In 1862, George Washington Vanderbilt III was born into wealth and privilege that was the closest thing to royalty you'll find in America. His industrialist family made a fortune in the steamboat and rail industries, and George Vanderbilt used his fame, wealth, and social connections to amass one of the world's greatest art collections and private libraries. All that stuff needs a house fit to contain it all. In 1888, he began buying land in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, for what would become the largest private residence in America: the Biltmore estate.
An army of craftsmen labored on the French renaissance château — more than 1,000 people working six days a week for six years. When it was finished, the home occupied four acres; the surrounding property expanded to more than 100,000 acres. With 250 rooms in all, including 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms (and 65 fireplaces), it's one of the most historically and architecturally significant structures in the United States. The foundation alone cost $400,000. A private short rail line cost $50,000. In total, the Biltmore cost Vanderbilt $6 million, or about $184.14 million in today's dollars. It's no longer a private residence, but Vanderbilt's descendants still own it. You can get married there if you like ... for a price — or you can take a virtual tour of the estate instead.
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