Biltmore House

A trip to the Asheville area would be incomplete without a visit to the Biltmore House. Janet and I got an early start and managed to stay ahead of the crowds for most of the day.
George Vanderbilt officially opened the house on Christmas Eve of 1895. It took six years to build, and was still unfinished at his grand opening party, taking an additional three years to complete. The family still ownes the estate, though no one lives there now.
George Vanderbilt contracted two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century, architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-95) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), to create the building and surrounding grounds on 8,000 acres of farmland in Appalachia.
Hunt modeled the architecture on the richly ornamented style of the French Renaissance and adapted elements, such as the stair tower and the steeply pitched roof, from three famous early-16th-century ch√Ęteaux in the Loire Valley.
In an attempt to bolster the economy during the Depression, Vanderbilt's only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, and her husband, John Amherst Cecil, opened Biltmore House to lease until 1956, when it was permanently opened to the public as a house museum. It remains a major tourist attraction, with more than 1 million visitors each year.
The house has 4 acres of floor space. The 250-room mansion features 34 master bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, and an indoor swimming pool. The surrounding grounds are equally impressive, encompassing 125,000 acres of forest, park, and gardens
Biltmore was very much a home. Vanderbilt pursued his interests in art, literature, and horticulture, and also started a family at the Estate. He married American socialite Edith Stuyvesant Dresser (1873-1958) in June 1898 in Paris, and the couple came to live at the Estate after their honeymoon in Europe. Their only child, Cornelia (1900-1976), was born and grew up at Biltmore.
Frederick Law Olmstead was the leading landscape architect of the post-Civil War generation, and has long been acknowledged as the founder of American landscape architecture (he designed Central Park in New York City). The last great project that Olmsted was involved with was the 120,000 acre Biltmore Estate.

Unlike many of the public projects that Olmsted had previously worked on, Vanderbilt had the resources to carry out all of Olmsted's plans. Vanderbilt wanted an English manner style estate.

Olmsted chose a variety of vegetation to work with. The gardens won him praise from many horticulturists during his lifetime, and they continue to impress today.

Janet has been to Biltmore many times, but she tends to visit during Christmas, when the rooms are filled with decorations and Christmas trees. This was her first visit to the Estate during the summer when the gardens were in bloom.

Always fascinating. Always more to see with each visit. The American Institute of Architects ranks Biltmore eighth among 150 buildings in its America’s Favorite Architecture listing. We'll always visit whenever we're in the area.

Connemara - The Carl Sandburg Home

Another outing included a quick trip to Connemara, the last home of Carl Sanburg. Janet and I kidnapped Wendy to go along with us, and while it rained when we first arrived, the sun came out as we walked through the grounds and approached the house.

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 - July 22, 1967) best known for his poetry ("Chicago"; "Fog"). He won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. Carl Sandburg was recognized as "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."
The grounds include a pond at the bottom of the hill, the first notable feature that greets visitors when they enter the property.
From the pond, the house is a short walk up a driveway that winds the hill.
The property displays North Carolina beauty in all its lush simplicity.
The Irish name Connemara, which derives from Conmhaicne Mara (meaning: of the sea), refers to a district in the west of Ireland. The Sandburg family did not name the farm Connemara. They simply kept the name that the former owners had given it.

Chimney Rock and Lake Lure

Our last big excursion was with Mom. We drove from Hendersonville down to Lake Lure, which rests at the bottom of Chimney Rock State Park, for a boat trip on the lake and lunch in town, which made for a very pleasant day.

Chimney Rock has been a tourist destination in western North Carolina since a crude stairway was built to the rock’s summit in 1885.

Lake Lure sits in the heart of Hickory Nut Gorge. The Rocky Broad River winds its way in a series of rapids down through Hickory Nut Gap to spill into the lake. This crystal clear water flows through a valley shaped roughly in the form of a Maltese cross to make Lake Lure.
The lake is approximately 720 acres, with about twenty-one miles of shoreline.
Wide stretches of water, three long bays, an island of seven acres and many small bays and inlets with a background of forested hills and mountains makes a boat tour of the lake a restful and rewarding experience. Mom has gone on the boat trip around the lake many times, and never tires of the ride and the views.

No matter if its large, medium, or small, real estate is pricey! I spent some time on a web-search of real estate found nothing less than $595,000, with most properties listed in the millions!

Lake Lure also has had its share of Hollywood business. A decision to film The Last of the Mohicans in the area after the production team decided landscape in New York wasn't dramatic enough resulted in a loin-clothed Daniel Day Lewis running up and down the hills surrounding the lake. The famous lake scenes in Dirty Dancing were also shot on Lake Lure.
National Geographic has called Lake Lure one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the world. And Janet, Mom and I certainly wouldn't beg to differ.