Road Scholar : Home
The Vanderbilts and Asheville

Program Number: 1787RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/12/2015 - 4/17/2015; 4/26/2015 - 5/1/2015; 5/3/2015 - 5/8/2015; 5/10/2015 - 5/15/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Flat Rock, North Carolina
Price starting at: $745.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Gluten Free; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

See America's largest private mansion, the Biltmore Estate, dressed in springtime garden splendor. From the informal Shrub Garden to the formal beauty of the Italian Garden, planned walkways lead you through native plants, trees, shrubs, spring bulbs, 250 rose varieties and the blazing color of 1,000 azaleas. Take advantage of the prime bloom stages and visual delights created by Frederick Law Olmsted, still considered to be America's foremost landscape architect.




Highlights

• Explore the forest that George Vanderbilt worked to preserve and the Biltmore Forest School, America’s first school of forestry.
• On the grounds of the estate, examine priceless artwork in the 250-room chateau and savor a tasting in the winery.
• Learn more about the Vanderbilts in Asheville, a startlingly cosmopolitan town nested in the mountains.



Activity Particulars

Walking up to 1.5 miles over paved trails and sidewalks.




Date Specific Information

4-12-2015

.



5-10-2015

Participants will be housed in Founder`s Hall, a beautiful facility located beside The Lodge on the Bonclarken Assembly grounds.



Coordinated by Mars Hill University.




Flat Rock

In Henderson County, N.C., the village of Flat Rock is home to the Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theater of North Carolina; and to Connemara, the home where award-winning poet, historian, novelist, and folklorist Carl Sandburg lived and died. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains attract outdoor enthusiasts with a wealth of recreational opportunities.



Accommodations
Conference center amid mountain splendor.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Kevan Frasier

Kevan Frasier is an enthusiastic lecturer with an amazing depth of knowledge of the local region, with particular interest in the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate. Kevan was as a member of the history faculty at UNC Asheville, teaching both United States and African history. Since that time, he has continued to teach but today serves as the university’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   The Lodge at Bonclarken
  Bonclarken Assembly, Flat Rock, North Carolina 5 nights
 The Lodge at Bonclarken
Type: Conference Center
  Description: Featuring queen-size beds, private baths, and interior access, The Lodge at Bonclarken is a great place for adults and professionals to gather. Wifi Internet access is available throughout the facility. A kitchenette is in the Mike and Lib Patrick Conference Room with refrigerator and a nice coffee pot for lots of fresh coffee. A television is located in the lobby. The building is equipped with special needs accessibility features including ramps, wide doors, roll in showers and other features to ensure accessibility for those who are physically limited.
  Contact info: 500 Pine Drive
Flat Rock, NC 28731 USA
phone: 828-692-2223
web: www.bonclarken.org
  Room amenities: Wifi Internet Access, queen-size beds, private baths
  Facility amenities: Furnishings in each Lodge room include queen-size beds, ironing board and iron, a large dresser, a nightstand and a writing table with two comfortable wing chairs. Wifi Internet service is available throughout the building. Courtesy telephones are located on each floor of the facility. Vending and ice machines are available for your convenience. A laundry room is located inside the facility as well.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: $76.00 Guests are welcome to stay the night before and the night after if housing is available. The rate is $76.00 for a single and $97.00 for a double.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $76.00 Guests are welcome to stay the night before and the night after if housing is available. The rate is $76.00 for a single and $97.00 for a double.
  Check out time: 10:30 AM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel Check-in begins at 3:00pm, Road Scholar Program registration begins at 4:30pm. You will be staying at The Lodge at Bonclarken that night.
  End of Program:
10:30am on Friday You will be staying at The Lodge at Bonclarken the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking available
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Bonclarken Assembly, Flat Rock, North Carolina
  Nearest city or town:  Flat Rock, North Carolina
  Nearest highway: Interstate 26
  Nearest airport:  Asheville Regional Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Bonclarken Assembly, Flat Rock, North Carolina
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Asheville

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
GrandyCo Transportation of Asheville
phone: 828-691-0504
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

approximately one-half hour 

 

Distance:

 

16 miles

   

Please mention that you are with the Mars Hill University Road Scholar Program for a special rate.

 

Asheville

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Marvel Upscale Transportation
phone: 828-280-1698
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

approximately one-half hour 

 

Distance:

 

16 miles

   

Participant is encouraged to make arrangements in advance. Email: mr.marvels@yahoo.com. Please mention that you are with the Mars Hill University Road Scholar Program.

