Monday, April 4, 2011

Biltmore House

Today we got up early to be at the Biltmore House close to the opening time of 9AM. We decided to get audio guides to go with the tour. The audio guides were a good investment. If you are paying $44 each for a tour of a house, another $10 each for an audio guide is peanuts. As you go through each room you are cued in the guide book as to what number you input to hear a very well narrated story about the house.
The Biltmore house is the largest house in the USA, currently. There are 250 rooms in the house and 43 bathrooms. It took 20-30 servants to run the house even if there were no guests.
George Vanderbilt was the youngest of the Vanderbilt boys and inherited the smallest portion of the Vanderbilt fortune, which began with George's grandfather Cornelius. Only 10 million dollars. This would be about 225 million in today's dollars. Not too rich by the standards of todays really rich, such as John Paulson, a hedge fund manager who earned 4.9 billion dollars last year.
George and his mother moved into Biltmore on Christmas Eve of 1895. Only half of the rooms were finished. Many rooms remain closed off and are finished to add other aspects to the tour.
In 1930 the Vanderbilts decided to open the house to tours. By making a business out of the house, they avoided having the house taken by the state or other investors for the taxes.
Besides the house tours, they have a hotel, various restaurants, a winery and shops at various locations on the grounds.
The weather was beautiful today with the temperature in the low 80's and a clear sky with a nice breeze.
We are slow tourists. We spent about 3 hours going through the house, had lunch in a restaurant in the converted stables and then spent hours more walking the grounds of the gardens. Though we were tired we drove over to the Winery as we had tickets that came with the house tour for a winery tour and wine tasting.
We bought 3 bottles of wine but no Italian spoon rest, even though I need a new spoon rest.

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