The Last Castle
The fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best-known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore—and secure the future of the region and her husband’s legacy.The Last Castle is the uniquely American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.

The Last Castle Details

TitleThe Last Castle
Author
ReleaseSep 26th, 2017
PublisherTouchstone
ISBN-139781476794044
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Biography, Historical, North American Hi..., American History

The Last Castle Review

  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsThe Last Castle is a book for serious history nerds like myself.I haven't read Denise Kiernan's other book The Girls of Atomic City, but after reading The Last Castle I'll be pushing it up my TBR list. This book is a meticulously researched look at the building of the largest house of The Gilded Age, The Biltmore.The Last Castle is a deep dive not only into the history of The Biltmore but also the legendary family behind it, The Vanderbilt's. Part family saga and part history of the ear 3.5 StarsThe Last Castle is a book for serious history nerds like myself.I haven't read Denise Kiernan's other book The Girls of Atomic City, but after reading The Last Castle I'll be pushing it up my TBR list. This book is a meticulously researched look at the building of the largest house of The Gilded Age, The Biltmore.The Last Castle is a deep dive not only into the history of The Biltmore but also the legendary family behind it, The Vanderbilt's. Part family saga and part history of the early twentieth century. This book features cameos by Mark Twain, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Henry Ford, The Wright Brothers, and Cholly Knickerbocker.(If you don't know who these people are, this book is not for you. But also Google them).The Last Castle is the story of The Gilded Age and all of its excesses.
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  • Cindy Burnett
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Castle is a phenomenal read. When I went to school in North Carolina years ago, I visited Biltmore House several times so as soon I learned about this book, I was dying to read it. I am so glad it lived up to my expectations. Denise Kiernan chronicles the tale of George Vanderbilt, the man who ultimately built the largest residence ever constructed in the United States – 175,000 square feet on 125,000 acres of rugged wilderness. Biltmore House contains 250 rooms in all including: 33 bed The Last Castle is a phenomenal read. When I went to school in North Carolina years ago, I visited Biltmore House several times so as soon I learned about this book, I was dying to read it. I am so glad it lived up to my expectations. Denise Kiernan chronicles the tale of George Vanderbilt, the man who ultimately built the largest residence ever constructed in the United States – 175,000 square feet on 125,000 acres of rugged wilderness. Biltmore House contains 250 rooms in all including: 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 2 bowling alleys, an indoor pool, and a library with 65 fireplaces to supplement the complicated heating system necessary to keep the house warm in the winter. In The Last Castle, Kiernan comprehensively describes how Biltmore House came into existence from George’s first purchase of land in the Asheville, North Carolina area to the final completion and opening of the Music Room in 1976 long after the home became a tourist destination. With the confidence and financial cluelessness of someone who inherited untold wealth, George Vanderbilt never worried about funds nor created any type of budget within which those assisting with the building had to adhere. As a result, Biltmore House was incredibly expensive to erect and subsequently operate, and as a result, it severely and irreparably impacted the family’s finances. Numerous rooms were not completed, and plans for various parts of the property abandoned. As I read about the process of building Biltmore House, I found it very hard to imagine undertaking such a project with little or no budget planning.While George had the idea to build Biltmore House and hired the various individuals to implement his idea, Edith is the individual who protected both Biltmore House and the Asheville area and ensured that her husband’s legacy would remain. She was devoted to the area and the Biltmore’s employees. I found Edith fascinating and was pleased that Kiernan devoted substantial pages to Edith’s story. She lived for a long time after George died and left quite a legacy of her own.Not only does Denise Kiernan thoroughly and thoughtfully recreate the timeline for and the process that went into the building of Biltmore House, she also places this monumental endeavor into its historical context. Adding historical context is either skillfully accomplished or haphazardly included in a manner that makes the story disjointed and hard to follow. Thankfully, Kiernan masterfully incorporates the history of both the Vanderbilt family and George’s wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser’s family, events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania, both World Wars, the development of Forestry Programs (such as the one developed at Biltmore House), and the impact of the Great Depression; I never found myself wondering why a topic was being addressed or how I was suddenly reading about some new subject. The Last Castle flows beautifully, and I learned copious amounts of information about both the Vanderbilts and Biltmore House and in addition the decades spanned by the building of this magnificent mansion. The book abounds with fascinating facts and details from the late 1800’s to the death of George and Edith’s daughter Cornelia’s death in 1976. The highlights for me were the descriptions of John Singer Sargent painting various portraits at Biltmore House, the innovative refrigeration, wiring and elevator systems installed at the house, that Teddy Roosevelt was visiting Biltmore House when the idea for the teddy bear came about, and that Edith’s second marriage was to Elbridge Gerry, the individual who inspired the term “gerrymandering”. I also was unaware that George and Edith had almost traveled on the Titanic but chosen last minute to take an earlier ship. The historical information included in the book was a true highlight for me.The Last Castle provides a glimpse into the Gilded Age, an era of excess and untold wealth, and one man’s decision to build the grandest home in the United States. I highly recommend this fabulous book. Thanks to Touchstone and Goodreads Giveaways for the chance to read this ARC. All opinions are my own.