 
Driving Directions
  Atlanta, GA to Bonclarken Assembly Follow Interstate 85 North into South Carolina. Take Exit 44B (White Horse Road / Hwy 25). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left on White Horse Road / Hwy 25 North. Follow this road completely around Greenville and then into North Carolina to Exit 5 (Flat Rock exit). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Hwy 225. Continue straight through two traffic lights, Bonclarken entrance on right (approximately four miles from exit).
  From Asheville, NC to Bonclarken Assembly Follow Interstate 26 East to Exit 53 (Upward Road exit). At the end of the exit ramp, turn right. Continue straight on this road and go across Business 25/Hwy 176 (Ingles on left). Road will end with traffic light at Hwy 225. Turn left onto Hwy 225, Bonclarken entrance 1/3 mile on left..
  From Charlotte, NC to Bonclarken Assembly Follow Interstate 85 South to Interstate 26 West or follow Interstate 85 South to Hwy 74 West and then to Interstate 26 West. Follow Interstate 26 West to Exit 53 (Upward Road exit). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left. Continue straight on this road and go across Business 25/Hwy 176 (Ingles on left). Road will end with traffic light at Hwy 225. Turn left onto Hwy 225, Bonclarken entrance 1/3 mile on left.
  From Spartanburg/Columbia, SC to Bonclarken Assembly Follow Interstate 26 West into North Carolina to Exit 53 (Upward Road exit). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left. Continue straight on this road and go across Business 25/Hwy 176 (Ingles on left). Road will end with traffic light at Hwy 225. Turn left onto Hwy 225, Bonclarken entrance 1/3 mile on left.
  GPS Users for Bonclarken Assembly GPS USERS: ENTER 5 PINE DRIVE, FLAT ROCK, NC-THIS WILL BRING YOU TO OUR MAIN ENTRANCE. MANY GPS SYSTEMS DO NOT RECOGNIZE 500 PINE DRIVE.
  Greenville, SC to Bonclarken Assembly Follow Highway 25 North from Greenville into North Carolina to Exit 5 (Flat Rock exit). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Hwy 225. Continue straight through two traffic lights, Bonclarken entrance on right (approximately four miles from exit).
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Check-in and pick up program materials, orientation, and reception to meet the staff and your new friends.
(Sunday, May 3)
   
 Arrive To: Check in to rooms beginning at 3:00pm. Registration begins at 4:30pm. Prepare for an exciting week, exploring the surprisingly sophisticated and historic city of Asheville, NC. You will take in the grand home and breathtaking gardens of George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, as well as other unforgettable western North Carolina attractions.
 Dinner: Dinner at the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall overlooking the wooded areas of the region. All meals are served in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall unless otherwise noted.
 Evening: Dinner will be followed by an orientation meeting, getting the week kicked off in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Participants will receive written material to supplement the educational and historical values of their week.
   
Accommodations: The Lodge at Bonclarken
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, the North Carolina Arboretum, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Cradle of Forestry and Looking Glass Falls.
(Monday, May 4)

Note: There is a considerable amount of leisurely walking today as we explore the vast lands that George W. Vanderbilt owned. Our visit to the Cradle of Forestry includes a 1.3 mile hike on a paved trail.



