Historic homes add a sense of elegance and homestyle warmth to meetings, offering a refreshing change in pace from the usual conference center or boardroom. Groups can convene inside the house or a neighboring venue for their corporate retreat and then stretch their legs with a guided tour of the beautiful estate.
With so many incredible historic sites across the country to choose from, here are five premier locations to consider for your next event.
The Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina
It is impossible to talk about historic homes in the United States without mentioning the palatial Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Nestled in the wooded hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 250-room French Renaissance chateau was constructed from 1884 to 1895 by George Vanderbilt, the grandson of the renowned railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Upon completion, the 175,000-square-foot mansion included 43 bathrooms, 35 bedrooms, a banquet hall with a 70-foot ceiling, a library with 10,000 volumes and an indoor bowling alley.
When groups tour the three-story chateau today, they will notice ornate vintage furniture, 16th-century tapestries and original paintings from celebrated artists like Pierre Renoir and John Singer Sargent. Designed by legendary landscape artist Frederick Law Olmsted, the surrounding Italian Gardens feature 2.5 miles of walking paths and more than 250 varieties of roses in the Rose Garden alone.
In addition, attendees can stay on-site at the casual-style Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate or the more luxurious Inn on Biltmore Estate, enjoying accommodations, dining and shopping all in one spectacular location.
With over a dozen venues on the estate, planners are sure to find a location that meets their needs. In Antler Hill Village, Antler Hill Barn offers 3,200 square feet of meeting space. Deerpark North Side, a beautiful covered venue that accommodates up to 300 guests, connects to Deerpark Restaurant as well as a 700-seat outdoor courtyard. The historic Lioncrest structure once served as the headquarters for the Biltmore dairy operation and features a wide variety of meeting spaces, including a 2,900-square-foot ballroom and a 3,000-square-foot veranda. One of the most scenic venues is Diana at Biltmore, a hilltop, open-air space based around a statue of Diana and surrounded by a lush grove of hemlock trees. The site can host to 300 guests for a reception or dinner event.
Meeting groups can also take advantage of the estate’s special group experiences, such as the Wine and Chocolate Tasting or the Candlelight Winery Tour.
Philbrook Museum of Art
Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Philbrook Museum of Art combines both art and historic architecture. The original Italian Renaissance villa was commissioned in 1927 by a wealthy local businessman named Waite Phillips as a home for his wife and family. After living in the house for merely 11 years, Waite and Genevieve Phillips decided to donate their exquisite 72-room mansion to the city as a public art center. Now, 80 years later, the museum houses a fantastic art collection that represents African, American, Asian, European, Native American and modern works. Guided tours are offered daily free of charge.
In addition to three levels of art galleries, the property includes 25 acres of stunning Italianate gardens with a winding creek, a sculpture walk and a white-pillared gazebo. This spring, the museum plans to introduce a full-scale cabin composed almost entirely of stained glass as a new permanent installation in the gardens. Myriad colorful stained-glass pieces will fill the windows, the roof and the spaces between wall boards, creating a glowing, patchwork-quilt effect with the help of embedded LED lights.
Planners will discover numerous ways to take advantage of this unique property for their events or meetings. The oval-shaped Charles P. Williams room on the first level provides the largest dedicated meeting venue in the museum, with 2,500 square feet of space. In the elegant Rotunda at the museum entrance, up to 300 attendees can dine under the lighted dome, with tall white columns that circle the room. Other venues include the 250-seat Wilson Hall auditorium and the more-intimate 20-seat Education Center.
After business hours, La Villa Restaurant becomes available for rent as well; it accommodates up to 120 guests for a seated dinner or 200 for a reception. The restaurant contains beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlook the surrounding gardens and connects to a spacious villa terrace.