As far as history is concerned, George Vanderbilt, his family and their descendants were quite fond of dogs, especially St. Bernards. Biltmore was also home to Russian wolfhounds, sheepdogs and the family’s other pets. George Vanderbilt’s first pet at Biltmore was a trusted St. Bernard named Cedric.
Life was good for a pet of the Vanderbilts. Cedric not only had free reign of at least the first floor of Biltmore House, which he often spent lounging in the Library or Billiard Room or sunning himself on the Loggia, but he also frequently accompanied his master and other family members on excursions throughout their vast estate.
George must have had a particular affinity for this breed of dog, for he owned a whole family of St. Bernards by 1901. During a visit to Biltmore, guest Joseph Hodges Choate, the American Ambassador to Great Britain, appeared to be quite fascinated with the dogs. He wrote his wife, “I shall not attempt to describe the house, which is obviously the finest in America, but the dogs are truly magnificent, and the baby a very lovely one—now six months old… I wish you could see these great St. Bernards—five of them, father, mother and three children, all big and splendid. They seem to fill the billiard-room and are most affectionate.”
Of all of the Vanderbilts’ dogs, Cedric was particularly beloved by family and friends alike. He was a close companion day in and day out, greeted guests when they came to Biltmore, and was there for the family’s special occasions. When George and Edith planted a cucumber magnolia tree in the gardens below Biltmore House to commemorate the birth of Cornelia, Cedric was there. The only other people present at this private family event were Cornelia’s nanny, family friend Dr. Westray Battle, who was in attendance at Cornelia’s birth, and trusted family friend and Nursery Superintendent Chauncey Beadle.
Photos are attributed to The Biltmore Company.