The Biltmore House is Asheville’s best known landmark and the Vanderbilts are Asheville’s most well-known family. Right now you can learn more about their life on the estate and beyond in the new exhibit at the Antler Hill Village. The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad is open from 12 to 6 weekdays and 11 to 7 on weekends. However, exhibit staff informed me that beginning on the 21st of this month they will open at 11 and close at 7 during the week.
The exhibit is quite informative even for visitors who have lived in the area for years. The Vanderbilt-Cecil family tree traces the path from the Elizabethan Court to the present. The exhibit also talks about the engagement and marriage of George and Edith Vanderbilt.
You can see photos from their honeymoon in Italy along with items from the wedding. The prayer book Mrs. Vanderbilt carried down the aisle and a Biltmore House Guestbook are on display. Take the time to enjoy the multimedia display that enhances this portion of the exhibit.
The Biltmore House still welcomes its guests with open armed hospitality and the exhibit shows where it all started. A display of the House’s china is both educational and enjoyable. You can see exactly what is involved in a seven course meal.
There’s a great display of photos from the birth and childhood of Cornelia, the Vanderbilt’s daughter. Her life through adolescence is chronicled here and another display discusses the masquerade party her parents through when she turned 21. The actual sedan chair she rode in to the party is on display. (If you have a teenage daughter you’ll want to rush her by this so she won’t get any ideas.)
On the other hand you’ll have a hard time prying your teenage son away from the next part of the exhibit. This is the “Abroad” part and includes a motorcycle identical to one Mr. Vanderbilt owned. While they’re busy drooling over it you can look at the rest of the display, which focuses on the USS Olympic, the ship the Vanderbilts crossed the Atlantic in. A selection of the ship’s china, a scale model of the ship, and lots of photos make it really informative.
The next section of the display features lots of souvenirs the Vanderbilts brought back from Japan including a great selection of arms and armor. Even if you saw Napoleon’s chess set in the house, you can look at it closer here. My favorite part was Mr. Vanderbilt’s exquisitely carved ivory calling card case. Calling cards are woefully underappreciated in this age.
The last part of the exhibit focuses on the outdoors life of the Estate, including an illustration of the Estate’s own golf course and a gutta percha golf ball from 1895. Two of Mr. Vanderbilt’s guns are on display here, a Belgian shotgun and a Marlin hunting rifle. Don’t forget to enjoy the multimedia display that traces the history of the Estate from Mr. Vanderbilt’s untimely death to the present. It is both tragic and inspiring as it relates how the Vanderbilt women carried on through this and other events including the Great Depression.
The Biltmore Legacy exhibit hall is a must see when you visit the Biltmore Estate. The Estate staff know how to use the space to create an experience that rivals museums I’ve visited. I fondly recall their previous exhibit of Tiffany Glass and you can read the article I wrote about it by clicking here.