The Houses the Victorians Built Part II: The Biltmore Estate

If you’re interested in Victorian architecture and historic preservation (like I am) I highly recommend visiting the Biltmore House and Gardens in North Carolina. It is the largest private house in the United States, and a must-see for anyone who owns a historic home.

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Twin Elevators. The house had electrically-powered elevators for both the family/guests and the staff. These early Otis elevators were of such high quality that the passenger elevator’s original motor is still in use today, making it one of the world’s oldest working elevators.

The First Domestic Refrigerator. The Biltmore housed one of the first residential refrigerators in the country, at a time when iceboxes were the only option for homeowners. In lieu of using a block of ice, these refrigerators used ammonia and brine as the cutting-edge coolants.

Smoking Room. Located off the main entry is the gorgeous smoking room. Although the docents would probably kick you out if you lit up a cigar there today, I recommend a visit so that you can enjoy the incredible floor-to-ceiling woodwork.

Olmstead-designed Gardens. George Vanderbilt was not above the trends of his time, and in the 1890s there was no trendier landscaper than Frederick Law Olmstead. Of course, Olmstead’s work has stood the test of time and the gardens at Biltmore are a masterpiece as visit-worthy as Central Park.

I recommend the audio tour – period writings and period music shed light on the building and the Victorian culture that produced it.

In short, I want to go for a third visit!

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