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  • Martha Mason
    January 1, 1970
    DisappointingIf one judges a book solely on the basis of the epic amount of research that went into its writing this book might be judged a success. The amount of detail presented is prodigious.But taken as a whole the book, to me at least, is flat, repetitive and boring. George Vanderbilt is an unknown quantity. His reasons for building a monstrously large and unwieldy house, far beyond his needs, are never explained. The French chateaux upon which Biltmore House was modelled had a raison d'etr DisappointingIf one judges a book solely on the basis of the epic amount of research that went into its writing this book might be judged a success. The amount of detail presented is prodigious.But taken as a whole the book, to me at least, is flat, repetitive and boring. George Vanderbilt is an unknown quantity. His reasons for building a monstrously large and unwieldy house, far beyond his needs, are never explained. The French chateaux upon which Biltmore House was modelled had a raison d'etre. They were huge but they were also hugely occupied. Residents usually included extended family plus their staff, domestic and other and even contingents of the military. Other than times when the Vanderbilts were entertaining, much of the main house remained empty. It is only now, when it is filled with fee-paying gawkers, that the house stays occupied.The person of Edith Dresser is less enigmatic than her husband but without the injection of some "imagined" conversations such as those employed by chroniclers like Erik Larson, she, along with everyone else in the book remains two-dimensional at best.MS. Kiernan takes us on many side expeditions, introducing us to a multitude of characters some of whom have little or nothing to do with Biltmore House. Of what importance are F. Scott Fitzgerald's final inebriated days? Why must we be inundated with myriad distant Vanderbilt family members whose existence has little or no bearing on the story of Biltmore House? They are simply distractions.The final result is a book that is neither epic nor is it truly a "story of love, loss and American royalty."It is a boring, dry and repetitive tale of one man's unrealistic great expectations.In my opinion three stars is generous. But the author gets kudos for her research.
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  • Cyndi
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not exactly sure how a book can be interesting and boring all at the same time, but this one achieved that strange balance.
  • Lorna
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Castle is an epic story about Biltmore House envisioned and built by George Cornelius Vanderbilt, the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, during the Gilded Age with the history of Biltmore Estate then spanning the Jazz Age, the Depression and two World Wars. Vanderbilt knew when he first got off the train in Ashville, North Carolina and gazed at the Pisgah peaks nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smokey Mountains of southern Appalachia that this was the perfect location for his sp The Last Castle is an epic story about Biltmore House envisioned and built by George Cornelius Vanderbilt, the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, during the Gilded Age with the history of Biltmore Estate then spanning the Jazz Age, the Depression and two World Wars. Vanderbilt knew when he first got off the train in Ashville, North Carolina and gazed at the Pisgah peaks nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smokey Mountains of southern Appalachia that this was the perfect location for his sprawling and massive estate. Consulting architects, landscape architects, interior designers, worked with Vanderbilt to build Biltmore Estate. After Vanderbilt married Edith Stuyvessant Dresser, they spent much time at Biltmore House, the home where their daughter Cornelia was born. Dedicated to charitable activities, Edith Vanderbilt oversaw the beginning of Biltmore Estate Industries dedicated to local crafts and products, including a school. Throughout the history of Biltmore Estate, was mention of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Whistler, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, Henry James and Edith Wharton.Following the death of George Vanderbilt, Edith was forced to manage the sprawling estate and holdings to preserve her husband's vision and legacy. The estate forest land consisting of thousands of acres, was given to the federal government to form Pisgah National Forest. It should be noted that Pisgah Forest was the first experiment in scientific forestry. Biltmore Estate today is open to the public. Seeing it only from afar, I will make a point of spending a day at Biltmore Estates on our next trip through North Carolina.
