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
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
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 (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
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.