The Ultimate Guide To Asheville and the Western North Carolina Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North Carolina Mountains

The Online Version of the Best-selling Regional Guidebook
 

Susanna Pantas, Artist

Biltmore Village
Historic District

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Biltmore Village, pen & ink drawing by Lee James Pantas
To purchase a print of this drawing by author/artist Lee Pantas, visit Cherry Orchard Studio

Historic Resources

Downtown Neighborhoods Historic Asheville Churches Historic Designations
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Biltmore Village Historic District
    Biltmore Village was built by George W. Vanderbilt on the south bank of the Swannanoa River at the edge of his vast estate. Much has changed over the years by the flood tide of urban sprawl, Biltmore Village nonetheless has some remaining buildings from that early period. Many of these form a small neighborhood which evokes the village’s original ambience. The landscaping, the quaintness of the cottages, the presence of other remaining buildings and the street pattern all form an important historic district.

The symmetrical, fan-shaped street plan is the least changed element of the original design. At the north end, Brook and Lodge streets join at an obtuse angle at the railway station and plaza. All Souls Crescent swings south from these streets to form the boundaries of the village, and within the village itself a network of streets forms the fan pattern.

Vanderbilt planned Biltmore Village as a picturesque manorial village, to complement his estate and grounds and as a practical solution to solving the housing problem of estate workers and servants. This model village, English in flavor with its Tudor buildings, was primarily the work of three men: Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895), the nationally prominent architect who designed Biltmore House itself, the village church of All Souls, the railway station and the estate office; Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), the renowned landscape architect who designed the grounds of the estate and the village plan; and Richard Sharp Smith (1852-1924), an architect employed by Hunt who designed the cottages, school, post office, infirmary and other village buildings.

The site along the Swannanoa River, a small crossroads known as Asheville Junction or Best (for William J. Best, an owner of the Western North Carolina Railroad) was chosen for Biltmore Village, planning for which began in 1889. Vanderbilt bought the village, relocated the residents and constructed an entirely new town. Construction was largely complete by 1910. Shortly after Vanderbilt’s death, the village was sold and over the years, many changes were made, not all compatible with the original concept and design of Vanderbilt and his architects. Recently however, through the efforts of the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County, the Preservation Society and the Biltmore Village Merchants Association, much restoration has been accomplished and an enlightened program of adaptive use instituted. At the heart of Biltmore Village’s recent revival has been the conversion of former cottages into commercial spaces that include gift shops, restaurants, art and craft galleries and clothing stores. The Village is a Local as well as a National Historic District which will insure its preservation and continued restoration.

                                          
Directions & Self-Guided Tour
Biltmore Village is an ideal setting for a walking self-guided tour and the historic buildings highlighted in this section will be presented in that fashion. I suggest also that you visit the Biltmore Village Historic Museum at 7 Biltmore Plaza, one building to the left of the Biltmore Estate Office Building on the plaza.
Begin your walking tour by parking near the plaza, across from the old railroad depot, which will be your first stop.

Biltmore Village Railway Depot (NRHP) 1 Biltmore Plaza

This Southern Railway passenger depot was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and is a symmetrical one-story structure with half-timbered pebbledash walls. It is significant as one of the four structures that were designed by Hunt for the Vil-lage and it serves as one of the major functional and architectural landmarks of the community. It was built in 1896. Walk across the Plaza and you will see the Biltmore Estate Office on your right.

Biltmore Estate Office (NRHP) 10 Biltmore Plaza
Another of the four structures designed by Hunt it is a combination of the design motifs and materials utilized in other structures in the village. It is a 1˝-story building that features pebbledash walls, half-timbering, brick trim, chamfered and bracketed porch posts and stylized classical ornament. This building served as the office for the operations of Biltmore Estate and was constructed also in 1896. It is still in use today by the Biltmore Company for offices.

After viewing the Biltmore Estate Office Building, you will see the Biltmore Village Historic Museum, also on the plaza. If they are open, stop in for a visit. After leaving the museum, continue on your way from the plaza area and walk south on Kitchen Place towards The Cathedral of All Souls directly ahead.

Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasThe Cathedral of All Souls (NRHP) 9 Swan St.
Originally known as All Souls Church, it was designated an Episcopal Cathedral in January 1995. The largest structure in Biltmore Village, it is an exquisite, lovely building of fine Romanesque style. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, this complex building combines pebbledash wall surfaces, brick and wood trim, and expansive tiles roofs. In spite of the complexity however, the church is a simple cruciform with a tall tower rising in the center which contains most of the interior space. The Parish House features the same materials but is considerably different in design.

The interior is relatively simple but no less elegant and features wonderful stained glass windows created for the Vanderbilts by Maitland Armstrong and his daughter Helen. They illuminate a variety of scenes from the Old and New Testaments. George Vanderbilt was one of the organizers of the congregation in 1896, financed the construction of the church and parish house and selected the furnishings. The church was consecrated on November 8, 1896.

From this lovely building, you may now begin to explore the Cottage District which is found on Swan Street, All Souls Crescent, and Boston Way. There are fourteen cottages in this district, which will be on your left and behind you as you face the front of the church and the Parish House.

Biltmore Village Cottage District (NRHP)
The English Tudor cottages on the east side of Biltmore Village were designed by architect Richard Sharp Smith. All are one-and-one-half to two-story pebbledash cottages with recessed porches, multiple gables and steeply pitched roofs. No two cottages are alike although they are closely similar and in some cases mirror images. They are located at 1 and 3 Swan Street, 2, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 11 All Souls Crescent and 5 and 6 Boston Way. Besides being architecturally interesting, these cottages now house specialty shops and restaurants.

This concludes the walking tour of Biltmore Village. Another structure of historical importance, The Reed House, is in the district and can be visited by car. From the plaza area take Lodge Street to Hendersonville Road (Highway 25) and turn left. Go south on Hendersonville Road to Irwin Street and turn left. Turn left at the end onto Dodge Street and look for 119, The Samuel Harrison Reed House.

Samuel Harrison Reed House (NRHP) 119 Dodge St.
Built in 1892, this house is one of the most important Queen Anne style residences in Asheville. The frame structure features a prominent corner turret with an ogee dome and a wraparound porch. It is historically significant for its associations with Mr. Reed, who sold to George Vanderbilt and his land agents the property on which Biltmore Village was constructed.

 

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