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Touring Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York, I was surprised to hear that it was built by one of the more frugal of William Vanderbilt’s eight sons. That assertion becomes a lot more clear if you happen to visit the house his youngest son built in Asheville, North Carolina–Biltmore, the largest home in the United States.
Completed in 1895, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room chateau is beyond impressive. I visited Biltmore with my son in the fall of 2010, on our last road trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Over the years, I’ve taken my kids to visit all kinds of residences–farms, sod houses, European castles, and various examples of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture–but this one stands out as one of the most phenomenal house tours of all.
The sheer enormity of the property is awe-inspiring: massive fireplaces, grand dining rooms, solarium garden, multi-story bookcases, labyrinthian servant quarters, indoor pool and gym, and even a brewery and winery.
But what stood out in my mind was the attention to detail that brings to life the world of the Vanderbilt’s.
Several rooms are outfitted with manequins dressed in period costume, both lady’s finery and servants uniform. Copper pots and colorful fruits & vegetables (plastic, of course) stand as if ready to prepare a multi-course meal. And we were intrigued by all the turn-of-the-century machines used to run the enormous enterprise that was this family home.
Planning a visit to Biltmore? Check out the many themes and tour ideas; among them, Art and Architecture, History Buff, Edible Adventures, and Family Fun Itinerary.