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A History of Entertaining: Early Guests of Biltmore

Posted on 12/06/2018 by Amy Dangelico

Even before construction of Biltmore House was officially completed, George Vanderbilt offered world-class hospitality to family and friends who came to visit the estate.

In honor of our upcoming A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age exhibition, let’s take a look at some of the very first guests of Biltmore: newlyweds James and Adele Burden.

Adele was George Vanderbilt’s niece, the daughter of his sister Emily Vanderbilt Sloane. She had been a frequent visitor to the estate, even during early stages of construction, and her love of Biltmore is evident in her diary entries.

 George Vanderbilt, the Burdens, and Cedric the Saint Bernard crossing the river on Biltmore's ferry

Welcoming in the new year of 1894 at Biltmore nearly a year before the house officially opened, Adele wrote:

“Only a word to begin the New Year with. I made my good resolutions last night sitting over a little dying fire. The window was wide open, and the cold night air blew in. The stars were all out, and there was a hushed stillness everywhere as if something were expected. It has been so gloriously beautiful out today; it made me feel wild.”

In fact, 1894 would be a significant year for Adele. She was courted by a handsome young man, James “J” Abercrombie Burden, whose family owned the Burden Iron works, one of the most successful such firms in the country.

Adele had no shortage of suitors, but with his clean-cut good looks, Harvard education, and superior athleticism, J soon won Adele's heart. He proposed in December and the couple married on June 6, 1895 in what was reported to be one of the costliest American weddings held at the time.

J and Adele Burden on the steps of River Cliff Cottage at Biltmore

Of all the possible destinations far and wide, the Burdens chose Biltmore as the place to begin their honeymoon. They spent the first 10 days of their married life at River Cliff Cottage, which was built at the same time Biltmore House was under construction.

Just before her wedding, Adele wrote:

“The next day we go down to Biltmore to spend ten days in the dear little house Uncle George has given to us. How perfect it will be!”

Adele and her husband J were the first in a long line of friends and family welcomed as guests at Biltmore to experience what would become George Vanderbilt’s legendary hospitality.

This rich history of entertaining is brought to life with A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age, offering you the opportunity to imagine yourself a Vanderbilt houseguest at a turn-of-the-century house party.

Join us February 8 through May 27 for this one-of-a-kind exhibition featuring immersive audio storytelling and and displays of elegant clothing recreated from archival Vanderbilt photos and portraits.

Feature image: George Vanderbilt and Cedric with newlyweds Adele and J Burden at Biltmore

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