You must be familiar with the name Vanderbilt, right? For hundreds of years, the name has been a sign of wealth and good breeding. Find out what William AV Cecil has done with the clan’s legacy and how much money he is worth.
The Biltmore Estate was home to George Vanderbilt’s family and tourists from all over the world for almost 130 years. William AV Cecil, or Bill, his grandson, made sure the doors would stay open after he died. Read on for a “different” Vanderbilt story and to find out how the family’s wealth changed over time.
Men of Biltmore
George Washington Vanderbilt was ahead of his time, kind of like Elon Musk. Not because he was rich, but because he was smart and came up with new ideas. He built a dynamo generator that gave power to the whole house, including the first electric-powered elevator in North Carolina and the lights that tell the staff to come to work.
George had planned for Biltmore to be self-sufficient even before he started building it. He set up his land so that it was perfect for farming and raising animals.
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Bill used his grandfather’s efforts as a base to secure the future of Biltmore Estate. He invited tourists not only to make money to pay for the upkeep of a huge property but also to show off how beautiful the area around Asheville was.
But it must have cost a lot to keep a 175,000-square-foot house in perfect shape for more than a century. Did the master of Biltmore ever make money by making his family home a tourist attraction?
When William AV Cecil died in 2017, his estimated net worth was $10,1 billion.
Who Are the Vanderbilts?
“The Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt
The legendary wealth of the Vanderbilt family began with a $100 loan in 1810. Cornelius, who was 16 at the time, got the money from his mother in exchange for working on 8 acres of land. Today, that $100 is only worth about $2,100. A small seed that grew into a fortune of $100 million by the time he died in 1877.
He was a descendant of Jan Aertson, a farmer from the Dutch village of De Bilt in the city of Utrecht. In 1640, he moved to New Amsterdam. There, he worked as a slave for three years for a man named Peter Wholfersten to pay for his way to the United States.
Soon before he got married, Aertson added “van der Bilt” to his name. The name means “of the Bilt,” but it became one word, Vanderbilt, over time.
Cornelius took out a $100 loan and used it to buy a small boat and start a business moving people and goods between Staten Island and Manhattan.
In more than one way, his hard work paid off. Cornelius was able to make a good living and also met Thomas Gibbons, who ran a ferry business. Cornelius learned how to manage and run a big business by working for the man.
He started his business with a small sailboat with two masts. He grew his business and turned it into a steamboat business. After he ruled the seas, Cornelius turned his attention to the land and began building his railroad empire. The New York Central railroad was part of this.
When he died in 1877, Cornelius Vanderbilt had saved up $100 million, making him the richest person in the country.
Fall of the Vanderbilts
Billy Vanderbilt, Cornelius’s son, followed his father’s lead and was able to double the amount of money he was given. By 1883, he was the richest person in the world. His estimated net worth was $200 million. Unfortunately, his children and grandchildren would waste all of the family’s money.
After the Civil War, the industrial boom in New York made the richest people fight over building factories and homes that looked like palaces. The Gilded Age was the name for this time.
The Vanderbilt heirs were nothing like the Commodore or his son, who were both business people. As better ways to get around became more popular after the boom, the family business started to lose money.
Keeping Up With The 400
Instead of securing their holdings again, the Vanderbilts didn’t make any exceptions and splurged on everything and anything that wealthy people at the time liked.
Willie Vanderbilt’s wife built the Petit Chateau so that they could be on The Four Hundred, a list of the most important people in New York. It was called that because Mrs. Caroline Astor’s ballroom could comfortably fit 400 people.
So that they could keep up with the best people in society, the other wealthy families had to build bigger and fancier estates to beat them.
By the 1920s, however, almost none of these houses would still be standing. People who used to be rich had to sell their homes to pay taxes and other bills they owed. They had to sell because they had already spent all the money they got from their “billionaire” self-made great-grandfather.
The houses were torn down to make room for a new real estate project. Then, by the time of World War II, this family, which was one of the richest in America and owned a lot of land, was barely getting by.
George Washington Vanderbilt
George was the eighth child and youngest son of William Henry “Billy” Vanderbilt, the oldest son of Cornelius. He was born on November 14, 1862. Being the youngest, he got a much smaller share of his father’s money than the two older sons who were given charge of the family’s money.
He was smart and liked to read and go to the theatre. George was always with his father when they went to other countries and the Americas. He worked on the family farm and loved being close to nature. When it came time to build a home, he was drawn to Asheville’s beautiful scenery.
The Biltmore House
In 1895, it cost almost $6 million to build the house on 30,000 acres. George talked to the family’s architect about building the 250-room, 34-bedroom, 43-bathroom French Renaissance house. The big project had to have its own factory to make bricks and a private railroad to move the materials.
