I just finished reading the page-turning Fortune’s Children: Fall of the House of Vanderbilt, a historical saga about the family who made and lost one of the world’s largest fortunes. I’ve been working on a book about my family history for several years, so reading about the drama surrounding this clan inspired me to delve deeper for unearthed secrets. The Vanderbilt story centers around New York City, where the family presided over a railroad fortune founded by patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as “The Commodore”. George Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius, established Southern ties with construction of The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, falling in love with the remote and striking setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains. George hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to realize his grand vision for Biltmore, aiming to match the grandeur of the mountains. After designing famed Vanderbilt estates in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. Hunt collaborated with his client to build the largest house in America.
Descendants of George and Edith Vanderbilt still own Biltmore Estate, and feature snippets of their family history on the Biltmore blog. The estate has been open to the public since 1930, and now encompasses the 250 room Renaissance chateau, gardens, winery and inn.
My husband and I got engaged at Biltmore in 2006, after touring the gardens and winery. With the Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop, I couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting. We stayed at the luxurious Biltmore Inn, where we celebrated with dinner after our engagement. I haven’t returned since that weekend, and am eager to visit again after reading about the Vanderbilts’ aristocratic existence during the Gilded Age. Their New York City mansions were replaced by apartment and office buildings long ago, but we can glimpse inside a fleeting world where money was no object at Biltmore.
Source: Fortune’s Children: Fall of the House of Vanderbilt by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II