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The magnificent Biltmore Estate is located among the Blue Ridge Mountains, south of Asheville, North Carolina. It is the largest private estate in America. The house has 175,000(16,200) square feet(meters), much larger than comparative modern estates such as the Bill and Melinda Gates home of 66,000(6,100) square feet(meters), but not even approaching the size of the largest royal European palaces. George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862-1914), the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, began the construction of this home.

The Vanderbilt family immigrated to the United States from Holland around 1650. The Vanderbilt family accumulated its fortune when Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) successfully invested and built the modest family ferry business in New York into a shipping and railroad empire. This he accomplished between the 1820s and 1870s. Even though George inherited a generous portion of this massive family fortune, he put more of his interest in traveling, reading, and collecting arts, rather than accumulating more wealth through business operations. George was inspired by his trips to Europe, especially the castles and estates he had seen during sojourns in France, when he had architect Richard Morris Hunt design the Biltmore estate.

The Biltmore construction started at year of 1889 and finished on Christmas Eve in 1895. It took six years and required hundreds of workers to complete. The estate had a mansion, five gardens, a 250 acre wooded park, 30 miles of paved roadways, 125,000 acres of forests—a productive timber land, farms, a dairy and later the family established a profitable winery business. Like landed estates of aristocrats in Europe, the profits from agricultural and forestry activities supported the upkeep of the mansion. Gifford Pinchot, an early conservationist and later head of the United States Forest Service, helped Carl A. Schenck and George W. Vanderbilt establish the first North American school of forestry on the estate, the Biltmore Forest School.

The Biltmore house is a four-story French Renaissance style stone house, built to resemble the French castles built along the Loire River in the 16th and 17th century, such as the Château de Chenonceau and Château de Chambord. With over 16,000 square meters, the house has floor space larger than the size of 4 football fields inside. It contains 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, a bowling ally, and an indoor swimming pool. Since George Vanderbilt was very fond of reading, he had a personal collection of 150,000 books in the Biltmore house library.

There is also a tradition to held the annual Christmas party at the Banquet Hall, the largest room in the House.

The famous architects who participate the construction were the architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895), the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) who designed the Central Park in New York City, the American sculptor Karl Bitter (1867-1915), a Hunt protege, was hired to design elaborate works in stone, wood, and bronze. Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908) was well known of building tiled ceiling vaults.

The Vanderbilt family still owns Biltmore Estate, but it has been officially opened to the public since 1930. People who appreciate beauty, no matter their background, visit the estate, and are impressed by its beauty.

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Links about Versailles:
  1. The Biltmore Estate has an official web site.
  2. Learn more about George Washington Vanderbilt II.
  3. Learn a little more about his father, William Henry Vanderbilt.
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