George Vanderbilt sought to create a home in the mountains of Western North Carolina that emulated the working estates of Europe. Not only would there be a grand house and grounds, but it would include a self-sustaining community. To accomplish this extraordinary undertaking he commissioned two of the most accomplished architects of the time, Richard Morris Hunt, and Frederick Law Olmsted.
The community, now known as Biltmore Village, was one of the earliest examples of a planned, mixed-use community that combined retail, residential and recreational space. Groceries, hardware, and anything else you might need were available for purchase. Schools educated the residents’ children. The train station received passengers and supplies. And the church provided for the social and spiritual well being of the villagers. It was an expertly designed community.
The tree-lined streets of the village fanned out from the village’s centerpiece, All Souls Episcopal Church. The village’s original cottages were designed, as was the church façade, with brick, stucco pebbledash and wood timbers to create a cohesive whole reminiscent of the traditional architecture of a rural England village or northern French hamlet. Overall, however, the village’s architecture was anything but cookie-cutter, with some buildings featuring gambrel roofs and abundant dormers while others featured hip roofs.
Today a vibrant commercial hub, visited by millions each years, Biltmore Village retains its old-world charm, and remains a treasured architectural homage to both of the artistic masters who designed it.