By Jim Hunt
One city that has created a lot of buzz throughout the country is Ashville, North Carolina. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has about 95,000 residents and is home to a vibrant arts and craft beer scene. The vast Biltmore is another highlight and draws tens of thousands of visitors each year to see the 19 th -century Biltmore Estate and acres of gardens. Another popular attraction is Pack Square Park, a community green space with walking paths and home to many concerts, festivals, and other events.
While I travel to a lot of cities on business, this visit was purely pleasure. We went with two other couples for quick getaway from the work and hustle of my very busy summer. We stayed at the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, a comfortable place with great restaurants and lots of activities close by. The rooms were very nice, and everything was designed to make you feel at home. Complimentary chocolates at check-in and a fire pit in a small courtyard off the main lobby, made for a relaxing mood.
The tour of the Biltmore Estate was well designed with large parking lots and complimentary shuttles to the doors of the estate. As you waited for your designated time, you could browse through the gift shops or grab a quick snack at the various shops on site. As you entered through the large front entrance door, you were given a portable device that told the story of the Vanderbilt family and how they built and lived in this incredible home. I have been to many historic places and used various devices to listen to the history, this handheld device was one of the best I have seen.
The Biltmore Estate dates to 1889, when George Vanderbilt decided to build a summer escape to enjoy with his wealthy friends and family. A five-year construction period culminated with the opening of the estate in 1895. George was a 31-year-old bachelor, and it was not until April 28, 1898, when he proposed to Edith Stuyvesant Dresser who became his wife on June 1, 1898. Being a world traveler, George incorporated much of the design from his many travels abroad. He also collected pieces of art from throughout the world and Biltmore Estate became a home for many works of famous artists of the time.
As George and Edith Vanderbilt added to their family with the birth of their daughter, Cornelia, they enjoyed a wonderful life until George unexpectedly died, at the age of 51 following an emergency appendectomy in Washington, DC in March of 1914. The estate played a role in Asheville’s economy as the owners opened the estate to the public during the Depression as a way to increase tourism and to preserve the estate. In 1942, Biltmore House stored art from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
As we walked from room to room, it was interesting to see the immense size of the “home” and how they dealt with the day-to-day activities, like cooking and doing the laundry. Everything was larger and more complicated and required a huge staff to tend to the needs of the family and their guests. The gardens were also impressive with manicured lawns and trees and plants of every variety.
Asheville is an amazing city, and the Biltmore Estate is not to be missed. It is about a six-hour drive from North Central West Virginia, and you will need a couple of days to truly get a feel for this beautiful city.