Biltmore opened to the public in 1930 as a means of promoting tourism in Asheville. Located on the first floor of the Biltmore House, the Music room was largely left unfinished until 1976.
During World War II, as a favor to David Finley, Director of the National Gallery of Art, Edit Vanderbilt agreed to store priceless paintings and sculptures to prevent any possible damage. On January 8, 1942, 62 paintings (including one of Gilbert Stuart’s iconic portraits of George Washington) and 17 sculptures arrived in Asheville under heavy guard.
The estate had retrofitted the Music room by installing steel vaulted doors and vertical steel shelving from which the paintings could be hung. They also installed draperies over those steel vaulted doors so nothing would look out of place. Guests simply walked right by the room where the art was being kept. They had no idea that some of the nation's priceless treasures were a few feet away.
The priceless artwork remained under 24-hour armed guard in America’s largest home until the fall of 1944, well after the danger of bombings or invasion had ended.
In 1944 when the war ended and the art was returned to Washington, the National Gallery of Art finally told the story of where the art had been stored throughout the duration of the war