Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Biltmore House, Part 2

I apologize for the fact that this post is way overdue.  I wrote Part 1 in early January, but I was forced to take some time off from blogging because of some obligations here at home.  I hadn't planned to be away so long, but next time I have to take a break, I'll let people know so it doesn't look like I've abandoned my blog for good.

You probably want to see Valentine's posts and spring posts by now, but I did promise to finish sharing with you our trip to Biltmore; so even though this was a Christmas tour, here it is for anyone who's still interested.

I believe I mentioned previously that we had dinner at the Stable Café, where we had made reservations when we purchased our tickets.  This restaurant is located in what used to be the horse stables; above is the front door of the restaurant, taken from inside the Stable Café.

In the above picture, you can just see the stable buildings over to the right with the cupola and weathervane on the roof.

This Christmas tree was in the lobby area of the restaurant.  It was a great atmosphere, and our food was delicious!!  For anyone thinking of going, I will warn you that the meal was pricey; however we found everything to be perfectly prepared and really tasty.  The price of your entrée includes an appetizer, beverage, and dessert, so we felt like we got a lot for the money.  

I wish I had pictures of the food to show you, but we just dug right in before I even thought about taking pictures.  ;)  Hal and I don't often order the same thing on the menu, but that night we did.  We had filet mignon with creamy morel sauce, broccolini, focaccia bread, and another side dish that I will tell you about later.  I hope to make the dish here at home, and at that time I'll show you the recipe and (hopefully) pictures.  :)  This side dish was something I'd never had before, and it was possibly my favorite part of the whole meal.

For our appetizer, we chose crab dip with Vermont cheddar cheese, and they brought each of us an individual serving in small dishes.  It, too, was delicious.  For dessert, we both had a piece of cheesecake with chocolate and peppermint.  Delish!

This was our booth, after we had dined.  You can't see it in the picture, but our seats were black, padded leather.  Because the table was somewhat narrow, our food was served on longer, rectangular-shaped plates, so they didn't crowd the tables.  Each booth was separated by the wrought iron railing you see in the picture, and they appeared to have originally been the horses' individual stalls.

The Poinsettias and the Norfolk pine trees made everything look so festive for the holidays.

What you see on the walls of the stable is old subway tile; obviously no expense was spared when building these stables.  You can't really see it in this picture, but above the Poinsettia plant, there was a print on the wall, and a ring is hanging out underneath the print.  The ring is permanently attached to the wall, and I assume it was there to tie the horses to when necessary.

The Stables Café was part of a long building that may have originally housed stables offices and perhaps sleeping quarters for the stable hands.  Anyway, they now house various gift shops.  This is a picture of the candy shop -- so colorful!

There are so many interesting facts about the Vanderbilts, at one time, the richest family in America.
  •  George Washington Vanderbilt, II (owner of Biltmore House) was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the family fortune in shipping and railroad empires.
  • George and his wife, Edith Vanderbilt were booked for passage in a first-class cabin on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but for reasons still unknown, they canceled and sailed on the Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, instead.  They had also booked a second-class cabin for their 24-year-old footman, Edwin Charles Wheeler, who had brought their baggage on board several days before the April 14, 1912 departure date.  Also for reasons unknown, Wheeler chose to stay and sail on the Titanic.  His body was never recovered.
  • George's nephew, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a 34-year-old multi-millionaire, had also booked passage on the Titanic.  Alfred canceled his passage so late that some early newspaper accounts listed him as being on board.  Ironically, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt died three years later on the Lusitania when it was sunk by the Germans.  Surviving passengers of the Lusitania reported seeing Vanderbilt give his life jacket to a young mother with a baby, even though Vanderbilt could not swim.  He and his valet perished and his body was never recovered.
  •  George and Edith Vanderbilt had three children -- a daughter, Cornelia, and two sons.  Cornelia Vanderbilt married a British aristocrat, John F.A. Cecil, a descendant of William Cecil.  They had two sons, the youngest of whom eventually inherited Biltmore House.  
  • George Vanderbilt's brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt, and his wife, Alma, only had one child, Consuelo Vanderbilt.  Consuelo, niece of George and Edith, married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough and lived with him at Blenheim Palace until they separated and later divorced.  Consuelo had a prior, secret engagement to another man, but she was forced to marry the Duke by her domineering and social-climbing mother.  The Duke gave up the woman he reportedly loved back in England, and collected U.S. $2.5 million (approximately $67.7 million) in 2015 dollars.  You can find lots of information about Consuelo online; I think her story is fascinating.
Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough

Consuelo was considered one of the great beauties of her time -- I can certainly see why.  However, I would not care to wear a fur with the poor animal's head and tail still attached.  My, how times have changed.

Blenheim Palace, home of the Dukes of Marlborough and notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill.  The palace was saved from ruin by the marriage of the 9th Duke to American railroad heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt.    
The Vanderbilts at one time had amassed an amazingly large fortune.  In addition to "The Biltmore," in North Carolina, they built "The Breakers," in Newport, Rhode Island.  They also owned ten mansions on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, prime real estate in the world's wealthiest city at that time.  However, the Vanderbilts did not spend their money wisely, and within four generations, most of the wealth was virtually gone.  From such precipitous heights, the family's fortunes fell so rapidly, it was sometimes referred to as the Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.

Back to Biltmore, these are a few last pictures from our evening tour.

Some of my final impressions of the Biltmore House:  The first view of the house when you emerge from the final curve of the long, long driveway is breathtaking -- especially at night when it's all lit up.  I need to get more physically fit before I tackle that staircase again.  The beds seemed really, really short to me -- short in length, not short in height.  I've heard, and I assume it must be true, that people were smaller back then.  Also, my mother-in-law pointed out that the immense size of the rooms themselves makes the beds look smaller -- good point.  I'm still amazed that this famous home is only two hours away from us.  Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all, but in the end, I'd rather live in a cottage than a castle.

Thanks for reading this post; I realize it's much longer than I usually write, but I wanted to give you some of the history of the house.  That's what really makes a house come alive for me.  We hope our next trip to Biltmore will be in spring when the gardens are in bloom.

Wishing you a good week and thank you so much for your visit!



  1. What a beautiful place, Denise. One that you would never forget, I'm sure. Christmas is OK by me any time of the year. I am still pinning Christmas things. I can remember my mom had a fox stole with the head, tail and feet if I remember right. I used to love to sit by her and pet the poor thing. I'm glad things have changed in that respect, although the white fur is absolutely gorgeous..Happy Wednesday..Judy

  2. A lovely little and warm cottage would be more to my liking too. But...if I was hosting a grand affair I wouldn't mind access to a place like the Biltmore! Beautiful photos. Hope all is well with you...

  3. Such a beautiful place, especially during Christmas. We visited a few years back and it was such fun!



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