Today we are going to Muse about Burnsville, North Carolina, the Biltmore House and Crafts. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
Last week I told you a little about our stay in Savannah. When we left we headed up the I-95 and then turned inland, northwest to Burnsville, about 20 miles east of Asheville.
In case you like ribs we found Maurice’s Bar-B-Que, est 1939, a great place on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina. This is family owned and looks like it is right out of the 40’s. The waitress said there are four or five restaurants in the small chain, all in this same area.
Now you may be wondering why we were going to Burnsville. I mean it’s a small town with about 1600 residents, the county seat and was named after Captain Otway Burns, a naval hero in the war of 1812. Here is his statue.
We were heading there to visit some friends. They have a home in the mountains overlooking the town. It is a beautiful place, secluded and quiet. The mountain road to their house is challenging but I solved that during our visit by having our hosts do the driving. Hah!
Here you see their home
And the view.
Of course, then there is this place.
Biltmore Home and Gardens
One afternoon the four of us went to the Biltmore Home and Gardens. The home was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. In 1889, he purchased acreage in Asheville, North Carolina and began construction of the Biltmore Estate. He continued buying land until the estate eventually encompassed 125,000 acres 228 square miles (591 km2). It would have taken a week to travel on horseback around the property. Modeled after the great French Châteaux of the Loire Valley, the 250-room mansion was the largest of all the Vanderbilt houses. It remains the largest privately owned home in the United States and one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. The buildings were designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt and the grounds landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted. On Christmas Eve 1895, Biltmore House opened its doors for its first family celebration.
The home is undeniably impressive and the self guided tour through the open areas took us about an hour and a half. The crowd while we were there was not overwhelming so we could see the rooms without being jostled or held back.
What impressed me as much as the structure was understanding the magnitude of the wealth that made it possible and the fee being charged today to see it.
George W. Vanderbilt II was one of eleven children. There were eight girls and three sons. When his father, William Henry Vanderbilt, died he left the majority of his $200 million estate to his two oldest sons. He left George $5 million and the income from a $5 million trust. Earlier his grandfather left George $1 million and when he was 21 his father gave him $1 million. So . . . he had $7 million and the income from another $5 million. With that he was able to acquire the property and build the house and gardens in addition to maintaining his other residences. If he could do that with the money he had just imagine how wealthy his two older brothers must have been with each having around $100 million and no income tax!
And I was impressed by the charge to go through the house. I had been through the house years before but now the price was $59 an adult and $44 a child over 6, if the tickets were purchased the same day, not in advance. That seems out of line to me, especially for families with several children.
On a happier note, our friends took us to Penland, a nearby town, to see the Penland School of Crafts. This school was started in the 1920’s. Its focus was to teach women to weave to give them a source of income. It has grown over the years to encompass ceramics, woodworking, print making, painting, jewelry and more. If you click on the underlined header it will open the school’s web site. My understanding is that students stay on site in cabins during their study.
Student work can be purchased at the school gallery. As you can see in the following pictures the quality is wonderful.
In the towns and areas near Penland there is a robust community of craftspeople. The quality and variety of the work is impressive. Here is information about some of the potters: Penland Potters
Now on a completely different note, Rosenbaum Fine Art in Boca Raton, Florida, one of the galleries that represents me, just sent me this photo of some of my work being exhibited on the SeaFair, the mega art yacht. I think it looks great and I want to share it with you.
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