Tips on Activities and Attractions

Historic Biltmore Village

Before 1888, when George Vanderbilt began purchasing vast amounts of land to create his expansive country estate, the area was known as Swannanoa Bridge. However, other names existed also. The Railroad Company called the area Asheville Junction and the Post-Office Best, which was short for William Best, one of the principals of the Western North Carolina Railroad Company. For the railroad, the Asheville Junction became an important shipping point.

George Vanderbilt, after having stayed at the newly opened lavish Battery Park Hotel in Asheville sometime between 1886 and 1888, “resolved to make his home in the Land of the Sky.” In 1888, he began to purchase several tracts of land, which also included the village of Best. Part of that purchase was 100 acres from Samuel Harrison Reed, who built a substantial Queen-Anne style home in 1892 overlooking the village.

Construction on the Biltmore Estate began in 1889 based on plans from architect Richard M. Hunt and landscape architect Frederick L. Olmsted.

According to their plans, Biltmore Estate was to become spectacular in all aspects. The entrance to the Estate, however, was one mile away from the train station, where visitors were to arrive. Olmsted was concerned that visitors, taking a carriage from the train station to the Estate, would not have aesthetically pleasing views of the area as shacks and simple commercial buildings were all too visible.

Olmsted suggested to George Vanderbilt a model village in style similar to villages in Europe. In addition to providing a grand entrance to Biltmore Estate, the town had to be self-sufficient by collecting rent from businesses and residences. It also had to become a real community, where philanthropic programs could be realized.

Map of Biltmore Village

Work on Biltmore Village began between 1894 and 1895. The Estate Office, All Soul’s Church and a new passenger train station were among the first buildings under construction.

Throughout the years, Biltmore Village, like any other town, lived through phases of prosperity and devastation such as the floods of 1916, 1928 and 1940 as well as neglect. With every event and period, the face of Biltmore Village changed.

Today, Biltmore Village with its tree-canopied streets and European flair has become a popular shopping destination with visitors, where they can stroll art galleries, craft stores, and clothing boutiques, and admire the nostalgic atmosphere of the village over lunch or dinner in one of the historic cottages.