Special Report

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 1895, 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 over five years to build the 250-room French Renaissance chateau. It opened on Christmas Eve of 1895. The house, which is under roofs that cover 4 acres, includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Vanderbilt did not live in the house for long. He died at age 51 in 1914. Here are a few other large houses celebrities have been buying and selling: this celebrity’s home is for sale for 85 million.

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. For more fun with the kids check out the best summer destination for outdoor fun in every state.

One notable thing about the Biltmore Estate is that it was used to hide valuable art during World War II. According to the Charlotte Observer, just before the war, David Finley, the National Gallery of Art’s director, made the arrangement with George’s wife, Edith Vanderbilt. Finley was concerned an attack on the museum would destroy the art.

Vanderbilt agreed to keep some of the museum’s works in the music room, which was unfinished, and the works were delivered in secret and concealed there. “In all, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were created and delivered to Biltmore by train in a January 1942 snowstorm, Finley’s papers reveal,” according to the Observer.

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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