Entertaining at 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.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC ©The Biltmore Company

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC ©The Biltmore Company

Leslie Klinger

Leslie Klinger

Leslie Klingner

Curator of Interpretation, Biltmore House

Leslie Klingner is a design historian specializing in decorative art and material culture of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2006, Leslie became the Curator of Interpretation for Biltmore, the family home of the late George W. Vanderbilt. In this role, she shares in the curation and preservation of America’s largest home and creates historical tours, products, programming and exhibitions across the estate. Prior to her work with the Vanderbilt collection, Leslie served as a Lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum (2001-2009) and as Senior Educator and Academic Programs Coordinator for the Brooklyn Museum.

Her recent co-curated exhibitions include A Vanderbilt House Party: The Gilded Age; Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie; Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film; Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times; and The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad. Beginning Nov 8th, Biltmore will be hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, an interactive experience connecting visitors with the characters, fashions and historic events depicted in the global hit television show and new feature film.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020 | 10:30 a.m.
This lecture is preceded by a reception at 10:00 a.m.


Atlanta Decorative Arts Center
351 Peachtree Hills Avenue


$35 members, $45 non-members