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Jul 01 2011

Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC

Category: Beautiful Doors,Road Trips,VideosLori @ 8:04 am Comments (7)

Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  My trusty guide for the tour was Rachel Smith of Karpen Steel, who suggested the Biltmore as a stop on my road trip and then arranged for the visit to the estate.

If you haven’t been to the Biltmore Estate, you HAVE to go.  It’s amazingly beautiful.  It was built in 1895 as a country retreat for the Vanderbilt family, and it is still privately owned by their descendants.  It has a total of 250 rooms, with 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, and 65 fireplaces.  The estate originally included 125,000 acres, and the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  It’s the largest single-family home in America, at 175,000 square feet.

Rachel assured me that there are gorgeous doors at the Biltmore, and she was right!  There was just one problem.  No photographs are allowed to be taken in the house.  Rachel appealed to the family to let me take photos in the house, but they held firm.  If I had been allowed to take photos, I would have shown you the curved doors, arched doors, beautifully carved doors, ornate locksets and hinges, hidden doors, doors that led to the narrow space between the walls of two rooms, super-thick cold room doors, and the bank of doors with Locknetics 101+ delayed egress mag-locks on them.  Alas, you’ll have to go see all of those yourself.

But you won’t believe the most exciting thing I saw.  Three pneumatic closers made in Boston by Lewis C Norton!!!  They are O-L-D.  If you don’t know the history of the first door closer or why I find it so exciting, check out my previous post on the invention of the door closer at Boston’s Trinity Church.  I have practically begged for some photos of these closers, so hopefully the Biltmore will come through for us.

I was able to take photos of the outside and some of the other buildings, so use your imagination:

The main entrance:

Some of the angled panels on the stairs are operable doors:

This is one of the more nondescript doors on the main house:

This bank of doors exits from the library, and has Locknetics 101+ delayed mag-locks:

The Garden Shop:

The conservatory:

There’s a wealth of information on the Biltmore Estate website, including the history and construction of the building. There’s a video about the restoration of the family’s personal rooms (including my favorite – the Louis XV Room) on this page, and some other videos here.

Here’s a short video from CBS News about the property:

Rachel – Thank you so much for being our tour guide!!

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7 Responses to “Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC”

  1. Rachel Smith says:

    I have always admired the doors at the Biltmore House and had fun showing them off to Lori. Of course she opened my eyes even more with her knowledge of the hardware, and her excitement over the old door closers.

  2. Jim says:

    Hi Lori

    Sounds like you are having a fun time on vacation. I have been the most of the mansions in Newport, RI, but the Bitlmore dwarfs them all. While the Newport mansions are also very ornate, you would need to see them all to get the variety of doors and hardware that you have discribed at Biltmore. I have aslo been to the Palace of Versailles just outside of Paris, France so I truely understand what you are seeing at the Biltmore Estate.


  3. Jim says:

    PS: I bet your husband and childern liked checking out these doors and hardware too.

  4. Jess says:

    Hello Lori and Rachel,

    nice find while on the road and pretty cool place to visit (never been there)

    i know the old nortons were mentioned, figured I would give others a chance to type before i chime in on the post and the old closers. i look forward to seeing any photos of the old closers as well.

    despite their age, I have had questions asked by other people to me about the old Norton door spring & check (Norton’s pneumatic closers made in 1880’s) the only question I received soo far about these old pneumatic historic pieces of hardware came FROM a door repair/closer rebuild agency in the south (Tennessee)

    me, seeing an old closer brings a big smile to my face, also, if any closers at the house go bad or have a problem, I would be more then happy to assist with any questions or problems about them in email or through Lori.

    Rachel: Lori is not the only one excited about old closers, me, even LOCKSMITHS and door closer repair agencies are impressed with my knowledge in how to fix them

    (gained a couple of friends in that business because of my postings on the ‘net about them (here, DIY forums, blog comments)

    my interest in door closers started at age 12, now 26, I never find them boring. during my high school years I was nicknamed the doordoctor by staff and even the maintenance people got to the point were guidance/administration thought it was a staff harrassment case, I took it as a compliment :D, then after graduation from the high school in 2002, as the internet got awareness of my skill, I changed my nickname to door CLOSER doctor.

    Lori: i was recently contacted by an ivy league University, YALE in new haven, CT. it was a (non-IR product) traditional closer problem, the man suspects either the spring broke or is not wound(freeswinging the door).

    so if possible Rachel, for me and Lori, is it possible you can get photos of the Norton closers??

    and again, feel free if you or the staff have a question about any door closers (new or old) problems at the Biltmore house to let me know, I don’t charge a dime for answering questions about these on the internet and would be more then happy to answer.

    also if needed by the staff of the house, Lori, it is ok to let Rachel have my email address or whoever is in charge of maintenance at the Biltmore house (or a member of the vanderbilt family) in case a problem arises.

    I’m sure I would impress you with my knowledge in what to do if and when the time comes to fix a new (modern day arm type hydraulic closer) or one of the old 1880’s norton door spring & checks

    -Jess the door (closer) doctor

  5. Brian W. Mead says:

    I also visited the Biltmore Estate last week, Wednesday the 29th, while on vacation in Asheville. Durng the tour, I was very interested in the ornate locks on the carved wood doors. The doors had a mortise lock as well as an ornate rim lock with 6 sliding bolts. A beautiful piece, with one of a kind door knobs. I also noticed an antique chest with an elaborate locking system built into the top of the chest, with deadbolts that locked into all four sides of the top of the bottom of the Chest. It was operated by a bit key that would be put into the key hole at the center of the Chests top. Did you happen to see it? And if so, were you able to get any information on the chest?


    • Lori says:

      I missed you by one day!  That would have been crazy if I’d seen someone intently checking out the locks.  🙂

      I didn’t notice the chest but I think I saw the same rim lock.  I was sick about not being able to take photos!

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