Today, I’m recommending The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by notable nonfiction author Denise Kiernan.
Already a New York Times bestseller, The Last Castle is the fascinating true story behind the magnificent Biltmore mansion—which is still the largest privately owned home in the United States. Set on 125,000 acres, the 175,00 square-foot mansion boasts 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 65 fireplaces, and a 72-foot-long banquet hall. Filled with art and sculpture, Biltmore was the pride and obsession of George Washington Vanderbilt II, grandson of shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.
Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate in the North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds and collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build the home and create a village just outside the gates of the estate.
Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore—and secure the future of the region and her husband’s legacy.
Spanning decades, the alluring tale of this historic estate stretches across multiple World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family. It features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, and Edith Wharton.
The Last Castle is the unique American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured.
Check out The Last Castle and other engaging works of nonfiction like it at the Sioux City Public Library.
Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.