A couple of weeks ago, Carson and I took a short trip down to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate our 7th anniversary. I've always wanted to see The Biltmore Estate. It's the former home of George Vanderbilt, early 20th century millionair and art collector. It's still known today as the largest private residence in the U.S. Pictures weren't allowed inside of the home, and I deeply regret not being able to take them, because it was absolutely astonishing.
The home itself is a work of art, the arcitecture was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. It seemed to me a very Gothic, European style of house, with ornately carved limestone and wood thoughout, and gargoyles lurking around every facade. The gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same man who designed New York City's Central Park), are vast and fabulous. And then, of course, you have Vanderbilt's art collection too...portraits by Sergent and Whistler, hundreds of prints by Albrecht Durer, 15th century Flemish Tapestries, a library with a ceiling orginally painted in the Pisani Palace in Venice, etc, etc. Among hundreds of other antiques, Vanderbilt owned a chess table, that was once owned by Napoleon. Author Henry James (a favorite of mine) gave readings in Vanderbilt's library. And there were late 19th century, early 20th century gowns and suits on display in nearly every room. I was in art history heaven.
It was also fascinating to see the sort of "upstairs/downstairs" side of things. I almost felt like I had stepped into a scene from "Downton Abbey," back stairways, hidden access doors, three seperate kitchens, laundry rooms, etc. I was surprised, though, by how well kept the service people were. Vanderbilt hired staff of every race, and paid all equally well, and above what a normal service salery would have been then. Their bedrooms were quite comfortable, and quite pretty for service bedrooms, and for the time period (though still not as much as we have today), they were given an unusual amount of time off from work.
Anyway, I won't tire you out by any more details...I could go on for days...you will just have to go visit it yourself. Again, no pictures from the inside of the house (see a few here if you like), but we took many of the home's exterior and massive gardens. Enjoy!