Sunday, July 31, 2011

Okay, so I stole this

 Okay, right up front, I found this online and I liked it so I am sharing it here ;-)

Love begins when acceptance is present
Patience thrives were tolerance exists
Confidence grows when encouragement smiles
That Apprehension shows where ever fear abounds
That Condemnation follows where criticism has ruled

That Appreciation is an award shown by praise
That Recognition is given when goals are met
That Aggression cannot live without hostility
That Education is a way of overcoming ignorance
That Moderation is the safety valve of indulgence
That Discipline is a series of sound investments in character
That Truth is ever present where honesty lives

That Faith in oneself and others starts with security
That Justice has a way of finding it's foundation of fairness
That Forgiveness is a privilege extended to all but enjoyed by few
That Kindliness is a priceless commodity found in abundance among all peoples
That Friendliness is a boundless freedom offered by the world in which we live

Is this my parenting style? Not so much, but like everyone else, I hope, I am working on it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I died and went to Heaven...

I have been dreaming about this trip for a long time. I think I was about six years old when my grandparents went to the Biltmore House in Ashville, NC. They brought back a souvenir book and once I found it, my sense of grand proportions were forever to be altered. If you know how massive this house is, you understand my meaning I am sure. I fell in love at the tender age of six and have had a trip to the Biltmore on my "bucket list" ever since. To my delight, I was finally able to go with Mr. Darcy last week and it was not a disappointment in the least! Here are some of the shots around the estate that were permissable, and maybe a few that weren't! It's a breathtaking, historic and fascinating spot carried on by family ingenuity. I highly recommend an extended stay! The Biltmore House was built by Richard Morris Hunt for George Washington Vanderbilt (grandson of the Commodore, Cornelius Vanderbilt) from 1889-1895 and encompasses 175,000 square feet with 250 rooms. The Father of American Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmstead was contracted to landscape 125,000 acres of land into pastoral "managed" forest, lake, pond, reflecting pools, a scenic one-hour drive to the house from the entrance and all the picturesque walled and Italian gardens on the estate grounds. In 1898, the Biltmore family established the first Forestry School in America which is the original source of fame for the property over and above the ticket sales to the house which began in 1930 when the local government asked the Cecil family (the Vanderbilt's only daughter and her husband) to open the house to help with the local economy. Today the house brings one million visitors each year with a peak season in October, November and December.
Conservatory in the Walled Garden.

Glass dome roof of the conservatory.

The Walled Garden entrance showing the side of the Conservatory.

Landscape outside the Walled Garden.

Inside the Conservatory.

Inside the Conservatory.

Conservatory facade.

These terra cotta tiles protect the mortar in the stone and brickwork.

Handmade lattice up the walk of the Walled Garden dripping with grapes.

Conservatory front view.

This was a pretty Maypole arrangement in the Walled Garden.

Lots of great blooms for July's heat!

Gardener's cottage inside the Walled Garden.

Spires of the Biltmore House from the rear of the property.

Entrance Arch to the Walled Garden.

This is the top of the Glass ceiling of the interior Garden Room viewed from the servant quarters.

A limestone carving of a grotesque.

Grotesques were purely ornamental unlike gargoyles which functioned as spouts.

Fabulous leaded windows.

Water gardens on the side of Esplanade facing the house.

View of the water gardens with the house at my back.

Terrace of tree vines, completely magical!

A statuary in the water gardens.

There were fish and spiky plants to keep the birds from poaching!

Is this fabulous or what?! Gorgeous Water Gardens!

This is the view of the Biltmore House once you turn in after what
was intended to be a one hour horse and buggy drive in Olmstead's pastoral landscape.

This is the retaining wall and fountain that face the Biltmore House facade.

The dome here is for the Garden Room just to the right of the front door entrance.

A close up view of the retaining wall. Turtles spout water at the bottom. 

This is the statuary at the top of the hill above the retaining wall. Lots of Italian landscape elements.

There is a stable, and horseback tours as well as the ability to board your own horse.

Breakfast at the Inn on Biltmore-absolute best breakfast buffet I have ever had!

The fireplace in the dining room where we had dinner to celebrate our anniversary.

A fountain in Antler Hill Village below the Inn where the winery, farm and kitchen gardens were located. 

This is the interior of the winery which used to be the dairy back in George Vanderbilt's original design.

They use these barrels three times and then sell them to gardeners.

This is the Stevens Durriere that Edith Vanderbilt chose to paint creme and black and
had her initials placed on the door.

A picturesque fountain outside the door of the Biltmore Winery, the most visited winery in America.

