A visit to America’s largest home often spurs a common question among guests: “What was it like to be a Vanderbilt and live such an extraordinary life?” After years of research, those questions will be answered with a new Biltmore exhibition beginning April 7 titled “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad.”
Located in the Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village & Winery, the exhibition provides a fascinating look at the lives of George, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt. Rare objects from Biltmore’s collection and new stories pulled from estate archives provide an exciting look into a bygone era. Entry to the exhibition is included in estate admission.
“For years, guests at Biltmore have wanted to know more about the Vanderbilts,” said Ellen Rickman, director of Museum and Guest Services. “With this exhibition, we’ve tried to craft a vivid story that showcases their extraordinary lives. There is so much to see and discover. When you enter the exhibit space, it’s like stepping back into history.”
The exhibition begins with George Vanderbilt’s background and the Vanderbilt family tree. Excerpts from Vanderbilt’s diary, stories of his world travels as a young man and family photos reveal what it was like to grow up in one of the world’s wealthiest families.
The joyous birth of their daughter Cornelia is captured with family letters and intimate photos from Edith Vanderbilt’s personal Kodak camera. Throughout the exhibition, private family photos and priceless objects provide a tangible bridge to the past. The silver tea service from George Vanderbilt’s private rail car, Edith Vanderbilt’s elegant Louis Vuitton trunk and authentic samurai swords from a trip to Japan reveal a family that valued intellectual curiosity, new cultures and history.
Other rare objects on display include the Vanderbilts’ saddles, guns and a golf ball recovered from the estate’s original nine-hole golf course. An early Harley-Davidson motorcycle, on loan from the vintage American motorcycle museum Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, N.C., captures George Vanderbilt’s passion for new technology. The bike is nearly identical to one once owned by the Vanderbilts, and was used by estate employees for transportation across the estate.
The opening of “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” on April 7 coincides with the beginning of Festival of Flowers, Biltmore’s grand spring celebration. Read more about Biltmore Festival of Flowers.