|The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island, Richard Morris Hunt,|
|Marble House, Richard Morris Hunt, 1893-95|
Meanwhile, "poor" George was putting together his own entry into the ongoing family domicile contest amidst the rolling foothills of the eastern slope of the Smokey Mountains. He called it Biltmore. It was aptly named and perhaps something of an inside family joke. He literally "built more." When finished, it was the largest private home in America--all 255 rooms of it. Based largely on the Palace of Fountainbleu built by France's, King Francis I, during the 1600s, Hunt also drew inspiration from the English country house, Waddesdon Manor designed by Gabriel Hippolyte. As the Vanderbilt mansions go, though certainly opulent, it was beyond doubt the most tasteful architectural indulgence of the three. The style is French Chateau with Gothic decoration--five floors connected by an elevator, backed by a spiral staircase wide enough to drive a Land Rover to the top. The dining room ceiling soars to the dizzying height of some seventy feet and at 72 by 42 feet this room alone is large enough to contain a modern-day three bedroom house with attached garage. Overseeing a working farm with a state-of-the-art land-management and forestry program, farmer George called on New York's Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, to lay out the grounds. Inside, the two-story library contains some 20,000 volumes while the rest of the house is a veritable museum of fine art ranging from portraits by John Singer Sargent to tapestries by French nuns, even Napoleon Bonaparte's private chess set. It just goes to show what a modicum of good taste and a "little" money could accomplish in the days before income taxes.
|Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina, Richard Morris Hunt, 1889-95|