric Detail of Tyrolean Chimney porcelain


AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

117 It’s a Boy 118 Child’s Play

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Basement
At the base of the Grand Staircase,turn right and go through the small
doorway. Descend the steps and turn right to reach the stone hallway.
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35STONE HALLWAY: In 1914, George Vanderbilt died from complications


from an appendectomy, and Edith Vanderbilt assumed responsibility of running
the estate and raising her young daughter. After a period of mourning, Edith
and Cornelia began entertaining again, with the biggest celebration occurring
in 1924 when Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, a
British diplomat.
36 HALLOWEEN ROOM: This unusual space was named for the wall scenes
painted by Cornelia and John Cecil’s guests in 1925.
37 BOWLING ALLEY: Biltmore guests enjoyed one of the nation’s first bowling
alleys installed in a private residence.
38 DRESSING ROOMS: Guests changed into clothing suitable for recreational
activities in these rooms.
39 SWIMMING POOL: The 70,000-gallon indoor pool was heated and still
has its original underwater lighting.
40 GYMNASIUM: Contains what was once state-of-the-art fitness equipment.
Continue down the hallway. To your left is a stairway; it leads to a room originally
named the Plant Store Room, and is located directly below the Winter Garden.
41VEGETABLE PANTRY: Used to store fresh fruits and vegetables grown on
the estate.

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42WALK-IN REFRIGERATORS: These provided an early form of


mechanical refrigeration.
43 SERVANTS’ BEDROOMS: Kitchen maids lived in these quarters.
44 PASTRY KITCHEN: The pastry chef used this kitchen to make elaborate
desserts and bread.
45 ROTISSERIE KITCHEN: Roasted meat, including wild game from the
estate, was prepared here.
46 MAIN KITCHEN: The majority of prep work and cooking occurred here
under direction of Biltmore’s chef; original copper pots hang above the
worktable.
47 KITCHEN PANTRY: Dumbwaiters raised food to the Butler’s Pantry and
floors above.
48 SERVANTS’ DINING ROOM: Domestic staff ate in a dining room much
like this one.
49 SERVICE ENTRANCE: Everything needed to run the house entered
through this door, from food to guests’ luggage.
50 WORK ROOMS: Originally part of the laundry, these spaces are now used
by Biltmore’s floral staff.
51 BROWN LAUNDRY: Fine hand-washable clothing and linen was laundered
on wooden washboards and then pressed.
52 MAIN LAUNDRY and DRYING ROOM: The Main Laundry features a
belt-driven barrel washer. Some laundry was dried indoors, draped over rolling
racks in the Drying Room.

The Main Kitchen


is equipped to prepare
any meal, with a full
array of copper cookware,
knives, and choppers.

AUDIO TOUR IN-DEPTH TOPICS Enter these numbers for additional information

119 Guastavino’s Tilework 121 The Menu Book


120 Dogs in the Kitchen 122 Birthday Cake

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Main Floor
Please climb the stairs leading to the Bachelors’ Wing of the house
to continue your visit.

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53 SMOKING ROOM: Part of the Bachelors’


Wing, male guests enjoyed after-dinner cigars,
pipes, and brandy here.
54 GUN ROOM: Mr. Vanderbilt’s guests
would select guns from this room for their
hunting expeditions—a popular pastime
on the estate.
55 BACHELORS’ WING HALLWAY:
Portraits of Cornelia and John Cecil hang
in this hallway. The Cecils opened Biltmore
House to the public in 1930 and their
grandchildren continue to operate the
estate today.

This completes your visit


to Biltmore House.
Please exit down the hall
and to your right. Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil

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Your visit continues


After leaving the house, turn left into the Stable Courtyard for
dining, shopping, and restrooms.
Refer to your Welcome to Biltmore guide for information on the Gardens,
Winery, and River Bend Farm. The gardens and South Terrace are to your
left when facing Biltmore House.
Discover all there is to do on the estate with our Guest Services staff, located
in the Stable Hallway and Welcome Center.

AUDIO TOUR INSTRUCTIONS


Starting your audio tour
Your audio tour covers all rooms open to the public in Biltmore
House. Refer to the floor plans and enter the corresponding
number on your player's keypad to hear information about
a room. The message automatically plays. Neckloop
• For instructions, enter “99” on your keypad. Telecoil Couplers
• Begin your audio tour by entering “1” for the introduction. are available.
In-depth information
For more on the Vanderbilt family, Biltmore's artwork, and life on the estate, look
for the boxes and in this guide for the three-digit numbers of in-depth topics.
Listen to as many topics as you wish in any order.

Biltmore • Asheville, North Carolina


1-877-BILTMORE • biltmore.com
©2009 The Biltmore Company
The names Biltmore, Inn on Biltmore Estate, and Biltmore For Your Cert no. SW-COC-002351
Home are trademarks of The Biltmore Company and its affiliates.

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Now that you’ve


seen the house,
relax in our backyard.

Don’t miss the Winery


and River Bend Farm
With 8,000 acres and centuries of
history, the rest of Biltmore is just as
fascinating as America’s largest home®.
The Winery and River Bend Farm
offer wine tastings, shopping, delicious
dining, outdoor activities, and old-
fashioned fun for all ages. Best of all,
it’s included in your admission—so
don’t miss the rest of Biltmore!

Check your Welcome to Biltmore


guide to plan the rest of your visit today.