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At the turn of the 19th century, George Washington Vanderbilt moved into Biltmore, the largest then, and still largest now, privately owned home in the United States. This is a colorful history of the family, famous friends, and workers who played a part in creating the Asheville area chateau. Biltmore's architect was AIA founder Richard Morris Hunt and its vast acreage was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Much of Vanderbilt's brief remaining life was spent immediately paring down his overly ambitious plans for a self-sustaining estate. To further economize, he spent more time living elsewhere. His widow Edith still became an effective Lady Bountiful for local schools and charities, and later a Senator's wife, as she struggled to retain possession of the house for George's heirs. But George and Edith's only child Cornelia left two sons and her husband for Europe. (Her English husband, ironically, chose to spend the rest of his years in Biltmore's "bachelor" wing.) Author Kiernan takes the story up to the year that Biltmore first turned a profit ($16.32) as a Downton Disneyland. Thanks to Cornelia's business savvy sons --whose story is told in the book "Lady on the Hill"-- Biltmore now has over a million visitors a year.
— From Carla's Picks
“Most of us who visit the Biltmore are awestruck by its beauty and grandeur. Kiernan now gives us the fascinating history of the people who built and cared for it, from George Vanderbilt, who had the vision to create this wonder, to his team, which included Frederick Law Olmstead, a nationally known landscape architect, and Richard Morris Hunt, who designed and built the house, along with so many others who contributed to the Biltmore's legacy. The Last Castle is a beautifully researched book, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the adventure unfold. A great history that has motivated me to make another trip to Asheville! Loved it!”
— Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL