Cecil spent most of his life dedicated to preserving and sharing his family home.

Meghan Overdeep
November 1, 2017

Sad news out of Asheville, North Carolina. William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, owner of the Biltmore Estate who spent much of his life preserving his family home, died at his Asheville home Tuesday, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports. He was 89 years old.

William A.V. Cecil was the younger son of Cornelia Vanderbilt and John F.A. Cecil, and William Vanderbilt’s grandson. He served in the British Navy, and after earning a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, worked in finance. While his parents opened the Biltmore house—the largest in the country—to the public in 1930, the estate reportedly didn’t turn its first profit ($17) until 1969, a decade after he and his wife Mimi returned to Asheville and committed themselves to its success. The estate never did bring in much money, but for Cecil, that was never the point. “We don’t preserve Biltmore to make a profit. We make a profit to preserve Biltmore," he famously often said. He also worked tirelessly to promote tourism in Western North Carolina. Many credit him with creating the Asheville so many know and love today.

“My father’s legacy is immeasurable for our family,” Bill Cecil Jr., William Cecil’s son and president & CEO of the Biltmore Company, which owns and operates Biltmore Estate, said in a press release. “He will always be remembered for his leadership, vision and dedication to Biltmore. He had the foresight to do what everyone thought was impossible."

In its press release, the Biltmore Co. said Cecil's leadership "propelled restorations to Biltmore House, renovations across the estate, and unparalleled growth for the Biltmore Company based on his unique business philosophy of a profitable private enterprise supporting preservation."

A private funeral for family, friends and close associates will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, at All Souls Cathedral in Biltmore Village, followed by a private family burial. A reception will follow 2-5 p.m. at Deerpark on Biltmore Estate.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the “Building Preservation Fund” at All Souls Cathedral, 9 Swan St., Asheville, North Carolina, 28803.