This spring and summer, the Wheels Through Time Museum is partnering with Biltmore Estate for a new exhibit telling the story of what life was like at America’s largest home during the early 20th century. Titled "The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad", the new exhibit is located in the Biltmore Legacy Exhibit Hall in the estates Antler Hill Village, and is slated to open April 7th, with a special preview for season passholders on Thursday, March 29th.
"The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad" explores the lives of George, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt at home and in their travels throughout Europe and the Far East. The exhibit offers a close-up look at many of the exotic and rare treasures they collected throughout their lives, including a priceless chess set once owned by Napolean Bonaparte, a collection of Samurai amor acquired during their visit to Japan, clothing and costume worn by the family during some the estate’s most important events, among many other priceless relics.
Also on display within the new exhibit, is a 1920 Harley-Davidson Model 20-J motorcycle, on loan from Wheels Through Time Museum. Featured in 100% original condition, the machine has been called one of the highlights of the exhibit, as it helps to illustrate the Vanderbilts enthrallment with early motorized transportation.
George Vanderbilt first fell in love with motorized travel after borrowing a friends Wynton Car during trip across Europe. Shortly after, he purchased his own "updated" version and within a few years, he had developed a system of roads throughout the estate that gained a reputation as being some of the best in the country. Friends and acquaintances from around the United States regularly wrote the family asking permission to come drive the roads of Biltmore.
With thousands of acres of land, motorized travel became a staple at Biltmore from a very early point. Through the mid-1920s the Vanderbilts owned several automobiles, and to the surprise of many, a total of 5 motorcycles — two 1913 Harley-Davidsons, a 1915 Harley-Davidson, as well as 1917 and 1923 Harleys. These machines played a vital role in transporation at the estate, becoming known for their good service and manuverability, and their ability to reach places where autmobiles could not.
The 1920 Harley-Davidson Model 20-J on loan from Wheels Through Time is nearly identical to the last Harley-Davidson motorcycle purchased by Biltmore, and is displayed with several period photographs showing some of the estate’s earliest "two-wheeled visitors".
"We’re extremely excited to partner with Biltmore Estate for their new exhibit," says museum curator Dale Walksler. "Their love affair with transporation played an important role in the development of the estate, and we’re proud to play a part in sharing that story."