It Was in the Will: The Biltmore Estate, 1914 BILTMORE

GROUP: Continuous Crisis



  • Harper Schwab (he/him)
  • Miller Dunbar (she/her)
Email Committee Chair

Established by George W. Vanderbilt III, the Biltmore Estate (the largest privately owned house in the United States), spread its roots in the surrounding community. With the nearby Biltmore village serving as housing for many of the estates’ workers, Biltmore became a thriving community which existed beside and in connection to the quickly expanding city of Asheville. With influence in Asheville politics, investment in the arts, culture, and people of Appalachia, and expansion of new practices such as forestry, the Biltmore Estate’s influence and power extends far beyond the estate grounds—into the surrounding city of Asheville and to the Appalachian people.

In 1914, the Biltmore Estate seemed to stop for a second—George W. Vanderbilt III died from complications from an appendectomy and everything was left to his wife, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt. At his death, the Biltmore Estate was overextended as a direct result of his obsession with creating a self-sustaining Estate built on their business endeavors and forestry. Those with influence over the actions of the estate must meet together to decide how to not only continue the legacy of the late Vanderbilt, but determine the future of the grounds, investments, projects, and staff of Biltmore. Delegates, acting as members of this influential group, will respond to the growing concerns left after the eccentric patriarch had passed away. Overblown passion projects, too many acres to properly manage, and even ventures in local crafts and products, all with the purpose of creating a self-sustaining estate are now under a new direction: one chosen by the delegates. Will the Biltmore estate reduce its ambition or further expand, directly competing with the influence of Ashville? This is the primary question facing delegates after the death of George Vanderbilt, at least until the many projects he started before his death realize they no longer have direction.