Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ashvillle, NC. (Biltmore & Blue Ridge Parkway)

Mon, May 2nd & Wed, May 4th

Sunday we drove to Asheville, North Carolina. Monday we toured Biltmore, the largest privately owned home in the country with 250 rooms. Our tour took us thru 41 of the rooms. There are 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 66 servant rooms, and a bowling alley, swimming pool and gym in the basement. There are three other specialized tours you can take of the house and three more of the grounds. The grounds are 8,000 acres including the original dairy farm which is now a winery and a small resort village with a hotel, pub, novelty shops, blacksmithing and woodworking demos, kitchen gardens and goats, chickens and horses for the kids.

This is a view of some of the surrounding forest from the vine covered patio. In 1891 there was no forestry management in the U.S. Biltmore was the first to implement scientific forestry management and conservation, the beginning of practical forestry in this country. Landscaping the grounds was the last project of Frederick Law Ohmsted, famous for doing Central Park in New York among others. About three million plants were planted on the grounds during the initial landscaping. The home was completed in 1895. Below is the Italian Gardens just down the steps from the patio. There are also Shrub Gardens, Walled Gardens, Rose Gardens, the Conservatory, the Spring Walk down to the Bass Pond, lined with azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwoods, spirea, lilacs, etc. Absolutely magnificent. It's worth the admission price just to walk the grounds.

Biltmore was completed in 1895 and was self-sufficient with all kinds of animals and gardens. They had one of the first modern milking parlors. The dairy had 1,000 cows and they had 400 delivery trucks going out every day to supply the surrounding area needs. They made butter, cottage cheese and ice cream.

After the death of Biltmore, his wife managed everything until their only daughter married and took over. In 1930 they decided to open it to the public to help support maintainance costs and draw tourists for the local economy in the depression.

This is the conservatory with about six greenhouses extending out behind it. In front of this building is about a four block area of rose gardens surrounded by wall gardens. Below are a couple of flowers in the greenhouses.

By the 1950s the dairy had grown to 1,800 and was eventually sold to PET in the 70s. The dairy barn was then converted to a winery. It is the most visited winery in America with 600,000 guests per year. They produce 50 varieties and sell 200,000 cases per year.

There are 48,000 grape vines in the 92 acre vineyard, which provides about 15% of the grapes they use. They are hand picked by a crew of 60 to 70 employees in Sept. & Oct. The rest are bought from surrounding vineyards.

Biltmore also had the historic village of Asheville designed by the men who designed his home and grounds. The streets fan out from the entrance of his estate where he had a church and depot built. He also built a school, infirmary, post office and cottages which he rented out to workers who did not live on the estate.

The estate is still owned by the family and one of the grandsons manages it with about 1,800 employees. They are hoping one of the descendents will be interested in taking over.

One last view from the top of the hill before we leave. On the right side of the mansion, what used to be the stables, is now restaurants, gift shops, restrooms, etc.

On Wednesday we spent a few hours driving another portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Brrr, was it ever cold! About 38 degrees and the wind was howling, but it was very pretty. It had rained where we were camped, but they got snow and frost.

Looks like a Christmas card. We hiked from here up to the peak in our flimsy little wind breakers. Suddenly I remembered why we have been going south for the winter.

There were icicles hanging from the ramp at the top. The man who originally measured the peak, never returned from a hiking trip up here. He was later found lying in a creek where he died and is buried here at the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi 6,684 feet.

Glad to be back in my warm and cozy little camper home.


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