Biltmore Estate Pathfinder


Biltmore Estate, aerial view, Asheville, North Carolina and Biltmore Estate, interior: Tapestry Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
Photos courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Table of Contents

Subject Headings
Browsing Areas
The Estate -- Books, Articles, Cookbooks, and Other Media
Vanderbilt Family and Social History
R.M. Hunt and Architecture
F.L. Olmsted and Landscape Architecture




Biltmore Estate is a mansion located outside Asheville in the mountains of North Carolina. It is one of many spectacular homes in the United States built by members of the Vanderbilt family, in this case George Washington Vanderbilt. Richard Morris Hunt was his architect and the landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Biltmore was completed in 1895 and stands as a symbol to the Gilded Age. George Washington Vanderbilt spent much of the fortune he inherited on Biltmore Estate and its upkeep. Today his descendants have opened Biltmore to the public and it is available for tours, along with the gardens and winery.

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This pathfinder is intended for adults interested in Biltmore Estate, whether for its architecture, landscape architecture, or connection to the famous Vanderbilt family. Materials listed are primarily magazine articles and books, with some other media as well. All are intended for those not previously exposed to the topic before, and it has been noted when bibliographies are given for further reading.

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Library of Congress Subject Headings

North Carolina Collection
Biltmore (Asheville, N.C.)
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.)
Biltmore Estate Company
Biltmore House

Davis Library (UNC-Chapel Hill online catalog)
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.)
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.) - Guidebooks
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.) - History
Hunt, Richard Morris, 1828-1895
Hunt, Richard Morris, 1828-1895 - Exhibitions
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903 - Exhibitions
Vanderbilt Family
Vanderbilt Family - Homes and Haunts

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Browsing Areas

All sources are available on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill campus, or can be accessed from there. The North Carolina Collection is located in Wilson Library. It is a closed stack collection but can be searched with the card catalog (only a small percentage of their holdings are in the library's online catalog). All other sources are from Davis Library and are marked with an asterisk (*).

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The Estate


1) Ward, Susan M. and Michael K. Smith, eds. Biltmore Estate: House, Gardens, Winery. Asheville: Biltmore Co., 1990. Call number: C971.11 B59b1 1990
A thorough book on Biltmore, with a guide to the furnishings and artwork as if you were there touring the house, including the kitchen, servants' areas, and stables. It's a beautiful book with both color and black and white photos, and has large, easy to read type (except for the introduction). There is an appendix with an itemized listing of the contents of each room and a short bibliography.

2) Carley, Rachel. A Guide to Biltmore Estate, 1895-1995. Asheville: Biltmore Co., 1994. Call number: C971.11 B59c1
The centennial edition includes some previously unpublished photos and material. It too is a guide to Biltmore and its collections, but includes subject boxes with information on items in the house, like clocks, prints, and bronzes. It has color and black and white illustrations, including small floor plans of the house.

3) Cecil, William A. V., ed. Biltmore: The Vision and Reality of George Washington Vanderbilt, Richard Morris Hunt, and Frederick Law Olmsted. Asheville: Biltmore Co., 1972. Call number: C971.11 B59c
This book gives a lot of the history of the Biltmore Estate, from when it was first built to the 1970's. There are black and white photos by the dozen, and many of them are very detailed pictures of architectural features, like gargoyles. There are also several pictures of the forest and landscape surrounding Biltmore. This is another volume with large type as well.

4) Volk, Victoria Loucia. The Biltmore Estate and its creators: Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, and George Washington Vanderbilt. Diss. Emory U, 1984. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1986. Call number: C971.11 V91b
This dissertation has a nice history of the Vanderbilt family, Hunt, and Olmstead, as well as chapters on the house and grounds. This is written in an easy to read style and is packed with information. There are extensive notes and a bibliography. The only illustrations, though, printed poorly and the images are barely distinguishable.

*5) Bryan, John M. Biltmore Estate: The Most Distinguished Private Place. New York: Rizzoli Int'l, 1994. Call number: NA7615.B54 B79 1994
This book looks at all aspects of the creation of the estate, from picking the site, Olmstead's design ideas, Hunt's proposed plans and the buildings that inspired him, to the actual construction and management of employees while the estate was being built. It includes almost 50 color plates of the interiors and exterior of Biltmore, plus has numerous black and white photos. There are extensive notes, a bibliography, and index.

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Articles, pre-1950

1) Hicklin, J.B. "Biltmore is One of the World's Wonder Show Places." The Uplift. 20.9 (1932): 13-20. Call number: C364 S88u
No pictures, but the colorful impressions of the author give an idea of what it was like to visit Biltmore Estate right after it first opened to the public in 1930.

2) "Biltmore House." The Carolinas Magazine. 1.1 (1932): 11-14. Call number: C917.05 C29
Again, an older article about what it was like to visit Biltmore Estate in the 1930's, with a writing style that fits the period. There are 6 black and white photos with wonderful detail.

3) Poindexter, Philip. "The Biltmore Estate." Ainslee's Magazine May 1900. Call number: Cp971.11 B59p
In very delicate condition, but contains period black and white photographs and gives perceptions of Biltmore at the time it was built.

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Articles, post-1950

1) Brendel-Pandich, Susan. "Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina." Antiques April 1980: 855-867. Call number: FCp971.11 B59b2
A well-rounded article with information on Vanderbilt, Hunt, and Olmstead, construction photos from the time, and other photos, notes, and figures (including one sketch by Hunt).

2) Wernick, Robert. "Biltmore: Dream House for a Day." Smithsonian Sept. 1992: 58-71. Call number: Cp971.11 B59w2
Beautiful color illustrations and interesting text on things like the reactions of famous visitors, such as Edith Warton, to Biltmore. Also reveals present repair and preservation efforts at the estate.