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  • Staceyann
    January 1, 1970
    The author did not appear to have enough material about the Vanderbilt family to write a book, so latched on to everything that happened in North Carolina around this time period. I wouldn’t complain if this had been billed as a history of North Carolina, but a lot of the side stories had no connection to Biltmore or the Vanderbilts other than “it happened nearby.” The first half of the book was pretty good, but the second half (after George Vanderbilt died) was not compelling. She really did no The author did not appear to have enough material about the Vanderbilt family to write a book, so latched on to everything that happened in North Carolina around this time period. I wouldn’t complain if this had been billed as a history of North Carolina, but a lot of the side stories had no connection to Biltmore or the Vanderbilts other than “it happened nearby.” The first half of the book was pretty good, but the second half (after George Vanderbilt died) was not compelling. She really did not have much information on the finances of the estate, just conjecture. I felt the book did not live up to its jacket.
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  • Margaret Sankey
    January 1, 1970
    Emblematic of the Vanderbilt family's cycle "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" (well, maybe "shirtsleeves to Anderson Cooper in three generations"), the estate at Biltmore was meant to be a semi-feudal estate, with European-style managed forests, dairies and local crafts. Instead, although it made an indelible impact on Asheville and the region, it quickly became a white elephant of expenses, impractical living and changed social mores. Kiernan follows the Vanderbilts and t Emblematic of the Vanderbilt family's cycle "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" (well, maybe "shirtsleeves to Anderson Cooper in three generations"), the estate at Biltmore was meant to be a semi-feudal estate, with European-style managed forests, dairies and local crafts. Instead, although it made an indelible impact on Asheville and the region, it quickly became a white elephant of expenses, impractical living and changed social mores. Kiernan follows the Vanderbilts and their in-laws from the 1860s through the present grand-grandchildren running the estate as a tourist attraction, with side lights about the Newport Season, Paris in the 1890s, the Arts and Crafts movement and Biltmore as a secret storage space for the national gallery during WWII.
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  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    January 1, 1970
    "Half the pleasure in life comes from learning to choose between things."-William Osgood Field
  • Touchstone Books
    January 1, 1970
    Denise Kiernan is back and she's better than ever. Can't wait to share this one with you this Fall!
