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A House Full of Guests

Posted on 10/27/2018 by Jean Sexton

George Vanderbilt created Biltmore as a private retreat, and often invited family and friends to stay and enjoy all the estate offered. The Vanderbilts were noted for their gracious hospitality and attention to detail that made a visit to Biltmore such a welcome experience.

George Vanderbilt and guestsGeorge Vanderbilt with guests arriving to visit during construction of Biltmore House, 1891

From entries in the Biltmore House guest book, we have a wonderful record of those who visited the Vanderbilts, including political figures, authors, and industrialists—many of whom were close friends of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

Because travel was still a lengthy and unpredictable process at the turn of the last century, guests often planned to stay at Biltmore for several weeks at a time. If their maid or valet came with them, the visiting staff would also be graciously accommodated.

Edith Wharton, 1905Edith Wharton at her home in Massachusetts, 1905

A Biltmore house party or special occasion might include any number of visitors who had arrived at different times. As author Edith Wharton noted in a letter written just after a 1905 Christmas celebration:

“Yesterday we had a big Xmas fete for the 350 people on the estate – a tree 30 ft. high, Punch & Judy, conjuror, presents & ‘refreshments.’ It would have interested you, it was done so well & sympathetically, each person’s wants being thought of, from mother to last baby.”

Biltmore Employee Christmas Party, 1916Biltmore employee Christmas party held at Antler Hall, 1916

The party of which she speaks included not only house guests, but also the families who lived and worked on the estate—an annual Vanderbilt Christmas tradition that continues today.

We invite you to join us as we continue welcoming guests to Biltmore House and all the estate has to offer. From Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration and Candlelight Christmas Evenings to our exciting upcoming exhibition A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age, discover the splendor of being greeted and accommodated as a guest of the Vanderbilts in America’s Largest Home.

Feature image: George Vanderbilt with his niece Adele and her new husband Jay Burden—some of the first guests of Biltmore; June 1896

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