3) Freeman, Allen. "Backstage at Biltmore." Historic Preservation Nov.-Dec. 1995: 48+. Call number: Cp971.11 B59b4
An interesting article on how Biltmore Estate is run, including the preservation and upkeep. Some color pictures.

4) Bartlett, Marie. "At Biltmore, the Berry Best." Carolina Lifestyle. 1.8 (1982): 24-28. Call number: C917.05 C291
Short history on how the winery started, with color photos.

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1) Wesler, Cathy A., ed. Biltmore Estate: Specialties of the House. Birmingham: Oxmoor House, 1994. Call number: C641.5 B599w
This colorful cookbook is divided into two sections. The first has suggested menus with recipes that serve groups of 2-25 people. The second section contains recipes divided by type (appetizers and beverages, side dishes, etc.). Includes an appendix on napkin folding and pairing food with wine, and has an index of recipes.

2) Pickering, Whitney Wheeler, ed. Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook. Birmingham: Oxmoor House, 2000. Call number: C641.5 B599b
Again, this cookbook is divided into two parts. The first contains menus by season, and the second is everyday recipes divided by type (salads and sides, desserts, etc.). Menus serve 2-12. There is an appendix on wine and herbs and a recipe index. Has great, colorful illustrations and interesting fact boxes on foods and cooking techniques.

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Other Media

The official Biltmore Estate website. Focus is on things to do at the estate, and it is the best place for ticket and tour information when actually planning a visit to Biltmore.

The Library of Congress website has a link to the American Memory project ( Searching either Biltmore Estate, Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, or George Washington Vanderbilt results in 65-70 digital photos of Biltmore Estate, many of them maps, aerial views, and shots taken during construction of the estate and grounds. Selecting gallery view instead of list view will show several thumbnail photos on a page that can each be enlarged. These pictures were originally slides and are from the American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920 collection (

3) Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina. Videocassette. Videotours, Inc., 1991. Call number: C971.11 B59w
This is your standard tour video with narration over shots of Biltmore Estate. Gives a bit of the Vanderbilt family history as well as features of the house. Includes comments on the architecture and landscape architecture. Talks about what entertaining was like then, at the completion of Biltmore, and what it takes in terms of preservation and upkeep now.

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The Vanderbilt Family/Social History

*1) Patterson, Jerry E. The Vanderbilts. New York: Abrams, Inc., 1989. Call number (Folio): CT274.V35 P38 1989
Chapter 6, A Barony in North Carolina (pages 161-195) relates to George Washington Vanderbilt and Biltmore. There are black and white and color photos throughout the book, and the family history extends even before the Commodore. There is a bibliography and an extensive index.

*2) King, Robert B. The Vanderbilt Homes. New York: Rizzoli Int'l, 1989. Call number: CT274.V35 K55 1989
Has an extensive Vanderbilt family tree with birth and death dates as well as marriages and divorces. The chapter on Biltmore is on pages 110-121. There are color and black and white photos throughout. This book gives an overview of other Vanderbilts' homes, as well as yachts and the family mausoleum. There is an index and an extensive bibliography, including articles contemporary to the Vanderbilts described in the book.

*3) Auchincloss, Louis. The Vanderbilt Era. New York: Scribner, 1989. Call number: CT274.V35 A93 1989
Although Biltmore Estate is not written about very favorably, there is primary source material quoted throughout the chapter. This book includes writers, artists, and designers' profiles that give some context to the time Biltmore was created. The book has an index and a small Vanderbilt family tree (only including those mentioned in the book).

*4) Vanderbilt II, Arthur T. Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow, 1989. Call number: CT274.V35 1989
Chapter 7 is titled Biltmore, but really relates to everything going on in the time period 1895-1933. Only Part 2 on pages 269-279 is on Biltmore. But the other parts are interesting with information on society and how the Vanderbilt family functioned within the time period. The book has extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index.

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Richard Morris Hunt/Architecture

*1) Packard, Robert T., AIA, ed. Encyclopedia of American Architecture. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995. 327-330. Call number (reference): NA705.P3 1995
Hunt's career and works, including a color picture of Biltmore Estate. Has references to other articles in the encyclopedia related to Hunt's style and influence.

*2) Placzek, Adolf K., ed. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects. Vol. 2. New York: Free Press, 1982. 436-444. Call number (reference): NA40.M25 1982
A summary of Richard Morris Hunt's career, including a list of works.

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Frederick Law Olmsted/Landscape Architecture

1) Knapp English, Ann Elizabeth. The Biltmore Estate: The Approach Road. Diss. U of Georgia, 1988. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1992. Call number: C971.11 B59k
This work is a dissertation on Olmsted's design, as well as suggestions regarding his intent and the restoration of his work. There are lots of drawings and notes, but some are difficult to read due to the detail being lost as it was microformed, and then printed on paper again.

2) Deane, Barbara. "Vanderbilt's Folly, Olmsted's Masterpiece." Garden May-June 1979: 16-21. Call number: Cp971.11 B59d
This article has information both about Olmsted and the grounds of Biltmore. An easy read, with color and black and white photos.

3) Howard, Jerry. "Biltmore Gardens, Frederick Law Olmsted's Last Hurrah." Horticulture May 1982: 24-33. Call number: Cp971.11 B59h
This article describes the evolution of the gardens, with nice color photos and a sketch of the formal gardens at Biltmore.

4) Messer, Pamela Lynn. Biltmore Estate: Frederick Law Olmsted's Landscape Masterpiece. Asheville: WorldComm, 1993. Call number: C971.11 M58b
Contains information on the grounds and gardens and has some period black and white photos. Has notes, appendices, and bibliography, including relevant material in the Biltmore archives. The author is a landscape architect.

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Page created by R. Ferrell, Graduate Student in Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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