Biltmore Estates

May 28, 2007 at 11:36 pm 2 comments

Saturday afternoon, while the dogs were disturbance-free in the hotel room, Sean and I visited Biltmore Estates.  Biltmore was built in 1895 by the Vanderbilt family and believe it or not, with its mere 250 rooms it still remains America’s largest home. 

Let me put the Biltmore’s scale in a hiking perspective.  Last weekend, I hiked 12.2 miles with great enthusiasm and no physical side effects.  This weekend, I had only walked through only 1/10 of the Biltmore rooms (about halfway through the tour) and my feet already hurt and my interest was wanning.  Of course, that was before I reached the basement and discovered this home also had an indoor pool and a bowling alley.  My interest did perk up again at that point.  Some other impressions from our visit follow.

The Triumph of Charity
This place was extremely extravagant.  Extremely.  Italian leather lined the walls of one room.  Another room featured Napolean’s chess set.  Thousands of expensive first edition books lined the hallways.  One room’s walls were dusted with 14 carat gold.  Room after room after room featured frivilous items.  And then we come into the Tapestry room.  In the Tapestry room hangs three giant, very old (I think 15th century) tapestries.   One depicts the “Triumph of Faith”, another “The Triumph of Prudence” and finally the third one, “The Triumph of Charity.”

The Triumph of Charity?  You’ve got to be kidding me. 

I think the creators of the audio tour (well worth the extra four dollars by the way) may have anticipated my skeptical thoughts.  Two floors later, when we were looking at the servants’ modest quarters a woman curator pointed out that the Vanderbilts gave back to the community and that they (possibly paraphrased) “took every opportunity to share their wealth.”

This home had 31 guest rooms, 43 bathrooms, 125,000 acres of land and held 70,000 gallons of water in their indoor pool.  Yeah, I think they may have missed some of those opportunities to share their wealth.  And with Sean and I having to pay over 90 dollars to get into the estate, it seems to me, there are some modern opportunities available to share the wealth as well.  🙂

The Triumph of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel
The house may have made me feel awkward, but I fell completely in love with the grounds.  There is a deliberate three mile approach to the house.  You wind through what appears to be a very indigenous area.  Blooming mountain laurels and rhododendrons lined the way. 

“I like that they kept all this instead of bringing other stuff in,” I told Sean.


Blooming Mountain Laurel

Later on the tour I found that vegetation was just as deliberate as everything in the house.  Frederick Law Olmstead planned the landscaping and used area plants so that it would appear natural to future generations.  Kudos to him.  He did his job well.  On a side note, Olmstead has quite an impressive resume of landscaping accomplishments… including New York City’s Central Park.

My Second Favorite Portrait
I don’t think portraits are a favorite medium of mine.  Off the top of my head, I do like that one of JFK reflecting.  My favorite portrait would be one that was done of my mother when she was a high school student.  I’ll always remember Jeremy Turner looking up at the portrait and declaring my mom hot.  Now, I have a second favorite!  Hanging in the Biltmore, a portrait of a man caught my eye.  He was surrounded by mountain laurel and rhododendron.  The fact that he chose to be depicted in that setting capitivated me.  It turns out it is Frederick Law Olmstead– the very man whose landscape work I had been admiring outside! 

 
My third and second favorite portraits – JFK and Frederick Law Olmstead

The Gardens
After the tour, Sean and I walked through the gardens and took a stroll to the Bass Pond.  Here are some of my favorite shots:


A cool tree helps cover a terrace


Brick bridge over the bass pond


This red holly leaf makes the plant more fitting for Christmas


Canadian Goose looking back at me

I may have balked at the price, but Sean and I had a great time and did end up getting our money’s worth.  More pictures from our Biltmore visit are available on my Flickr site.

Entry filed under: Asheville, Biltmore Estate, Frederick Law Olmstead, Mountain Laurel, North Carolina, Rhododendron, Travel.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  May 29, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    I think it’s “waning”. $90 to see some old house though? We didn’t even see Siegfried & Roy for $90…. That’s.. a lot. Though I guess if you’re already paying a bunch to travel, you may as well!

    Reply
  • 2. Thanks a Lot, Google. « TGAW  |  April 25, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    […] But that is okay– I am extremely satisfied with the current shrub combination.  It’s like a mini-Biltmore Estates! […]

    Reply

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