   
 Breakfast: A full breakfast buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall.
 Morning: George Vanderbilt's Western North Carolina estate once encompassed 125,000 acres. After breakfast we'll board the coach and begin our adventure over these vast lands. First we'll visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center where we will learn about the parkway's history, climate and habitat through innovative, high-tech interactive exhibits. The parkway is America's longest and most narrow national park, 469 miles long, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The remainder of the morning will be spent on the 434 acre North Carolina Arboretum, a public garden in the Pisgah National Forest that serves as a center for botanical education, research, conservation, economic development and garden demonstrations. It's springtime in the mountains so there should be plenty of blooms!!!!
 Lunch: Today we will enjoy a delicious lunch at the beautiful Pisgah Inn. Pisgah Inn is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway next to Mt. Pisgah, a summit towering 5,721 feet above sea level. Be sure to bring your camera! The views from the lodge are spectacular!!!
 Afternoon: After lunch we'll continue on our approximate 18 mile southern trek on the Blue Ridge Parkway, meandering through the rocky tunnels and climbing in elevation to the peaks of Mt. Pisgah and Fryingpan Mountain. Exiting the parkway at the Cold Mountain overlook, we'll enter the Pisgah National Forest (lands sold by Edith Vanderbilt to the national park service) and travel down the ridge to the Cradle of Forestry, the site of the first forestry school in America, founded by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for the Biltmore Estate and funded by George Vanderbilt. By the late 1800's most of the timber in the forest lands were gone with the land left barren to rejuvenate itself. Schenck and Vanderbilt saw the need for forestry conservation, established the school and today we enjoy beautiful green forests throughout the region because of their efforts. This historic site offers wonderfully restored buildings, including a schoolhouse, commissary and student quarters, as well as a portable saw mill, logging locomotive and other interesting tools of the trade. The Cradle of Forestry provides a glimpse into the life of a student in the early 1900's as well as an introduction to forestry conservation in America . The discovery center with its many displays and the 1.5 mile paved trail with lots of wildflowers and natural beauty provide a great setting to learn of the beginning of forestry in America. Following our visit we'll journey to Looking Glass Falls, one of the most popular and photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. Then it's back to Bonclarken Assembly with memories of our day's excursion across the vast lands of George Vanderbilt.
 Dinner: Full buffet dinner in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Evening: This evening a local historian and expert will tell us about the city of Asheville. We'll learn about its beginning as a crossroads for Native American Indians and its growing into one of the highest ranked destinations in the country. We'll learn of her history and how she became a storehouse for music, culture, arts, crafts and other treasures. We'll learn about the architecture of Asheville, a city called the "Paris of the South", because it boasts one of the best collections of art deco buildings in the country. We'll learn about the coming of the railroad and its role in her history as well as the effects of the stock market crash in 1929... over two hundred years of history condensed into an evening lecture to help us gain a greater understanding of the Asheville we will visit tomorrow!!
   
Accommodations: The Lodge at Bonclarken
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: A Gray Line Historical Trolley Tour of Asheville will be the highlight for today along with an optional tour of The Basilica of St. Lawrence.
(Tuesday, May 5)

Note: Learn of the history, culture and architecture of Asheville aboard the Gray Line Trolley, then enjoy the remainder of the day visiting the sites of your choice at your own pace.



   
 Breakfast: A full breakfast buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Morning: This morning we will travel to Asheville and begin our visit on board one of Gray Line's Nostalgic RED trolleys for a fully narrated journey, highlighting the history, homes and hot-spots of this "city of surprises." See for yourself a city rich in architecture, history and the arts... alive and inviting!
 Lunch: Lunch on your own at one of the many quaint restaurants in downtown Asheville. Eating establishments can be found all over the city and "Tripadvisor.com" lists 603 of those entities. The top spot goes to "Cecilia's Kitchen", a restaurant that specializes in French and Latin cuisine. "The Chocolate Fetish", a chocolate lovers dream earns the second spot, while "Curate" comes in at number three. The specialties there include Mediterranean, Spanish and Tapas. Rounding out the top five are "Plant Vegan Restaurant" and the "Sunny Point Café." Plant Vegan specializes in Vegan of course while the Sunny Point's specialty is American. The list goes on and on and on! Just let us know what your palette craves and we'll point you in the right direction!
 Afternoon: After lunch you will have a few hours to explore Asheville on your own. If you are interested in the arts, there's the Asheville Art Museum as well as many downtown galleries. There are all kinds of specialty shops in the downtown area including handicraft shops, coffee and sweet shops as well as local book and gift stores to name a few. You can also take advantage of the hop-on and hop-off services of the Gray Line Trolley. Visit the sites that you want to see...the River Arts District, Pack Square, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the Grove Arcade...you decide. Simply hop-on and hop-off at the designated stops along the tour route. Trolleys run throughout the day and pick up in 30 minute intervals. An optional tour of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence is also scheduled for those who would like to learn of its history. The Basilica was designed by Rafael Guastavino Moreno (Valencia, Spain, 1842 – Asheville, North Carolina 1908). Rafael, being commissioned for work by George Vanderbilt on the estate, settled in the Asheville area and designed the basilica in 1905, a structure completed shortly after his death. The Basilica of St. Lawrence boasts the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America measuring a span of 58 by 82 feet. There's lots to do and see, but you may just want to kick-back and relax. No problem, there are numerous wrought-iron benches with plenty of green space for you to enjoy. An afternoon that's all yours... you decide!!!
 Dinner: Enjoy a full dinner buffet at the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Evening: This evening you'll enjoy a cultural presentation. The mountains are alive with all kinds of talent. In the past we have been entertained by local musicians, storytellers and the MHU national champion Bailey Mountain Cloggers to name a few. Regardless of the presenters, the evening will be fun and entertaining... A great way to close out a wonderful day in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina!
   
