Visiting Biltmore estate

Cornelius, George W Vanderbilt’s grandfather, made his money investing in the US railroads in the 19th century. He became one of the richest Americans in history. His grandson George, with the help of architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted (the father of American landscaping, designer of Central park), created Biltmore house. Built between 1889 and 1895, the house was America’s largest private residence when completed. This French Renaissance chateau-like mansion contains 255 rooms, 68000 cubic meters of space. The house had advanced features for the time like electricity, fridges, a dryer in the laundry, synchronized clocks… But the highlights of our visit was in the basement: the bowling alley, the swimming pool and the gymnasium. The bowling has two lanes, a servant was standing at the end to send the bowl back and put the pins back in place. The swimming pool was my favorite feature. There’s two rows of changing rooms leading up to it, one male, one female. The pool has a 265000 litres capacity, the water came from a reservoir 4 miles away up the hill and was heated. Without modern pool chemicals, the pool had to be emptied and refilled every time they wanted to use it. It also had underwater lights, when most didn’t even have electricity at the time. Today the family can’t fill it anymore because it’s leaking. The gymnasium was state of the art and even included high pressure massage showers.

The gardens outside are beautiful and the whole estate is massive. More than 2,870 million plants had been installed when they created the estate. The building entreprise was so massive they had to built a railroad to bring the workers and materials in. There’s a farm still working, the produces are used for the restaurants. There’s also a winery and we can treat ourselves to a free wine tasting to end the day. It’s interesting to know that back during WWII the National Gallery of Art secretely asked the Vanderbilt family to safekeep major artworks. The music room was used as a vault when the house was already open to the public, but no one knew at the time.

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