Asheville, NC, USA (March 7, 2012) /PRNewswire/ — A visit to America’s largest home often spurs this question among guests: “What was it like to be a Vanderbilt and live such an extraordinary life?” After years of research, Biltmore answers the question with a new exhibition beginning April 7, “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad.”
The exhibition provides a 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 exhibition 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.
His transition from “America’s most eligible bachelor” to a married family man is detailed with facts about his courtship with Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, highlights from their European honeymoon and photos of their homecoming to Biltmore House. The 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 Louis Vuitton trunk and authentic samurai swords from a trip to Japan reveal a family that valued intellectual curiosity, new cultures and history.
While researching the Vanderbilts’ extensive world travels, the Museum Services staff discovered the Vanderbilts were scheduled to sail on Titanic. “While going through the estate’s archives, we were able to piece together a fascinating story about why the Vanderbilts did not board Titanic,” said Darren Poupore, chief curator. “For the first time, we share the fateful decision that more than likely saved their lives.” A model of Titanic, original menus from the ill-fated ship, and archival images on loan from Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will be on display to help tell the story.
Detailed stories and rare artifacts paint the picture of a home filled with joy and hospitality. Cornelia Vanderbilt’s elaborate costume from her 21st birthday masquerade party, luxurious china, crystal and silver used during formal dinners on the estate are part of the exhibition’s collection.
Other rare objects on display include an early Harley-Davidson motorcycle, on loan from the vintage American motorcycle museum Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, N.C. It 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.
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. Today, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division; and Biltmore Inspirations, Biltmore’s home party business. www.biltmore.com