Monday’s Meander: A Biltmore Estate Visit

Let’s slip over to North Carolina awhile, in the Asheville area. Though mansions are not at the top of my list of things to see, I am about to showcase one. I need a break from the many water scenes that saturate (I know…sorry) my life: steady drumming of winter rain on roof, dripping off branches and leaves of bushes and my nose. The many river and ocean photos. I nearly reposted a blog piece from 2017, also about the trip to this place–it garnered 62 “likes”, to my surprise. But this time I want to focus on the palatial home rather than philosophize about beauty/art/nature and so on. Let the pictures speak…

Still, a little history. The American (of Dutch origin) Vanderbilts were industrial magnates, their wealth too much for most of us to fathom. Since visiting I sometimes muse over Anderson Cooper, television journalist and author, and his family history. I have respect for his work. Matriarchal grandparents, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, had tremendous financial prowess rooted in shipping and railroad empires. Reginald was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt (his father, the writer Wyatt Cooper, died at age 50) was an heiress but became a famous artist and fashion designer. (I’m certain to have worn her jeans in young adulthood–surprisingly somewhat affordable.) The descendants are many; several became famous in their chosen fields.

The Vanderbilts had a great many houses between various successful relatives. Most have been torn down or were finally turned into museums. The Biltmore Estate is the latter though still owned by descendants. Conceived by George Washington Vanderbilt, a country gentleman due to his inheritance, it was built between 1889-1895 in the grand French Revivalist style. He purchased 125,000 acres; the estate was self-sustaining with farming and animal husbandry. The house remains the largest privately owned home in the U.S. with 250 rooms–or, put another way per Wikipedia, 4 acres of floor space. On top of all this, Vanderbilt created nearby attractive Biltmore Village for his servants to live in, handy and one would think also generous.

All this is interesting historically but the estate was a peculiar, intriguing feast for the eyes as we wove through rooms–often in the middle of a large group and usually in shadow as it is not well lit. Trying to think of dinner in the dining room, billiards in the game room, music in the music room….and how did one figure out which of countless bedrooms to slumber within? The preserved furniture, valuable objects and decorative touches were curious to observe. Much of it was heavy, dark toned. The staiurc ases were beautiful. Finally we got to wander amid a garden or two.

Marc had not wanted to go. It was later in morning so our visit would be shorter than I’d hoped; there was a pricey entrance fee and rain threatened (but held off). I wanted to explore a place so unusual as this–then fell in love with the North Carolina and estate area landscape. I did admire certain details, features of the mansion, and was struck often by its immensity–the architectural engineering of such a behemoth. I cannot, however, imagine such an extreme sort of lifestyle…and preferred to think of wandering about the rolling land, writing poems, listening to birds….riding horseback here and there, though I am not too experienced!

Let’s start with a slide show.

Marc taking in the acreage

If interested in the original post, it is here: https://talesforlife.blog/2017/06/28/behold-what-the-eye-can-see/