Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is a Must-See for “Downton Abbey” Fans (New Exhibition will Run Nov.8-April 7, 2020)

I was a big fan of the PBS show "Downton Abbey."  I've not yet seen the movie that debuted this September in theaters, but I'm certainly going to put the new "Downton Abbey" exhibit on my travel wish list to see in Asheville, North Carolina.

Opening on November 8 and running through April 7, 2020, Downton Abbey The Exhibition will feature set recreations, costumes, and exclusive multimedia elements, providing guests with a chance to step inside the world of Carnival Films’ global television phenomenon and feature film

At Biltmore’s Amherst near Deerpark, never-before-seen multimedia elements and the series’ most recognizable sets and artifacts will immerse guests in the social history, culture and memorable moments from the show. At Biltmore Legacy in Antler Village, guests will get an up-close look at more than 50 of the show’s costumes that were worn by their favorite actors including Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. is America's "Downton Abbey."

Once I immersed myself in the "Downton Abbey" series, it made me even more captivated by the Biltmore Estate, I grew up visiting as a child. 

George Vanderbilt and his family lived on this estate during the same time period as the Crawley family portrayed in “Downton Abbey.”  As I went through the house, I could imagine the inner workings of the house just like I see on TV with the popular series.

George and Edith Vanderbilt welcomed guests from all over the world to their home, Biltmore.  Set on 8,000 acres and situated on the bank of Asheville’s meandering French Broad River, the 250-room French chateau is magnificent.  It would take guests one hour by carriage as soon as they went through the Estate’s gate to reach the front door.

Biltmore's main entrance

Can’t you imagine all the servants coming out to welcome guests on arrival just like on “Downton Abbey”?

George Vanderbilt provided a resort-like atmosphere for his guests.   There was horseback riding, shooting, bowling alleys, and even a 70,000-gallon, heated indoor swimming pool with underwater lighting. Guests could ring the servants for a pool-time snack.

The Biltmore's indoor swimming pool

Tea was served around 4 p.m., and a formal, white-tie dinner was served promptly at 8 p.m. in the banquet hall.  It was not uncommon for there to be nine to ten courses served each evening.  They were small portions, of course, but still, I cannot even imagine a dinner so formal today.  The Vanderbilts would have a family breakfast in this lovely room. It is one of my favorite places in the home. 

The Breakfast Room in the Biltmore House. I love the fireplace.

And get this. It was not uncommon for the Vanderbilts and their guests to change 10 times a day.  I’m serious.  There was an outfit for breakfast, riding, shooting, tennis, croquet, tea, swimming, fishing, boating, bowling, and dinner. No wonder they needed a valet. 

The servants were certainly kept busy. 

The Biltmore kitchen.  The Biltmore Estate did not have a Mrs. Patmore though. The main chef was male. His room was
near the bowling alley, and if guests kept him up late because of their bowling, then they would know it the next morning by the mediocre breakfast they were served.

Biltmore offers special guided tours that take guests unrestored rooms and mechanical areas to see how the house functioned daily. Guests also learn about the work of the domestic servants who worked for the Vanderbilts.

The Vanderbilts provided living quarters for their staff.  Females stayed in the house, while male employees stayed in rooms above the stable. At Biltmore, each servant had a comfortably furnished, heated private room, and that was most uncommon for the time period.  As many as 30-35 servants had three meals a day in the servants’ dining room.

The servant's dining room.  Imagine the gossip.

They were allowed two hours off daily, but still on call. They received one afternoon and one evening off per week, and a half-day every other Sunday.

I imagine George Vanderbilt to have been kind like Lord Grantham is portrayed on the series.  On the audio tour, it said that a girl in a role similar to Daisy on the series had to go up to the dining room, and she was so nervous that she dropped the dish on the floor.  It was revealed that Mr. Vanderbilt got up and helped her clean the mess off the floor. 

The Servant’s Domain area is a very interesting part of the house tour. 

Mr.  Vanderbilt's bedroom.  Today, the  Inn on the estate uses burgundy as an accent color in the rooms.


This year, the Christmas season at Biltmore will also feature the "Downton Abbey" exhibit. 

Visit the Biltmore Estate and Explore Asheville for your vacation planning tips. 

The  Biltmore Estate In Asheville, NC can be compared to "Downton Abbey"

Other posts on Asheville, NC that you may enjoy:

My thanks to Turnkey Photographer in Raleigh, NC, for being a September blog sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing and #OutaboutNC promoting travel and tourism. 

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