A French Chateau in Asheville

I received a phone call last week from one of the growing number of first-year attendees coming to next month’s National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn. She and her husband recently purchased a bungalow and are jumping head-first into a sea of Arts and Crafts, taking advantage of the hands-on workshops on Thursday and Friday, staying at the 1913 Grove Park Inn all weekend, attending all of the seminars and many of the daily Small Group Discussions and walking tours, and itching to get into both the antiques and the contemporary craftsfirms shows.

But, then, she wanted to know, “When can we go see the Biltmore House?”

For those of you asking the same question or wondering what the Biltmore House is, let me explain. In 1888, young George Vanderbilt came to Asheville with about ten million dollars burning a hole in his Edwardian suit pocket, so he picked out 146,000 acres of land, including Mt. Pisgah, and hired the esteemed architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a 250-room French chateau, as well as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the forested grounds. The result was the 1895 Biltmore Estate, still the largest residence in the United States, attracting nearly one million visitors a year.

In addition, the sprawling estate now includes extensive gardens, a winery, four restaurants, a hotel, a collection of shops, an exhibition hall (in February featuring costumes from the filming of Downton Abbey), and spectacular views of the French Broad River Valley, plus trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Needless to say, it deserves more than a couple of hours.

While stylistically there is nothing Arts and Crafts about the furnishings of the Biltmore House, it is all about hand-craftsmanship, antiques, architecture, and landscape design. This is why I am presenting a seminar on Frederick Law Olmsted on Saturday night at the conference, introducing the PBS documentary movie Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America, for he influenced every Arts and Crafts landscape designer who followed him.

(Just ask landscape architect Paul Duchscherer, who will be teaching two Arts and Crafts Landscape Design Workshops on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning at the conference.)

Details on his workshop can be found at:


So, if you want to really experience the Biltmore Estate, here is my recommendation: come one day early or stay one extra day in Asheville, arrive at the Biltmore Estate early in the morning, tour the chateau, have lunch inside the original stables, then drive down to the winery, brosue the shops and gallery, and maybe take a walk along the paths before you leave toward the end of the afternoon.

And if you do this on Thursday, you can then come back to the GPI in time for the Craftsman Farms Banquet. Reservations are required in advance, which you can make at:


Until next Monday,

Make yours a journey to remember!