This Is The Largest House In America

Imagine a house as large as several New York City blocks, or many sizes the footprint of Windsor Castle.  The house exists. Finished in 1985, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina covers 178,926 square feet. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, the ownership is still with a branch of his family.

George Vanderbilt made his first visit to Asheville in 1887. He became enchanted by the Blue Ridge Mountains. It took size years to build the 250-room French Renaissance chateau. It opened on Christmas Eve of 1895. The house is under roofs that cover four acres. This includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Vanderbilt did not live in the house for long. He died at age 51 in 1914.

By 1930, the need for money triggered a decision to open the house to tourists. That decision has never changed. Admission to the house and grounds starts at $76. Children 9 and under can visit for free.

One notable thing about Biltmore Estate is that it was used to hid valuable art during WWII. According to the Charlotte Observer, just before the war David Finley, the National Gallery of Art’s director made the arrangement:

When the war began, Finley asked Vanderbilt whether the house could be used to secure some of the museum’s prized works, and she agreed. The music room was unfinished, and it was chosen to hold the art. In all, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were crated and delivered to Biltmore by train in a January 1942 snowstorm, Finley’s papers reveal.

The book remains open on what will happen to Biltmore Estate. It becomes more expensive by the year to maintain. There is no guarantee it will keep all of its tourism traffic. A century-plus-several-decades of wear and tear has turned it into the equivalent of a “money pit”

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