Accommodations: The Lodge at Bonclarken
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Learn about the Vanderbilts and the Biltmore Estate, Visit the beautiful campus of Mars Hill University and their Rural Life Museum, Tour the Biltmore Estate Winery and Antler Hill Village!
(Wednesday, May 6)

Note: There will be a fair amount of afternoon walking as we visit the Mars Hill University Rural Life Museum, Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Estate Winery.



   
 Breakfast: Enjoy a full breakfast buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Morning: Jan Aertsen van der Bilt emigrated from Holland to the American Colonies around 1650. This morning a local historian will tell us about the Vanderbilt family. A family that began as farmers on Staten Island, New York, prospered and became one of the wealthiest in America. You'll learn about George Vanderbilt's ancestors as well as his current descendants who remain active in the life of the Biltmore Estate. Following a short break we'll learn about the actual construction of the Biltmore House and the development of the estate properties. George Vanderbilt and his architect Richard Morris Hunt visited many chateaus in Europe before completing a design for a "summer cottage" in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. A "cottage" that took almost 10 million pounds of limestone and a floor plan that would become America's largest private home. It's a remarkable story that you won't want to miss! We will then board a coach for a visit to your program host, Mars Hill University. Mars Hill, established in 1856, is the oldest educational institution on its original site in Western North Carolina. A line from the Alma mater reads "From the clustered rhododendron does thy sparkling fountains flow." We're hoping those rhododendron will be in full bloom as we "roll out" the red carpet for our honored guests!
 Lunch: A private luncheon set just for you in the Oscar E. Sams' Executive Dining Room in Pittman Dining Hall on the campus of Mars Hill University
 Afternoon: After lunch we'll make a brief visit to the Rural Life Museum on the university campus. The museum exhibits rotate each year and are housed in a native stone structure that was built around 1925. Then on to the magnificent Biltmore Estate. While there, you will visit the Biltmore Estate Winery and Tasting Room, where you can enjoy complimentary wine or grape juice. You will tour the historic cellars and learn the steps of quality wine production. Just outside the entrance to the Winery, you will have time to explore Antler Hill Village, an area of exhibitions, live entertainment, dining and shopping.
 Dinner: Enjoy a full dinner buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Evening: This morning we learned about the Vanderbilt family and the building of America's largest private home. To conclude our preparations for tomorrow's visit to the estate we'll enjoy a wonderful video on the Gardens at Biltmore. The gardens, both formal and informal, were designed by landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted designed many parks throughout the United States including Central Park in New York City. The gardens at Biltmore are a living tribute to Olmsted, and the estate's horticultural experts work diligently to preserve his original vision for the gardens and grounds. Your visit to Biltmore will be during their annual "Festival of Flowers". Springtime is a beautiful time on the estate and hopefully their massive azalea garden will be in full bloom for you to enjoy! Don't forget your camera, there will be lots of photo opts!
   
Accommodations: The Lodge at Bonclarken
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Spend the day at the Biltmore Estate during the most lovely of times, the Festival of Flowers.
(Thursday, May 7)

Note: This is your day! Spend it in the grand house, in the gardens, and on a special guided behind-the-scenes tour. Bring your walking shoes and your camera!



