It’s a revelation that quite possibly is playing out in homes across the country: when the holiday decorations come down, the house looks lackluster and bleak. What once sparkled and shined appears to need a good dusting or polish. Mops and vacuum cleaners are pulled out and put to use.
It’s the same scenario in America’s largest home, but on a much grander scale. After putting away the thousands of Christmas decorations used to adorn Biltmore House during the holidays, Biltmore staff uses the quieter winter months to focus on caring for the 250-room home and preparing for the year ahead. It’s not unusual for winter visitors touring through Biltmore House to see a staff member climbing scaffolding, feather duster in hand, to reach out-of-the-way surfaces in the Banquet Hall or George Vanderbilt’s Library.
This year, Biltmore is offering a nice tie-in to this uberhousekeeping effort. On Feb. 1, Biltmore will open Mrs. Emily King’s room in the Housekeeper’s Suite for the first time.
Biltmore’s Museum Services team recently discovered details about Emily Rand King, a significant figure in the history of Biltmore House who served as the head of staff for the Vanderbilts from 1897 to 1914. Mrs. King’s Room will be a new stop on the Butler’s Tour of Biltmore House.
Situated overlooking the servants’ entry and courtyard, the room gave Mrs. King a bird’s-eye view of the hustle and bustle below. Visitors will see the room in an unrestored state, learn about Mrs. King and her staff and find out what it took to keep the 250-room home running smoothly.
Biltmore’s curators have been working on conserving several household items that will be on display in the room, such as a turnof- the-century vacuum, foxtail duster, toilet cleaning brush and other supplies of the period.
“We find Mrs. King to be a fascinating character,” said Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s Curator of Interpretation. “Not only was she responsible for overseeing the cleaning of the home and caring for the staff, she coordinated many aspects of the Vanderbilts’ daily lives.” Records indicate that the Vanderbilts entrusted Mrs. King with running the household even when they were out of the country. “I think our visitors will find her story charming, and one they can relate to, especially given the universal subject matter of keeping a home.”
Winter at your leisure
Generally in the winter, Biltmore House is a quiet time for visitors to spend more time exploring the rooms, and strolling the grounds at a leisurely pace. The estate’s restaurants are offering seasonal menus, while the Winery hosts guided tours, red wine and chocolate seminars and free tastings. A visit to Antler Hill Village is a great place to unwind and take in the less formal side of the estate. The Legacy building features storytelling sessions, a film about George Vanderbilt’s legacy and exhibits about Edith Vanderbilt’s passion for entertaining.
Winter is a great time to take advantage of Biltmore packages and values. Children 16 and younger are admitted free with an accompanying adult, and ticket pricing starts at $29 when purchased online seven days in advance, which is 50-percent off of the regular season price.
The Inn on Biltmore Estate is offering special winter pricing, with rooms starting at $129 per night on weekdays and $159 weekends.
For more information about seasonal discounts or to plan a trip, visit www.biltmore.com.
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. To learn more about Biltmore, go to www.biltmore.com or call 877-BILTMORE.