The Last Castle

Book Review of
The Last Castle

Author: Denise Kiernan
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Publisher Summary:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Girls of Atomic City comes the fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.

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 on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. 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.

The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The Last Castle is the unique American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.

Lynn's Review

The Last Castle

I love non-fiction books, but they aren’t always well written. This book though, The Last Castle, is a well written fascinating non-ficiton read. I knew very little about Biltmore and the Vanderbilt family, so I loved that aspect of the book. But I also loved that this book contained so much history in general. From basic facts about presidents, Europe, the depression, to lesser known facts about forestry and architecture in American. Now someday, I just need to visit Biltmore.

2 thoughts on “The Last Castle”

  1. I’m halfway through this as my non-fiction book for North Carolina. Having visited Biltmore a few years ago, it’s really enjoyable to read about how it was built and easy to recall things such as the laundry room and indoor swimming pool as they are described in the book. I hope you get to visit there someday as it’s a really remarkable and beautiful place.

    Do you ever find yourself being led down a rabbit trail when one book mentions another? The focus on George Vanderbilt’s friendship with Paul Leicester Ford now has me curious about Ford’s book “Janice Meredith”, which I’d never heard of before but now am quite interested in. Does this often happen to you too?

    • I am so glad that you are enjoying The Last Castle! Sorry it took so long for me to reply to you…Yes, I often get led down a rabbit hole when it comes to books or subjects of books. That is one of the main reasons my TBR pile and my Amazon wish list are so big. 🙂 And I would also love to see Biltmore. It is on my list of place I hope to visit in the next few years.


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