  • David Eppenstein
    January 1, 1970
    I am giving this book a 3 star rating. To me that means it was a good book, nothing special but worth the price paid. I read some of the reviews of other GR members and it appears that some were rather disappointed in this book for a variety of reasons. I guess I can understand that feeling as I too was initially disappointed. I have visited Biltmore a couple of times but my last visit was nearly 20 years ago and curiosity got the better of me so I Googled the site and discovered that things hav I am giving this book a 3 star rating. To me that means it was a good book, nothing special but worth the price paid. I read some of the reviews of other GR members and it appears that some were rather disappointed in this book for a variety of reasons. I guess I can understand that feeling as I too was initially disappointed. I have visited Biltmore a couple of times but my last visit was nearly 20 years ago and curiosity got the better of me so I Googled the site and discovered that things have changed considerably since my last visit. I think tickets on my last visit were $35/person and now they are $65-75. Some changes are easier to accept than others I guess. Anyway I studied architecture in college with an emphasis on architectural history. Needless to say Biltmore was an item of discussion in my History of American Architecture course. So my primary interest in this book was the architecture and construction of Biltmore. From the title alone, and I should know better than this, one would expect this book to be solely about the house and therein is where my disappointment and that of the other GR members probably lies. This book is about more than the house, much more. The book is about building a monument to a dying era and way of life and how that monument is transformed into an example of successful evolution. We are informed of George Washington Vanderbilt's life, a brief history of his family and the source of their wealth and George's place in that family and way of life. His decision to remove himself and his mother to the wilds of North Carolina to build this enormous edifice in the middle of no where is difficult to understand especially considering the daunting logistical challenges that the project entails. I would certainly have enjoyed reading about how those challenges were met but while the building of the house and the grounds is discussed it is not discussed in the detail the title would lead you to believe. I think it is fair to say that this book is not about the building of the house but about the process of building and the affects of building and the process on the owner and those around him and especially on the community in which this structure is sited. As Biltmore is being constructed George is educated by those he has hired about new ideas and ways of advancing notions of preservation, forestry, agriculture, farming and the harnessing of natural resources. He, and later his bride Edith, become engaged in advancing local arts and crafts as a way of bringing economic growth and opportunity to the people that were now their neighbors. For this story the author goes on at length about Biltmore after the death of George. A good deal of the Biltmore story rightfully centers on George's widow Edith and her efforts to make Biltmore profitable once it becomes clear that the age of houses like Biltmore is a time past and not to return. She guides the house's transformation into something that will sustain it and keep it viable as the times change. From Edith the baton passed to her daughter, Cornelia and from her to Edith's grandsons the Cecil brothers. Today the house is still in the private ownership of the Cecil family and is a profitable and expensive tourist attraction of the City of Asheville. The book is titled "The Last Castle" but unlike the abandoned ruins of those castles of ages past this one has evolved and managed to stay alive and vital and an asset to its surrounding community. This is a history of more than a great house it is about a family and a community that all changed to meet the challenges life presented them with.
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  • Suzanne Mitchell
    January 1, 1970
    What a disappointment!! There is nothing epic about this book and that is the letdown. There is just enough detail to think the book will pick up but it never happens. With the right author this could truly be an epic story but this was a book that was ard to pick up and finish.
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  • Greg
    January 1, 1970
    Disappointing, mostly because it never explains why George Vanderbilt would build it in the first place. I've been there numerous times (I was brought up within a few hours and this house was often part of vacation trips.) It's massive, but relatively pointless other than it's current function: a museum, and a ridiculously expensive one to visit ($65 to $85 as of November 2016). More flaws: here in the book, there is no single picture of an entire room (instead we see fireplaces of rooms in the Disappointing, mostly because it never explains why George Vanderbilt would build it in the first place. I've been there numerous times (I was brought up within a few hours and this house was often part of vacation trips.) It's massive, but relatively pointless other than it's current function: a museum, and a ridiculously expensive one to visit ($65 to $85 as of November 2016). More flaws: here in the book, there is no single picture of an entire room (instead we see fireplaces of rooms in the library and the tapestry room), no blue prints (other than the end papers, which appear to contain blueprints of other houses). And the cover, so ridiculously ominous: it reminds me of a cover of a recently-read book that featured Gestapo headquarters in Germany in the 1940s. Yes, that ominous. Perhaps the family refused to allow Kiernan to include more pictures to increase visits. Given that tickets have been sold for a visit since the 1930s, you'd think that after millions of visitors over 80+ years would have allowed for more photos, especially during the construction itself. (I think Aaron Spelling, of TV production fame, built a house in the Hollywood Hills named the largest inhabited house, as the Biltmore is now a museum.) Recommended for hardcore "history-of-homes" readers in which case you've probably already been to the castle itself. And if you're going to take the family to a museum, great! Many are all over the place and free! And speaking of great houses, Winchester in California is NOT to be missed: weird and freaky.
