ASHEVILLE NC – A visit to America’s largest home often spurs a common question among guests: “What was it like to be a Vanderbilt and live such an extraordinary life?” After years of research, Biltmore answers the question with a new exhibition beginning April 7 titled “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad.”
Located in the Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village & Winery, the exhibition provides a fascinating look at the lives of George, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt. Rare objects from Biltmore’s collection and new stories pulled from estate archives provide an exciting look into a bygone era. Entry to the exhibition is included in estate admission.
“For years, guests at Biltmore have wanted to know more about the Vanderbilts,” said Ellen Rickman, director of Museum and Guest Services. “With this exhibition, we’ve tried to craft a vivid story that showcases their extraordinary lives. There is so much to see and discover. When you enter the exhibit space, it’s like stepping back into history.”
The exhibition begins with George Vanderbilt’s background and the Vanderbilt family tree. Excerpts from Vanderbilt’s diary, stories of his world travels as a young man and family photos reveal what it was like to grow up in one of the world’s wealthiest families.
His transition from America’s most eligible bachelor to a married family man is detailed with intriguing facts about his romantic courtship with Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, highlights from their European honeymoon and photos of their homecoming to Biltmore House. The joyous birth of their daughter Cornelia is captured with family letters and intimate photos from Edith Vanderbilt’s personal Kodak camera.
Throughout the exhibition, private family photos and priceless objects provide a tangible bridge to the past. The silver tea service from George Vanderbilt’s private rail car, Edith Vanderbilt’s elegant Louis Vuitton trunk and authentic samurai swords from a trip to Japan reveal a family that valued intellectual curiosity, new cultures and history.
While researching the Vanderbilt’s extensive world travels, the Museum Services staff discovered the Vanderbilts were scheduled to sail on Titanic. “While going through the estate’s archives, we were able to piece together a fascinating story about why the Vanderbilts did not board Titanic,” said Darren Poupore, chief curator. “We share the fateful decision that ultimately saved his life for the first time in this exhibition.” A model of Titanic, original menus from the ill-fated ship, and archival images on loan from Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will be on display to help tell the story.
Although the Vanderbilts were world-travelers, daily life at Biltmore House was a peaceful refuge from the rigors of high society. Detailed stories and rare artifacts paint the picture of a home filled with joy, hospitality and happy memories. Cornelia Vanderbilt’s elaborate costume from her 21st birthday masquerade party, luxurious china, crystal, and silver used during formal dinners on the estate, and the Vanderbilts’ original guestbook are part of the exhibition’s collection.
Other rare objects on display include the Vanderbilts’ saddles, guns and a golf ball recovered from the estate’s original nine-hole golf course. An early Harley-Davidson motorcycle, on loan from the vintage American motorcycle museum Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, N.C., captures George Vanderbilt’s passion for new technology. The bike is nearly identical to one once owned by the Vanderbilts, and was used by estate employees for transportation across the estate.
The opening of “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” on April 7 coincides with the beginning of Festival of Flowers, Biltmore’s grand spring celebration. For more information about events at Biltmore, visit www.biltmore.com.
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. Today, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division; and Biltmore Inspirations, Biltmore’s home party business. To learn more about Biltmore, go to www.biltmore.com or call 877-BILTMORE.