"" Writer's Wanderings: Exploring Biltmore--Part Four

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Exploring Biltmore--Part Four

 Our tour of Biltmore took us up to the second floor and down to the "basement" or the area that had a hallway in it that showed how the foundation of the house looked. Up and down involved the Grand Staircase as well. As we were coming down at one point in our tour, a private tour was headed up to the third floor which was not open to us. At least I'm pretty sure we were never on the third floor. We wandered up and down for two hours. Definitely a place you could get lost in.

In the lower level, we passed through the corridor of layered stone that made up the foundation of the mansion. Even here, there was a bit of Christmas with a wreath that hung at the end of the corridor.

The hallway led us to the bowling alley. Yes, bowling. There were no automated pin setters back then so one of the servants had to manually reset the pins and return the ball. I was surprised that there wasn't a rack of sorts to rack up the pins but with further research, I learned that mechanical pinsetters like the ones I remembered at the old Colonial at Put In Bay, Ohio weren't invented until the 1940s. We kids used to love coaxing the older kids who were hired to set pins to let us do it. You put pins in the rack and pushed a large horizontal lever that put the pins on the alley where they belonged.

Next we walked around the indoor pool. It was really deep and had a diving platform at one end. There were ropes that hung along the side to hold onto if you got tired trying to swim from one end to the other. Just before entering the pool area, there was a row of dressing rooms, some for ladies, others for gentlemen. The ladies had no mirror in the room due to the fact that their lady's maid would dress her and fix her hair.

Next up was the gym or did they call it the fitness center? Whatever, there was a lot of recognizable equipment and some, not to much. The rowing machine was obvious.

Several rooms we passed were for servants and certainly not as lavish as the guest rooms or main bedrooms for the family. The rooms we passed were probably for the kitchen staff since the kitchen was just around the corner. They could just roll out of bed quickly and get breakfast started.

There was a rotisserie kitchen that had a large spit that could hold a lot of chickens or a huge chunk of meat. It actually had a bit of a roasted meat smell in the room. Or maybe I was just getting hungry.

Through the door, we entered the large kitchen with the working stove, large warming cupboards and a huge working station that displayed a perfect replica of the Biltmore mansion in gingerbread. Bob was quite envious. That's his thing each Christmas. 

Just off the kitchen was a small dining room for the serving staff. Obviously they did not all eat at the same time as I'm sure the table wasn't large enough. According to the voice on our audio guide, they also sat around the table according to rank. 

Besides the pantries and a walk in cooling room (refrigerator), the other important rooms here made up the laundry area. A huge tub was used for the larger items like linens. Several sinks lined one wall and that was for hand laundry, those items that were of fine fabric that needed delicate attention. 

In one room, there were drying racks for the bed sheets. They were large drying racks that you would hang the wet sheet on and then push them back into the drying cabinet. There was also a large mangle for the tablecloths, one of which was 35 feet long. Of course there was also an ironing board and what was said to be a very heavy iron.

Toward the end of our tour as we explored the smoking room and as we were about to exit, we found an open door to the banquet hall that offered one more stunning look at the elegant room. 

Yup, I was ready for lunch.

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