Over the course of six years, the Biltmore house was built, and it is still today the largest private residence in the United States.
George asked two of the best people for advice before building his house. First, there was the family’s architect, Richard Morris Hunt. He designed many historic buildings, like the base of the Statue of Liberty and many of the grand mansions on New York’s Fifth Street during the Gilded Age.
George also hired Fredrick Law Olmsted, a well-known landscape architect from the 1800s, to take care of the woods around the estate.
George studied and used agriscience and horticulture to protect and make the best use of land while getting the most out of nature. He also kept and bred animals to make Biltmore self-sufficient. He didn’t save anything to take care of the forest.
There were many stories about how the lord and lady of the house were kind and helpful to the people who worked for them and to their neighbours. George and his wife gave a lot of money to help people in need and to build the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville.
The only child George and Edith had was a daughter they named Cornelia. On August 22, 1900, she was born. Cornellia inherited a multimillion-dollar estate when her father died on March 6, 1914, from complications from an appendectomy. She was 13 years old at the time.
William AV Cecil
On April 29, 1924, Cornelia married John Francis Amherst Cecil, the son of Lord William Cecil and a member of the British aristocracy. George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil and William Amherst “Bill” Vanderbilt Cecil, their two sons, were a blessing.
William’s great-grandfather, William Henry Vanderbilt, was called Billy, so William was called Bill. He was born on August 17, 1928, as Cornelia and John Francis Cecil’s second and last child.
The public did not know about Bill’s childhood. We know that Cornelia left Asheville in 1932 and never came back. Bill should be about 5 years old at that time. After two years, she got a divorce from her husband. Cornelia went on to get married twice more.
In the end, the estate went to George and Bill, who were brothers. When the older Cecil took most of the land and the farm, Bill was left with an old castle that was falling apart and costing him $250,000 every year in taxes and repairs.
No one thought the mansion could be fixed, and Bill was told over and over again to give up on it. But the more people told Bill he couldn’t do it, the more he wanted to prove them wrong.
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In the early 1960s, Bill took over Biltmore. The estate received national landmark status in 1963.
By 1968, the Biltmore Estate was turning a profit thanks to hard work and innovative marketing methods. Bill could fix up one area at a time after the breakthrough. He also added a vineyard and a winery in 1985, even though most of his peers thought it was a bad idea.
The estate also has a beautiful conservatory, great restaurants and hotels, and a lot of events.
The estate’s revenue was hovering around $30 million in 1995, a century after the Biltmore was built, indicating that Bill was finally generating a fair profit.
Every year, more than 11 million people visit the city of Asheville in North Carolina. This brings in about $2 billion in sales. About one million people visit Biltmore Estate each year.
In the 1960s, if Bill had decided to sell the property, it would not only have been the end of George’s legacy. It would also end the century-old connection between Biltmore and Asheville.
On October 31, 2017, Bill Cecil died. He had lived for 89 years. At the time of his death, it was thought that William AV Cecil was worth $10,1 billion. He is remembered by his wife and two children, Bill Jr. and Dini, who now run the big Vanderbilt house.
Questions People Usually Ask
How Much is William AV Cecil Net Worth?
It was thought that William AV Cecil had a net worth of $10,1 billion. Cecil the elder died in 2017, leaving the Biltmore Estate in great shape for the next generation.
How Much is Biltmore Estate Worth?
The whole Biltmore Estate is thought to be worth $344 million. The amount includes the most recent additions to Biltmore, such as the restaurants, hotels, outbuildings, and private homes. Just like Joseph Safra’s home in Brazil, Biltmore is one of the biggest homes in the world.
Who Owns Biltmore Estate Now?
Bill Cecil’s two children, William “Bill” Cecil Jr. and Diana “Dini” Pickering, now own Biltmore Estate. Bill Jr. is the President and CEO of The Biltmore Company at the moment.
In a conversation with his son Billy, Cornelius Vanderbilt famously said, “any idiot may make money, but it takes a thoughtful man to hold on to it.” It is also said that when the Vanderbilts had a family reunion in 1973, none of the 100 family members who went were millionaires.
The family branch of George Washington Vanderbilt did a much better job of managing their money, but hard times will come and ruin everyone’s fun. Biltmore was close to Bill’s heart, which was a good thing. He took on the impossible task of making his grandfather’s house live again, and he did it thanks to his strong will.
The Vanderbilt story didn’t end with “wasted wealth” because of these men of Biltmore. Their story and legacy are kept in a beautiful castle that is ready for the next hundred years. Do share your thoughts in the comment section below. For more such updates do follow us only on Lee Daily.