Officially recognized as the largest privately owned home in the United States, The Biltmore Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family that amassed a huge fortune in the late 1800’s through steamboats, railroads, and other business enterprises.
In the 1880’s at the height of the Gilded Age, Vanderbilt decided to commission an opulent summer estate, or a “little mountain escape” as he called it, inspired by the Châteauesque style of French Renaissance architecture in the countryside of Asheville, North Carolina because of his love for the area’s scenery and climate.
One of the largest undertakings in the history of American residential architecture at the time, construction of the 250-room, 178,926 sq. ft. (some publications claim 135,000 sq. ft.) Biltmore Estate started in 1889 and even though it opened six years later in 1895, work on the estate would continue for years.
Today, the estate covers 8,000 acres (down from the original 125,000) of the surrounding countryside and is still privately owned. Although Vanderbilt always refused to disclose the cost of the estate’s construction, modern estimates place the figure as high as $10 million in 1895. Run as a National Historical Landmark tourist attraction, the estate received a $61.3 million deferment from the total $193.3 million assessment bringing the taxable value to $70.6 million back in 2013.