Ocala Magazine may 2017 : Page 16

Much like I fell in love with its mountainous skyline and blooming dogwoods, George Vanderbilt too was immediately mesmerized by Asheville’s majestic views and change of seasons. In 1889, after visiting his mother, Vanderbilt began building what is now called Asheville’s crown jewel, Biltmore, “A retreat reminiscent of the grand castles and estates of France and Britain.” America’s largest private home, Vanderbilt’s estate has over 4-acres of floor space and 250 rooms, all originally set inside 125,000-acres of wildlife and scenic pathways. Today, the family home is filled with original collections of art, heirloom furniture and over 20,000 rare books both read and cataloged by Mr. Vanderbilt himself. A quick Google search will yield you page after page of information pertaining to Mr. Vanderbilt’s prized home but, what you might not read about are the intricate details hidden throughout the iconic manor’s four floors. Over 60 stonemasons worked to produce over 32,000 bricks each day. Thousands of furnishings dating back to the 15th century were bought during extensive overseas purchasing excursions – items to include tapestries, prints, linens, carpets and decorative elements. The main floor contains Italian marble, stone archways, sculptured wood and multifaceted glasswork. Many of the rooms’ ceilings are hand-stenciled – a common European practice that Vanderbilt admired. Walnut paneling, ornate mantles, golden walls and ornate tiles are found throughout the home, as well as thousands of dollars’ worth of fresh cut flowers, arranged perfectly in ornamented vases. The sound of a melodious harp bounces off of the marble columns and breezes up the winding staircase as I make my way through the spacious bedroom chambers and sitting rooms. An indoor bowling alley, state-of-the-art gymnasium, indoor pool and smoking room are just a part of what you will experience along the tour – all leaving you in awe. The 30,000-acres of grounds surrounding Biltmore House include formal and informal gardens, designed by renowned American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. B ILTMORE While most homes were lit by candlelight and oil lamps, Bilmore House had electric underwater lights in its indoor 70,000-gallon swimming pool. From the Italian Garden with its reflecting pools and aquatic life to the Walled Garden surrounded by 75,000 blooming spring tulips and a native butterfly sanctuary, the picturesque scene Vanderbilt planted for his guests forever blooms. Visitors can spend an entire day touring the depths of the estate, meandering through ornamental gardens, indulging in fine cuisine and exploring the Biltmore Estate Winery. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the historic winery offers complimentary tastings, a wine bar, winemaking tours and delicious food in a gorgeous setting. Named America’s Most Visited Winery, the Biltmore Winery provides guests an underground stroll through the cellar towards a tasting room where they enjoy a variety of wines and shopping opportunity. A multitude of events are offered each month, making it a new experience every time you visit. The historic, awe-inspiring Biltmore is one of the many reasons the city in which it resides is called Romantic Asheville. Between 1880 and 1900, Asheville’s population grew from 500 residents to 10,000. This booming little town thrived for nearly three decades before the Great Depression moved in. Businesses shut down and production ceased. Large buildings and warehouses were vacated, putting the town in debt – $56 million to be exact – and laborers at a loss. Rather than renouncing its debt, Asheville committed to paying off the Depression-era bonds in full, despite the 40-plus years it would take. In fact, “Asheville is believed to be the only American city not to have defaulted on its R IVER A RTS D ISTRICT 16 I OCALAMAGAZINE.COM I MAY 2017

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