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  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    The great Biltmore Estate which many consider an American castle was the vision of George Vanderbilt and continued by his wife, Edith. While the design and grounds changed a bit through the years one thing did not and that was their dream of the area being self sustaining. The village (or later town) that grew up beside it and where Edith created a cottage industry to keep the dream alive.The history of Biltmore is so closely messed with what was happening in the rest of the country and abroad. The great Biltmore Estate which many consider an American castle was the vision of George Vanderbilt and continued by his wife, Edith. While the design and grounds changed a bit through the years one thing did not and that was their dream of the area being self sustaining. The village (or later town) that grew up beside it and where Edith created a cottage industry to keep the dream alive.The history of Biltmore is so closely messed with what was happening in the rest of the country and abroad. We think we know the American royalty through Fitzgerald's and Wolfe's books but there were so many good deeds performed behind the scenes at Biltmore that few knew about. Kiernan gives us all the glory and the sad reality of what it took to keep this grande dame going. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    The 175,000 square foot Biltmore was constructed in the waning years of America's Gilded Age by the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt, couched within his beloved mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C. Although the focus of this historical work is scheduled to be published at the end of September 2017 is the Biltmore Estate, the book also explores the mistress of the Biltmore Estate, George's wife who he married after its construction, who I believe had a larger presence in Ashev The 175,000 square foot Biltmore was constructed in the waning years of America's Gilded Age by the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt, couched within his beloved mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C. Although the focus of this historical work is scheduled to be published at the end of September 2017 is the Biltmore Estate, the book also explores the mistress of the Biltmore Estate, George's wife who he married after its construction, who I believe had a larger presence in Asheville than her husband. Other dignities and their connection to the Vanderbilts discussed in this book included Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Singer Sargent. Having visited the Biltmore Estate twice and especially loving his personal library of approximately 24,000 books, I was interested in the origin of many of its furnishing. If you are an aficionado of the late 19th - early 20th century United States history, this needs to be a must read.
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  • Emesskay
    January 1, 1970
    This book is the biography of a building (or estate) - the Biltmore near Asheville North Carolina. It goes into great detail about how it came to be, the problems and how they were overcome, and how this wonderful example of gilded age architecture came to remain intact for future generations to enjoy. Much of the credit is due to the family that resided in the house (estate). It would have been easy to shut themselves away and ignore the locals, but they felt the need to give back to the commun This book is the biography of a building (or estate) - the Biltmore near Asheville North Carolina. It goes into great detail about how it came to be, the problems and how they were overcome, and how this wonderful example of gilded age architecture came to remain intact for future generations to enjoy. Much of the credit is due to the family that resided in the house (estate). It would have been easy to shut themselves away and ignore the locals, but they felt the need to give back to the community in which they were located. The tale isn't just about the buildings and grounds, but it covers the lives of the people who resided there, and how earlier experiences in their lives affected decisions that were made. The book is extremely well researched, I feel I learned so much from reading it. Highly recommend for history buffs, or those just curious about how the Biltmore came to be and managed to stay.
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  • Dalene W.
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book. I was able to visit Biltmore during the Christmas season two years ago. It was amazing to see, especially with all the Christmas decorations. Reading this book took me right back as though I was there again. We took the audio tour and it was nice to read about many of the things we saw. I highly recommend reading this book and going to see Biltmore for yourself. It truly is America's Castle. P.S. there are packages for hotel, tours, and food. We stayed right on the grounds in I loved this book. I was able to visit Biltmore during the Christmas season two years ago. It was amazing to see, especially with all the Christmas decorations. Reading this book took me right back as though I was there again. We took the audio tour and it was nice to read about many of the things we saw. I highly recommend reading this book and going to see Biltmore for yourself. It truly is America's Castle. P.S. there are packages for hotel, tours, and food. We stayed right on the grounds in a brand new hotel. Make sure you eat at the Stables. (Yes, the original stable.) We took a daytime and nighttime tour.
