Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Vanderbilt Town

It is said that George Washington Vanderbilt, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt and grandson of the famous steamboat/railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, enjoyed visiting western North Carolina so much that he ended up buying the place.  Well, 125,000 acres to be exact.

Calling Asheville a Vanderbilt "town" is not quite accurate, but it is safe to say that the Vanderbilts left their mark on the area.  And were they ever huge marks.  Their most famous landmark, the Biltmore House, covers 4 acres all by itself.  There is Biltmore Forest, Biltmore Village, and...the Pisgah National Forest.  No, that isn't a misprint.

When your property is turned into a National Forest, you know you have arrived.  (bad, bad transportation pun....)

No...I'm not going to post pictures of the Biltmore House.  That is because I didn't go there.  Going there is like going to a small city.  It has to be a destination in itself, and you could easily spend a couple of days (and spend a small fortune-which, unlike the Vanderbilts or their related family who now own Biltmore House, the Cecils-my spouse and I do not possess.)

I'd like to visit one day though, as the Cecil/Vanderbilt legacy includes one of (quoting from their website) "self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship of our natural resources, protection of the integrity of our mountains, and commitment to ensuring our community remains a model for living well and living purposefully."  I'd like to investigate that further.

Biltmore wine was sold all over Asheville.  I wish I could have toured the winery without paying the very steep admission charge to the estate.  But we'll save up for next time, and I think there will be a next time.

What we did visit, briefly, was Biltmore Village.  Generally, I am not into upscale shopping but this was worth a visit for the historical content.
Some of the original buildings are still there such as the All Souls Cathedral built as a house of worship for Biltmore workers.

I would post one caution about Biltmore Village though: because these are historic buildings, some have stairs in the front and may not be handicapped accessible. (this is a personal concern to me as I have knee problems).  There may be other ways to get into some of the shops without climbing stairs, but I was on a tight time schedule and I didn't have time to check that out.

But:  do come for the history.

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