At 178,926 square feet, the Biltmore—the Vanderbilt family’s 8,000 acre estate— ranks as America’s largest privately owned home, and I’ve wanted to visit for about 50 years, particularly after hearing the rumor that we’re related by marriage to the Vanderbilts (many cousins-removed ago). In the early 2000’s (at the height of our family’s musical ministry), I was negotiating with the Biltmore to sing gospel music there one Sunday afternoon (which they still do, by the way), although one of my closest friends ended up planning her wedding for that same weekend, and being in the wedding preempted everything else! Nevertheless, the mystique of America’s grandest estate nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains hovered like mist in the back of my mind, and last May, after visiting many of the gorgeous châteaux along the Loire River in France, several of which were the French Renaissance inspirations for the Biltmore, such as Château de Blois, Château de Chenonceau, and Château de Chambord, I realized that a trip to the Biltmore was still on my unconscious bucket list. So, when we attended a conference this May just 15 miles from the Biltmore, you can imagine my excitement to see this romantic tribute to America’s Gilded Age! Yesterday I shared photos from the gardens (in conjunction with thoughts for pondering how to overcome your past and fulfill your potential), but today I want to share a few photos from the inside of this grand home, which would have made a worthy location for Downton Abbey! The Biltmore Estate has 250 rooms, including 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a dining room table that can seat up to 64 guests, and many novelties for the 19th century, such as a 70,000-gallon heated indoor swimming pool and one of the nation’s first bowling alleys to be installed in a private residence. Only half of George Vanderbilt’s collection of 22,000 books can fit in his library, and while we were visiting, their was a special exhibition of costumes and information related to movies that have been made from some of the many first-edition classic books owned by the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilt family still live in and operate their estate, but unlike many European grand estates and palaces, the Vanderbilts allow visitors to take photographs of all the home’s treasures, including many beautifully preserved tapestries and gorgeous paintings. On a sunny day, like the day we visited, one could easily spend their entire day touring the home, enjoying lunch at one of their stable-turned restaurant venues, and exploring their vast gardens. Although we loved visiting, Alan and I both left thinking
how happy we are to live in our snug little “Tanglewood Cottage.” I’m not even sure “I want a mansion, just over the hilltop.” Do you? Actually, I don’t care where I live, just as long as it’s with Jesus!
Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).
“Mansion Over The Hilltop”
“I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined.
Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound.
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.
I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold.” (Ira Stanphill)
(All photos, except the four related to our trip to France last May, were taken this May on our visit the the Biltmore Estate, near Ashville, North Carolina.)