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  • Linda Smatzny
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book via First Reads on Goodreads. This is a fascinating story of the the Biltmore House near Asheville, North Carolina. It starts with a brief history of the Vanderbilt family up to George Vanderbilt. The book continues up to the present time and the grandsons who continue to share in the management of the house. It is full of detail of the various time periods involved in the building of the house. Then when George marries Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and her contributions to the h I received this book via First Reads on Goodreads. This is a fascinating story of the the Biltmore House near Asheville, North Carolina. It starts with a brief history of the Vanderbilt family up to George Vanderbilt. The book continues up to the present time and the grandsons who continue to share in the management of the house. It is full of detail of the various time periods involved in the building of the house. Then when George marries Edith Stuyvesant Dresser and her contributions to the house. It was a fast easy read.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    In the mid-1890s George Vanderbilt built America's largest residential home in Western North Carolina. He called it Biltmore. He also purchased land--and lots of it. Much of the land he purchased is now the Pisgah National Forest. The book details how Vanderbilt brought a responsible forest management program to that acreage and how it came to be in the hands of the United States Forestry Service. He also built an Episcopal Church and community he called Biltmore Village. The village provided em In the mid-1890s George Vanderbilt built America's largest residential home in Western North Carolina. He called it Biltmore. He also purchased land--and lots of it. Much of the land he purchased is now the Pisgah National Forest. The book details how Vanderbilt brought a responsible forest management program to that acreage and how it came to be in the hands of the United States Forestry Service. He also built an Episcopal Church and community he called Biltmore Village. The village provided employment for the village's residents with profits, when they eventually came, going to the Estate, similar to a feudal system. George was a bachelor when he envisioned and built Biltmore, but the book shows how Edith Stuyvesant Dresser came to be his bride and her passion for serving the community. It also details the measures she took upon his death to ensure the estate would be viable when their daughter came of age and that George's legacy would continue. The home began allowing guest tours in 1930 as an income for the estate. When Vanderbilt envisioned Biltmore, he never really thought through how much a home and estate that size would cost to run. It turned out to be a huge drain on the family's finances. The music room was never completed in the lifetimes of George, Edith, or their daughter Cornelia. The book talks about many of the persons in the circle of friends of both George and Edith, about Cornelia's failed marriage and subsequent romantic interests, and about regional authors. She also discusses the nearby Grove Park Inn and its owner. While the book is a very interesting read, it does not very compelling. The author lists repositories used in her research. The only local repository she utilized was the local public library's North Carolina room. I feel she probably missed out on many great resources by not using the Southern Historical Collection at UNC Chapel Hill, the archives of Western Carolina University, the archives of Appalachian State University, and the State Archives of North Carolina. Perhaps the most glaring omission in the book is the lack of a full description of what is available to tourists visiting the estate today. While she did provide the 2016 admission costs in passing, no mention was made of what that included. The winery was never mentioned--a newer Biltmore industry that generates income for the estate. Biltmore is about a 90-minute drive from my front door, and I enjoy visiting the house and estate. Perhaps I can thank George Vanderbilt's inability to see money doesn't grow on trees for the opportunity to visit the estate today.
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  • Suellen
    January 1, 1970
    DNF
  • Jamie Jones Hullinger
    January 1, 1970
    Think I am actually going to give this a 2.5. I was actually pretty disappointed by the end of this one. The bits on the construction of Biltmore and marriage of George and Edith were very interesting but most of the other bits included were confusing to me. For instance at the end there was a section of F. Scott Fitzgerald staying at a local in in Asheville. I am still wondering why that was included. I discovered that I am not a fan of Cornelia Vanderbilt. I hate to say that by reading this bo Think I am actually going to give this a 2.5. I was actually pretty disappointed by the end of this one. The bits on the construction of Biltmore and marriage of George and Edith were very interesting but most of the other bits included were confusing to me. For instance at the end there was a section of F. Scott Fitzgerald staying at a local in in Asheville. I am still wondering why that was included. I discovered that I am not a fan of Cornelia Vanderbilt. I hate to say that by reading this book....I think my interest in Biltmore has diminished. Loads of fascinating facts in this volume....but I have issue with the presentation.