Here is a small portion of the vineyard below the Inn and above the Winery. We understood
there to be another 8,000 acres off site where they also have vineyards.

Enjoying tea in the library, mayan and honey. Fantastic view and perfectly brewed tea. Sigh.

This is the market, a brick-floored area, where they washed vegetables before taking them to the
big house and off to market to sell. There were multiple pantries in the basement of Biltmore for produce.
They have a villa next door you can rent overnight with
a personal butler for the duration of your stay!

Some of the prized cattle on the estate.

This is the kitchen garden outside the farm and barn area.

This is the barn for the horses. Across the street, there is a donkey that protects the chickens.
According to our guide, he thinks he is a chicken too! 

A good view of Anter Hill Village below the Inn.

A view from the far end of the property with the Biltmore House in view above the trees.

On the right hour, the reflection of the house is apparent in the water of the lake.

What a beautiful home. It's unbelievable that it is privately owned and mostly original
materials and still in working condition. Bravo to the Vanderbilt-Cecil family!

The picturesque lake on the property.

This waterfall used the same system as the bass pond and separates out the mud from the
clear waters with a fluse system. Olmstead was the father of American Landscape architecture
and things like this explain why!

It's hard to believe this land was barren from European farmers while George Vanderbilt was buying it up acres at a time.
Olmstead transformed it into a show place that became a forestry school, the original means of sustaining the estate over
and above admission to the house.

A view of the bass pond kept clear with the fluse system.

There are reflecting pools like this all over the drive and the estate meant intentionally to slow the pace and
relax the mind for a peaceful visit to Biltmore.

This is the reservoir that kept all the water. Built at a specific elevation, it produced enough water
pressure alone to make it to the top floor of Biltmore.

This is the front entrance to the house.

Indiana limestone was scored for exteriors to stand up to weather conditions.

It took 1,000 workers six years to build Richard Morris Hunt's Biltmore.

This is a view of the "backyard" off a terrace on the rooftop tours.

The exterior of the house has a Gothic feel and is based on the design of
three chateaux in Europe.

There are a great deal of oxidized copper treasures like this on the roofline.

George Vanderbilt put his "GV" on the roofline at the spires along with
his signature acorns meaning strength and growth.

The walls are about 1.5 feet thick interior space with smooth limestone on the inside and scored limestone on the outside. The interior of the house feels very Victorian and English to me.

A view on the Butler's tour of the front lawn to the right side where weddings are held
and sod is replaced after each event.

A left side view of the landscape from a roof on the tour.

Most spires were oxidized copper but this one is carved limestone. Every slate roof tile is individually
tied with thick wire into metal beams, something we saw in the Biltmore attic tour. Nearly all the tiles are
original from 1895! All roof lines were sharply designed to keep snow from accumulating.

I am guessing this bear is in honor of the local Smoky Mountain bear population. They have a mama bear and
four cubs on the estate grounds today.

These oxidized green areas were once shiny copper and gold foil leaf on the initials. Guides tell us
oxidation would have occurred at about 6 months after his historic housewarming in Christmas of 1895.

This is the great dome, oxidized copper, that supports the central chandelier around the grand staircase. There is a
hook to give the chandelier maximum movement in a storm to keep it from falling.

The mountains beyond the estate are breathtaking.

This is the long Esplanade that separates the Biltmore House from the retaining wall and the Venus statuary at the hilltop.

There is very little on the exterior of the house that is not intricately carved. There is a
full scale model of the house inside from Richard Morris Hunt, famous architect of the day, to
show George Vanderbilt the house details before building. It appeared to be 10' square.

These birds light on a cornerstone dated 1894.

This is a view of the counterbalanced staircase with full scale figures on the left and right
placed in honor of architect, Hunt and landscape architect, Olmstead. George Vanderbilt also
had John Singer Sargeant paint their portraits for the interior of the house.

More fabulous Gothic detail in the limestone.

This end of the house is left of the front entrance and is close to the stairwell leading into the massive basement where
servants lived, clothes were sewn, washed and pressed. Also in the basement, three kitchens can be found:pastry, rotisserie, and master kitchens. Other house amenities like refrigerated and dry pantries, guest changing rooms, an indoor lighted pool, a bowling alley, and a modern gymnasium were located in the massive basement as well.

A massive fountain on the front terrace of the house.

This is the central tower and the front door and entrance of the house. Only guests, and never servants, entered here.

There are two massive lion carvings at the front door. The lion symbol is on new barns and buildings around
the estate added by the Cecil arm of the Vanderbilt heirs.

This was the perfect North Carolina weather for rooftop pictures! An amazing view of
slate roof tiles in original condition!

