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

Friday, January 05, 2024

Exploring Biltmore--Part Two

 At ten in the morning, we joined the line of those whose tickets were timed at 10:15. It was a cold wait to get past the next ticket taker who directed us to the front steps. where we waited another minute or two to be waved ahead to the door, stopped and then waved again into the foyer where a lady was set up with audio guide phones. Each of us got one and we were directed to proceed. 

The center area of the entry was a domed atrium filled with all sorts of plants and Christmas decorations. Already I was in awe. We listened to the short commentary that welcomed us and invited us to move on through the mansion at our leisure. Each room or hallway had a sign that indicated what number to press on your audio guide to listen. 

The house spans 175,000 square feet (four acres of floor space) and was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. It has 250 rooms which includes 35 bedrooms, 45 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The fireplaces are now gas fed but there used to be a young man whose only job was to keep them stoked and replenished with wood. I don't think the count of bedrooms includes all the servant quarters. We were shown several examples of women servants' rooms in the house. The guys had rooms in the stable.

To build the mansion at its elevation, a railroad track had to be laid to accommodate the delivery of building materials. Thank goodness, I guess, for the family's background in railroads.

Our first glimpse into a room was of the billiards room. Of course it was the male domain. Somewhere to the right of the fireplace was a secret door that led to a smoking room. We saw it from the smoking room but to see it from the billiard room was almost impossible.

Next on my camera roll is the banquet hall. There was so much to see, that I couldn't take pictures of it all so bear with me. A triple fireplace graced one end and a huge tree was on the opposite end. It was the place where the Vanderbilts entertained their guests with dinner and of course it was always a formal occasion. 

A little further along, we came upon the breakfast room which was a bit smaller, less formal, and used for breakfast and lunch. The table settings were beautiful though.

George Vanderbilt was not only a conservationist when it came to the land but he was also a lover of the arts and there are many original paintings hung around the mansion, many from the Impressionist era, Renoir, Monet. I was beginning to like this guy. Impressionism is my favorite too.

The music room held comfortable seating around a fireplace with a spinet piano or harpsicord visible. In the center, it looked like a music stand where violinists might sit to play. 

At one point, we could look out a window at a long balcony that had a view of the mountains. It wasn't hard to see why the Vanderbilts fell in love with this area even on a cloudy cold day, the beauty was undeniable.

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