Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home of the Week

Now, I know I'm cheating this week by posting Biltmore as the home of the week, but I was fortunate enough to tour this home last week on our vacation. It is not an inexpensive tour, but this home is a lovely piece of American history and has some amazing features. Because we couldn't take pictures IN the home, I'm posting existing pics. Enjoy!

When George Washington Vanderbilt, III welcomed family and friends to Biltmore Estate on Christmas Eve in 1895, his holiday celebration marked the formal opening of the most ambitious home ever conceived in America. For six years, an army of artisans had labored to create a country estate that would rival the great manors of Europe and embody the finest in architecture, landscape planning and interior design.

Boasting four acres of floor space, the 250-room mansion featured 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and an indoor swimming pool. It was appointed with a priceless collection of furnishings and artworks and equipped with every conceivable amenity, from elevators to refrigerators. The surrounding grounds were equally impressive, encompassing 125,000 acres of forests, famrs and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens, and 30 miles of roadways.

He engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century to create the house and grounds: the architect, Richard Morris Hunt (1828-95) and the landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903).

In addition to designed the Vanderbilt family's Marble House and The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and a mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue in Nyew York City, Hunt was also responsible for many major public works, such as the main facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Yorktown Monument in Virginia, and the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.

Olmestead, who trained in engineering and agriculture and was known as the founding father of American landscape architecture, had designed scores of parks, most notably New York's Central Park,t he U.S. Capitol grounds, and the campus of Stanford University in California. An early conservationist, he also consulted in 1864 on the preservation of Yosemite Valley, one of America's first national parks.

This is the original gate house, which is at the entrance of the property. As a visitor, you drive right through it to enter a winding path of lush greenery.
This is the ceiling of the indoor winter garden. When you enter the front of the palatial estate, this is the first room you see.
The Banquet Hall is the largest room in the House, measuring 72 feet long by 42 feet wide with a 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling. Notice the triple fireplace, and the huge chandeliers.
According to the Pictorial Guide to Biltmore, of all the rooms in Biltmore House, the Library best reflects Mr. Vanderbilt's intellect and personaltiy. George Vanderbilt was an avid reader and began acquiring books by age 11. He amassed a collection of more than 23,000 volumes, about 10,000 of which are housed in the Library's walnut stacks. A passage behind the mantel leads to the second floor (not viewed by today's visitors), which provided easy access for guests to select volumes for bedtime reading.
Part of a series of rooms known as the Bachelors' Wing, The Billiard Room provided a retreat for the Vanderbilt's male guests. Conceiled doors on either side of the fireplace lead to other rooms in the wing (not open to tourists, of course).
This is George Vanderbilt's bedroom. It is in the southwest corner of the House, where he could enjoy a commanding view of his property -- from the wooded Deer Park below to Mount Pisgah, 17 miles in the distance. All the family and guest bedrooms had private baths. Staff quarters, on the top floor and in the basement, had smaller bedrooms with shared baths down the halls.
This is Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom. This room was decorated in 1897-98 in preparation for Mr. Vanderbilt's upcoming wedding. After his marriage, it became the private quarters of Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt. When they arrived at the Estate after their European honeymoon, Mrs. Vanderbilt saw her room just as it appears today.

In pictures, this room looks very gaudy. In person, it is stunning, and I would consider a color combination of bright yellow and black in a heartbeat, if I knew the outcome would be as beautiful a room as this one.
This pool is built in the basement of the home. It echoed empty, and one can only imagine the echoes when the family enjoyed the pool 100 years ago.
I loved this bowling alley. Located in the basement, adjacent to the pool, visitors are not allowed into the room itself. The wood floors are in pristine condition.

This post barely scratches the surface of America's most magnificent home. Tours are self-guided, though visitors can rent headphones for a more thorough tour. Because we were travelling with our children, we opted to forego the headphones and catch up on things we might've missed by purchasing a pictorial guide book at the entrance. To be honest, I'd love to go back sometime and take a more indepth look at the art and materials that make up the majesty of what we know as Biltmore.


Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

OK...I was gonna say "Man, they just keep getting bigger and bigger in Austin!"

I remember being blown away by how expensive it was....isn't it like Disney prices??

A colleague's daughter was married there.

I guess I need to go see it one day, eh?

Thanks for the preview!!

sandra/tx said...

The tour costs $40/per person with kids 16 and under free. They charge for just about every little thing, though, so if we'd all rented the headphones, that would've added quite a bit to the overall cost.

You definitely need to see it sometime. I really wish I'd been able to take in more of the details.

Alicia said...

Mike and I toured a few years ago. Fun to think of that era and what it would have been like to have lived such a lifestyle? I think the bowling alley was amazing. Thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous said...

I have been several times and every time I go there is something more to learn or enjoy an annual pass is not much more than a daily pass and you recieve a few free passes as a member and as a member a small discount on retail purchases on a light note remember when this home had 43 toilets most homes in the country did not have indoor toilets at all.