America’s largest home, Biltmore Estate, has an archive of fantastic stories and rooms off limits to the public eye. My Home, NC gives a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of people who lived and worked on the estate. Hear their unique tales and go behind the velvet ropes to see the preservation it takes to keep George Vanderbilt’s legacy alive for Biltmore’s future.
Winnie Titchener, Associate Archivist
Every day we have a more complete record of the history.
Behind the scenes at Biltmore
Visitors who stroll through the many halls of Biltmore Estate catch a glimpse into the magnificent past of America’s largest home. But further behind-the-scenes, there is an extensive collection of archives and objects that reveal the details of Biltmore’s history, its people and their stories.
Biltmore boasts an impressive collection of images, drawings, manuscripts and objects. This includes about 10,000 images and over 35,000 objects.
“I’ve always wanted to work in a museum and particularly hands-on with the collection, so to come into work every day is just like being in a dream,” said Lenore Hardin, Biltmore’s Associate Collections Manager. She cares for the collection of objects, including jewelry, articles of clothing and more.
Stories of Biltmore’s past
These articles paired with written accounts helps give a more complete picture of Biltmore’s past.
“The [oral history] project has evolved to encompass a lot of people who grew up on farms who still have memories of living here,” said Associate Archivist Winnie Titchener.
Biltmore’s oral history project began in the 1980s, with people who had worked at the estate in George Vanderbilt’s time around the turn of the century.
“Biltmore’s really lucky that we have so much documentation and so much in our archives,” Titchener said. “But there is a lot that does not make it to the written record, like how it would have been to live here, the day in the life and the daily routines of families here.”
Still, Titchener and Hardin have found that the collection can uncover lost or unexpected stories. This was the case with an unassuming livery coat.
The story of Edith Vanderbilt’s footman
A livery coat with “S. Patrick” inscribed on the label was found during a closet inventory in the bachelor’s wing. Hardin discovered the coat belonged to Sefton Patrick, a footman who came to work for Edith Vanderbilt in 1921.
“Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, he became ill with tuberculosis,” Hardin said. “When Edith found out that he was ill, she started to pay for his medical expenses.”
Read the full story on Biltmore’s blog here.
A more complete history
Titchener and Hardin have keys into Biltmore’s history all around them. One of Cornelia Vanderbilt’s drawings even decorates Titchener’s office door.
“Every day we have a more complete record of the history.”
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