We had originally scheduled a trip to Biltmore, outside of Asheville, NC, and then on to Hilton Head, SC, for the spring of 2017. However, we had to cancel to care for our rapidly aging rescue poodle, the gentlemanly KC.
We had discussed visiting Biltmore, the vast Vanderbilt mansion and estate, for years. Thus, we set off with a great sense of anticipation. Too often, the reality does not live up to the expectation. This time, it far exceeded it.
We took a rooftop tour, climbing the vast staircase to the 4th floor, out a window on one side, back in, and out another on the other side. The views, including close ups of many gargoyles and other grotesqueries, were magnificent. The opportunity to gain an understanding of the infrastructure of what is essentially a modern brick and steel building was an unexpected bonus.
A quick break, with a stop at the on-site ice cream parlor, and then we took the self-guided tour, from basement to the 3rd floor bedrooms. A ride on the original elevator. A view down to the subbasement, which is only on the premier tour – for the next visit, and there will be a next visit.
Another break, and some slow exploration of the nearest of the many formal gardens, and it was time for the bus tour, with several stops, of the larger estate. First, we climbed to see the evidence of a railway, built to haul in construction materials, and then dismantled.
A walk around the relocated churchyard and cemetery of the freed slave village of Shiloh. Which included the chance to see the intertwined oaks that grew out of the joint graves of a loving couple.
A stop at the water projects that assured a surplus of pure water for all estate purposes, from filling the swimming pool, to the laundry, personal consumption, and even the operation of the now gone dairy.
Good food. Comfortable accommodations. An easy destination to recommend.
Of course, I took many photos. I have grouped them into four sets. The art glass displayed throughout the estate is a large installation by the sculptor Chihuly.
1. The building, starting with one view of a scale model.
2. The original estate grounds covered over 195 square miles, bigger than the nation of Andorra. Today it covers just under 11 square miles, slightly smaller than Lichtenstein, but larger than Monaco. The grounds extended, just in one direction, from the house beyond the first mountain range, 13 miles distant.
The first shots of bare ground show the bed of the railway, with Shiloh and the water control project after.
3. The house tour starts with the atrium and moves to the enormous formal dining room, complete with working pipe organ. Then the family quarters, including a small dining room, complete with a Renoir.
Art is not limited to a single area. From an enormous Durer woodcut print to the crafting of the large main entry chandelier, ceilings, and the glass elevator door, the Renoir and a copy of the Rembrandt “Night Watch.”
Even the infrastructure shows attention to detail, with a view to the artistic, that dominates the living quarters.
4. Finally, Vanderbilt wanted Biltmore to emulate a renaissance French chateau, complete with gargoyles – many gargoyles, grotesqueries, friezes, and statuary.
Next, on to Hilton Head!