   
 Breakfast: Enjoy a full breakfast buffet at the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Morning: This morning we will return to the Biltmore Estate for a self-paced, self-guided tour of the 250-room Vanderbilt home. There, you will see the luxurious living areas of the Vanderbilt family, lovingly restored to the grandeur of Vanderbilt's time, and filled with priceless, carefully preserved artworks and furnishings. You will also enjoy a special behind-the-scenes guided tour where you will see additional rooms that are not on the self-guided tour.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own at the Biltmore Estate. The Stable Cafe Restaurant has a nice selection of sandwiches and gourmet lunches.
 Afternoon: Afternoon continues at the Biltmore Estate, as you spend time wandering the gardens and shops or enjoying the beautiful views afforded from the home itself. Biltmore is famous for creating a wonderland of tulips in early spring. In addition to tulips, the gardens boast acres of azaleas, forsythia, spirea, magnolia, flowering cherries, dogwoods, redbuds, poppies, pansies and many other varieties of flowering shrubs and trees. Visit the glass-roofed Conservatory, which was designed by Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt, and which operates much as it did in Vanderbilt's Day. There, thousands of flowers and plants for Biltmore Gardens are nurtured before transplant. The central room of the conservatory is a Palm House, where a large collection of palms, ferns and other foliage plants have thrived for many years. Annexes include a cool house, a hot house and an orchid house.
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall
 Evening: Use this free time as an opportunity to visit some of the many local points of interest or prepare for departure on Friday. Take a stroll around the Bonclarken Lake and enjoy the natural beauty of the area or bring a fishing pole! There's free fishing for those who would like to try their luck.
   
Accommodations: The Lodge at Bonclarken
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Today we visit the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and learn about the Vanderbilt's involvement in Connemara, the Sandburg farm.
(Friday, May 8)

Note: Leisurely stroll on the Sandburg home place



   
 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet in the Bonclarken Assembly Dining Hall.
 Morning: This morning we will take a short drive to Connemara, the home of Carl and Lilian Sandburg. The Sandburgs moved to Flat Rock, North Carolina in 1945 at the request of his wife who wanted to start a goat dairy. She was a strong advocate for goat milk, especially after its use cured her digestive issues. She dedicated 30 years of her life to the dairy goat industry, perfecting a breed of goats called the Chikaming herd. In 1960, Jennifer II, a Toggenburg dairy goat from the farm was recognized internationally as the top producing Toggenburg in the world. Mrs. Sandburg's venture was successful in part due to the goat milk being purchased by the Vanderbilt's Biltmore Dairy. The Biltmore Dairy purchased milk from hundreds of dairies in the area and was a life line for dairy farmers and their families. Carl Sandburg was labeled "A Poet of the People" and won two Pulitzer Awards during his lifetime. He was a poet, writer, historian biographer of Abraham Lincoln and a social activist. During our visit we will get a glimpse into the last twenty two years of the author's life as well as his wife's contributions to the American goat industry and her dairy operations. According to Sandburg, “We didn’t just buy two-hundred and forty-five acres when we bought Connemara, we bought a million acres of sky, too!” This morning we'll step back in time and visit this wonderful piece of history, preserved for mankind throughout the ages by our National Park Service!!
 Lunch: Box lunch provided upon request
   
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
 
  Bonclarken Assembly, Flat Rock, North Carolina Bonclarken Lake
Bonclarken Lake, surrounded by the beautiful mountains offers free fishing and a half-mile walking trail around the lake. Within easy walking distance of the housing facilities, Bonclarken Lake is a great place to visit during your stay! For additional information, visit www.bonclarken.org
  DuPont State Park
A short thirty minute drive will take you to three excellent waterfalls within an hour’s (round trip) walk of the parking lot. From the Hooker Falls parking lot Triple Falls is about a 7 minute walk upstream, though the main trail is quite steep as you approach the Falls. High Falls is about 15 minutes farther upstream from Triple Falls on moderate terrain. Both of these Falls are worth the hike. At the base of High Falls you can stand under the falls, swim in the pool or slide down the rock on the left. Upon returning to the parking lot you can take about a 6 minute walk downstream to Hooker Falls. Another favorite is Bridal Veil Falls which requires a hike of a couple of hours. For additional information, visit http://www.dupontforest.com/
  Historic Flat Rock
An online guide to the village of Flat Rock, North Carolina. For additional information, visit http://www.historicflatrockinc.org/
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


Asheville: Mountain Majesty


Author: Lou Harshaw


Description: A lifelong resident of Asheville and regional historian, author Lou Harshaw offers a firsthand look at the history and development of this magnificent city by drawing upon a host of historical sources as well as an extensive oral tradition. She follows the development of Asheville from village to town to city, always reflecting the feeling of the times. The result is a journey through time, documenting the evolution of one of the most intriguing cities in the United States. www.brightmountainbooks.com/titles/asheville.html



Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon


Author: Howard E. Covington Jr.


Description: From Publishers Weekly: Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.





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