The Vanderbilt house is still not air conditioned but has working electricity, heat, 2 original working elevators,
and a window system that takes advantage of the mountains for air circulation.
The breaker panel and lightening rod system alone were unbelievable.
Coal was burned and then remnants were used to line the leisurely road up to the main house.

This is the creamery in Antler Hill Village, a coffee shop and part of a small commercial center below the Inn. 

Antler Hill Village where the Tiffany Glass Exhibit was held during our stay.

This is a beautiful waterfall fountain outside the Inn where we stayed on the Biltmore Property. George
Vanderbilt got an estimate in 1900 to build a small Inn on the property five years after the Biltmore House
was complete and it totaled $18,000. It was not until 2000 that his grandson would undertake the efforts.

A tower of the Inn at terrace view.  

A view off that same terrace onto the mountains.

Time stands still here.

A walk that leads down to Antler Hill Village and the Winery on the estate below the Inn.
This is the interior of the Inn. It was as grand as Biltmore.
Some interesting facts about the family and the era that we learned on our tour:
George decided to build his small country home in Ashville after visiting the Battery Park Hotel with his mother who was taking the air and water of the region for her health. He was a well-read and studied man and wanted a home where he could share time with those who appreciated the same. His original land acquisitions were barren land, from European farmers who did not understand method of harvesting and replanting the land. His landscape architect, Olmstead was consulted before any land acquisitions to be sure recovery was possible. Olmstead's results are forest and gardens you see today! Some of the highlights of the house include an entrance hall, a glass roofed winter garden, a billiard room, banquet hall, organ loft, breakfast room for lunches, the salon with Olmstead and Hunt's portraits, the music room finished in the 1970's, tapestry gallery with European tapestries of virtue, and a two story library with a frescoed ceiling and GV's Napoleonic collections. Husband and wife did not share bedrooms because of the danger of opposite sex servants entering into the bedroom on their masters. They did have a joint sitting area for breakfasting. Ladies changed clothes eight times a day. Breakfast was held at 9, lunch at noon, tea at 4 and dinner at 8. Edith Vanderbilt's trunk was a Louis Vuitton! Edith planned all the meals for the house with the cook in the morning over her breakfast. This house had "talking tubes" or an intercom system based on ship's communications. Servant areas were painted a green color so the servants would know when they left their areas. There was an enunciator box for service calls! This house had two working elevators and one electric dumb waiter. The elevators were installed in 1895 for $250 and they still work! At the time this house was built, it had hooks in the closet and shelves for dresses since hangers and rods had not been invented yet! Every lady's dress had a matching umbrella so there were slots for them in the traveling trunks. In the Biltmore house, servants were separated by gender and then placed in the areas close to where they worked such as kitchen, near the lady's closets or the stables. The Biltmore house had a two story butler's pantry with Spode china and Baccarat china and the newly commissioned Herend China for the 100th anniversary. Strategically placed vents in the basement floor brought cool air in from outside to offset coal burning used to warm the house. The property had lightening rod registers in the basement. Limestone steps in the servant quarters were so worn that they recessed in the middle! You can find Edith Stuyvessant Dresser Vanderbilt's crest on her fireplace in her ornate bedroom.  There is a carving in the banquet hall that says in latin, "Let us have peace in our day". The interior music room was mysteriously unfinished until the 1970's and was used during wartime to keep national works of art safe for the government with Edith Vanderbilt's permission. No one has lived in the house since the 1950's. There were spaces in the guest suite doors where the guest placed his or her calling card for the duration of their stay. Servants went by their master's name when visiting other estates. Throughout the Biltmore house, there are basins that were fetched with warm water rather than installed sinks. The original house had heat, a DC battery system, a way to refrigerate water for circulation to the cool pantries and electricity for the lights and sconces. The indoor pool and gymnasium walls were designed in white smooth tiles like train stations of the day. In rooms where water was present, the thresholds were marble and wood for non water rooms. As a funny note, George Vanderbilt was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a self-made man from Railroad investments. He used the railroad to have a track laid to the house to transport the Indiana limestone from the quarry to the building site. Once the task was complete, he had Olmstead erase all signs of the railroad since he found it a less appealing way to travel than the more gentlemanly horse and buggy method! Lastly, while he inherited the least amount of his brothers upon the death of his father, his legacy is the most lasting, still privately owned and self sustaining in keeping with his original vision.

Here is more on the history of this beautiful place if you are interested:

Stories on the Biltmore website about George & Edith Vanderbilt and Cornelia, their daughter:

To read more about the Vanderbilt family, here are a few of my favorite texts: