Only about 75 miles from Gatlinburg, TN, Biltmore Estate is one of those places that must be seen to be believed. If someone had tried to describe to me the grounds and mansion, I would never have been able to get my mind around the opulence of the place. George Vanderbilt II, whose family was one of the wealthiest in America at the time, wanted to reproduce one of the many fabulous estates he had seen in his European travels. He hired architect Richard Morris Hunt, who had designed homes for other Vanderbilt family members. For the huge grounds, he hired Frederick Law Olmstead (the designer of New York's Central Park) to design the landscape, and rustic 3 mile entrance to the mansion. The landscaping was probably a larger job than the mansion, as the original property consisted of 125,000 acres. After George's death, his widow sold much of the original land to the federal government to form the Pisgah National Forest.
The home is still the largest pivately owned home in the United States at 175,000 square feet. It remains one of North Carolina's major tourism draws with over one million visitors every year. Although built much later, Hurst's San Simeon mansion literally pales in comparison in my opinion.
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