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  • Dara
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve always been interested in the Biltmore so I was excited when I saw this book. There were parts where I felt I wanted more information especially at the beginning but overall it was a good read. I enjoyed learning some of the facts behind the building of the estate. The architects, artists, builders, and foresters were all innovative in their own way. I liked how the author brought in mini stories of some other famous contemporaries and interesting tidbits from the era. I would have liked mo I’ve always been interested in the Biltmore so I was excited when I saw this book. There were parts where I felt I wanted more information especially at the beginning but overall it was a good read. I enjoyed learning some of the facts behind the building of the estate. The architects, artists, builders, and foresters were all innovative in their own way. I liked how the author brought in mini stories of some other famous contemporaries and interesting tidbits from the era. I would have liked more depth but I was able to get a feel for the family’s personalities.
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  • Brandi
    January 1, 1970
    Denise Kiernan's "The Last Castle" was well-researched, but I was hoping for more. In high school, we used to take class trips out to the Biltmore House and I was really excited to win this book from Goodreads. The problem is, even though it is well-researched, it can be a tad bit repetitive and boring at times. Much of the material presented in the book is not relevant to the house or family itself. With that being said, there is still a lot of interesting material presented in the book and his Denise Kiernan's "The Last Castle" was well-researched, but I was hoping for more. In high school, we used to take class trips out to the Biltmore House and I was really excited to win this book from Goodreads. The problem is, even though it is well-researched, it can be a tad bit repetitive and boring at times. Much of the material presented in the book is not relevant to the house or family itself. With that being said, there is still a lot of interesting material presented in the book and history buffs should really enjoy it. Taking everything into consideration, I would rate this book 4.0 stars.
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    I was looking forward to a book devoted to the Biltmore and I got a really choppy history lesson with bits and pieces about Biltmore. I am going to pursue a book or two about Biltmore at some point, because I think it is a fascinating topic....this just isn't it for my taste
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting history of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.
  • Nan Williams
    January 1, 1970
    “Epic story of love, loss, and American Royalty”? Not by a long shot. Kiernan had obviously done a lot of research of the period and wanted to woo us with her research. She included tons and tons of insignificant details and insignificant people. If you want to know absolutely everything about every one in that time period, INCLUDING details such as what was on menus in Paris restaurants, by all means read this. If you want to know about the Vanderbilts or about building Biltmore, read something “Epic story of love, loss, and American Royalty”? Not by a long shot. Kiernan had obviously done a lot of research of the period and wanted to woo us with her research. She included tons and tons of insignificant details and insignificant people. If you want to know absolutely everything about every one in that time period, INCLUDING details such as what was on menus in Paris restaurants, by all means read this. If you want to know about the Vanderbilts or about building Biltmore, read something else. Also, if you want a nice historical novel based on the building of Biltmore, read something else.This was boring, boring, boring with a lot of boring details and wooden characters.It was a real disappointment after “The Girls of Atomic City.”
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  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    I want to go back to Asheville. I was there many years ago
  • Julia
    January 1, 1970
    I was so looking forward to reading this book when I first saw it at Half Price Books. Kiernan's non-fiction was supposed to be about the Biltmore estate, and it is, but it's that and the kitchen sink. There is no structure here, no overriding narrative. I liked the first 100 pages or so, which focused first on George Washington Vanderbilt and his future wife, Edith Dresser. But Denise Kiernan spends most of the book digressing and going off on tangents. This book would more aptly be titled, "Ev I was so looking forward to reading this book when I first saw it at Half Price Books. Kiernan's non-fiction was supposed to be about the Biltmore estate, and it is, but it's that and the kitchen sink. There is no structure here, no overriding narrative. I liked the first 100 pages or so, which focused first on George Washington Vanderbilt and his future wife, Edith Dresser. But Denise Kiernan spends most of the book digressing and going off on tangents. This book would more aptly be titled, "Everyone famous that ever set foot in the Biltmore and a lot of history about Asheville." Kiernan also relied too much on something I despise: lists upon lists. Whether she was listing the amount of money for inheritances or the price of supplies or taxes - or lists of people and relatives, lists of everything that happened during every year of the 20th century until about 1947.The one part I was looking forward to, and reading through all the drivel to get to it, was the Biltmore's role in housing the National Gallery's art during World War II. Following the Louvre and other European museums, the US also started evacuating their art out of city museums and into the countryside. But the Biltmore's role in this was only a scanty page, if that. Ultimately, Kiernan did an immense amount of research, but then she wanted to include everything within this book. Where was the editor to help guide her and pare this down? Why have so many people loved this book? I was looking forward to reading "The Girls of Atomic City," but because it is also written by Denise Kiernan, I will remove it from my TBR.
