As we continue our focus on the details that make Biltmore so amazing, we invite you to visit this winter to admire the combination of architecture, art, and sculpture that makes Biltmore House uniquely beautiful. Today, we hear from a long-time employee who has a different take on his favorite thing: the beauty of mechanical ingenuity. Check back next week for another insider’s favorite!
Rick Conard, Vice President of Attraction Operations Support, joined Biltmore more than 20 years ago as an electrician. Since then, he’s been involved in just about every project around the estate, and knows Biltmore House inside and out.
Soon after he started at Biltmore, one of his first tasks involved spending more than three weeks working around the service elevator in Biltmore House. Less prominent (and significantly less decorative) than the passenger elevator in the main entry, the service elevator is located by the stairs in the Bachelors’ Wing.
This elevator was designed to carry workers as well as equipment and luggage, and traveled 80 feet from the Sub-Basement to the Fourth Floor. While it could lift 2,000 pounds, it was not the speediest mode of transport, taking nearly a minute to go six floors. Of course, the alternative of manually hauling a ton of luggage up several flights of winding stairs wouldn’t be all that fast either!
Rick was very involved in bringing the service elevator back to good working order, and he was working on the elevator when he got a call from his wife that she was headed to the hospital to have their first child—which explains why this ranks as his personal favorite.
If you’re interested in seeing the service elevator plus some of the other innovative mechanical systems in Biltmore House, take the guided Behind-the-Scenes Butler’s Tour that spends time in areas of the house not included in the regular visit.
These days you may see Rick around the estate with Cedric, a St. Bernard named in honor of George Vanderbilt’s favorite dog. They are often in Antler Hill Village, so keep an eye out for them during your next visit.