Staging a Country House Party:
Biltmore and Downton Abbey®
The entertainments at Biltmore House, Asheville N.C., built by George Vanderbilt, were a source of much intrigue for Gilded Age society. A New York columnist speculated, “There were house parties and private theatricals, and heaven knows what all.” Indeed, entertaining in a grand fashion was always central to the Vanderbilts and life at Biltmore. This winter, the historic estate continues the tradition by hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition in celebration of the release of the long-awaited film.
Biltmore Curator Leslie Klingner will describe the many parallels between life at America’s largest home and Downton’s beloved Highclere. Biltmore even had a British housekeeper, gardener, and butler—not Carson, but Harvey. From the breakfast tray delivered to your room, to a scrumptious afternoon tea in the Tapestry Gallery; and from an eight-course dinner for 38 guests, to retiring to the Billiard Room for cocktails, American and English country houses parties were sublime!
Drawing from photos, letters, and journals held in the estate’s private archives, Leslie will share stories about the 20th-century country house fêtes. She will discuss the staff and family’s preparations, the fashionable set who attended, their attire, and the amusements they enjoyed. She will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the interactive exhibition while comparing entertaining in real life versus on screen.
Thank you yo our co-sponsors: The Metropolitan Club; American Friends of Attingham; Cambridge Alumni Northern California Association; Oxford University Society in Northern California