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  • Chris Mara
    January 1, 1970
    The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I’m scheduled to visit this summer and am quite excited about finally getting there! I’ve read a couple of books; pictorial and historical, on the beginnings of Biltmore House and its growing estate all the way through it’s current status as a National Historic Landmark, bestowed upon in 1963. I wanted to gain some information before my visit but did not want to come off as a tour guide/docent or as the famil The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I’m scheduled to visit this summer and am quite excited about finally getting there! I’ve read a couple of books; pictorial and historical, on the beginnings of Biltmore House and its growing estate all the way through it’s current status as a National Historic Landmark, bestowed upon in 1963. I wanted to gain some information before my visit but did not want to come off as a tour guide/docent or as the family smarty pants reciting Biltmore facts the whole visit. 🗣I just wanted some prior knowledge for myself and a few interesting factual tidbits. This book was quite comprehensive. So as not to diminish the significance of the estate’s vision, the ups and downs of its financial status or the family members and their philanthropy and good works, the history is exhaustive and monumental in size. I must admit I skimmed over some parts that were excessive. If you deeply love history and all its’ minute details, I guarantee you will love this book. It’s a very well done story with all the facts and figures, some old timey pictures, and a very extensive (54 pages!) of “Notes and Sources” by the author at the end. There is absolutely no doubt she has done her homework exceptionally well in collecting and putting all this information together. Thanks to my book bud, Therese, for lending me this historical novel.
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  • Mandy
    January 1, 1970
    I have loved Biltmore ever since visiting as a teenager, and returning again with my two children sparked my curiosity to know more about its history and inhabitants than I could learn on a visitor tour. This book is the answer. Though I do wish it included more of the thoughts and feelings of George and Edith Vanderbilt (she, especially, is a fascinating figure), I understand that their original correspondence is very rare, due to intentional destruction of their letters and journals. The autho I have loved Biltmore ever since visiting as a teenager, and returning again with my two children sparked my curiosity to know more about its history and inhabitants than I could learn on a visitor tour. This book is the answer. Though I do wish it included more of the thoughts and feelings of George and Edith Vanderbilt (she, especially, is a fascinating figure), I understand that their original correspondence is very rare, due to intentional destruction of their letters and journals. The author does an admirable job of filling in those emotional gaps and also includes the stories of the prominent historical persons who engaged with the Biltmore over the years: Frederick Law Olmsted, Richard Harris Hunt, Paul Leicester, Gifford Pinchot, and even F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have such a greater appreciation of the estate’s role in the Gilded Age and the continuation of its legacy to the present day, where it continues to awe and inspire.
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  • Phil Thoden
    January 1, 1970
    If you're looking for a truly epic American story, then consider reading "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. Meanwhile, this "epic" story about the Biltmore seems borne out of a desire by the publisher and author to extract an epic amount of $$ from the wallets of a Downtown Abbey obsessed public. It reads basically like an extended tourism pamphlet for the Biltmore, and Asheville in general, packing in a lot of historical anecdotes about the Vanderbilts and other self-important members of “The If you're looking for a truly epic American story, then consider reading "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. Meanwhile, this "epic" story about the Biltmore seems borne out of a desire by the publisher and author to extract an epic amount of $$ from the wallets of a Downtown Abbey obsessed public. It reads basically like an extended tourism pamphlet for the Biltmore, and Asheville in general, packing in a lot of historical anecdotes about the Vanderbilts and other self-important members of “The Four Hundred” wealthiest folks from America’s Gilded Age, but with not much depth to any of their stories. At least I learned some interesting facts in advance of an upcoming trip to Asheville, but I could have done that via Wikipedia as well. I think an actual visit to the Biltmore will be enjoyable and worth the effort, quite unlike forcing myself to finish this book.
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