We have been to Biltmore before but it is worth a second or third look. The gardens are in full bloom and the house was lavishly decorated with spring flowers. Probably the most amazing room in the home is the Winter Garden.  When you go on the tour, you enter  biltmore through the massive outer fromt doors and then the even more massive wooden front doors.  Neither have outside door handles. The butler opens the doors from the inside. The entry foyer is huge, the ceiling high and awe is the main word that comes to mind. Just to the right the very large octagonal Winter Garden awaits.  Down a few steps into an oasis of orchids, whites one one side, reds, pinks and purples finished the room. Orchids of every conceivable shape.

Stunning, massive white oak truss work carries the leaded glass dome and the chandeliers. A system of cranks, swivel joints and geared arms open windows in the dome to help keep the twmperature and humidity just right for the flowers and plants on display. The central fountain has a marble and bronze fountain sculpture “Boy Stealing Geese” by Viennese artist Karl Bitter. At Christmas it is replaced with a soaring tree decorated for the season.

Every time I have visited the house, I marvel at the craftsmanship.  Several hundred skilled craftsmen worked on the house from 1889 – 1895.  They lived in a village built for them at the edge of the 125,000 acre estate.  A three mile long railway spur was built to the home site to transport materials and workers. A sawmill and millwork shops were built. Nearby clay was dug to manufacture bricks in the brick factory and kilns that was built. Once fired, the brick kilns produced 30,000 bricks a day for more than five years.

The house sits on foundations fourteen feet wide and twenty feet high. They support a steel frame structure of columns, beams, trusses and joists reaching all the way to the roof. Bricks, concrete and stone filled in between and then finished materials completed the interiors.  The exterior was covered with limestone blocks shaped on site and mortared together.  All fo the finish detail stone carving was done on the stone in place.

The roof was Pennsylvania Slate wired to the steel sub structure.  There is very little wooden structure to make the home almost fire proof.
The stone work is very detailed and precise. gargoyles (drains) and grotesques were everywhere.
The roof flachings were lead and custom made copper panels with an embossed GV or his family crest or his mother’s family crest. 
There are 16 chimneys venting 45 fireplaces.three of them are in the dining room.
 70 ft ceiling, seating for more than 100.

The flowers in the formal gardens were blooming. The consrvatory and the hot houses were full of new plants and flowers.

We spent all day wandering around inside the house and in the gardens. We went back the next morning so that I could go on the “Architect’s tour”. This gives you a special behind the scenes look at the house that the regular tours never see. This was from the roof.

 And the outside of the Winter Garden.

There is more, better get these loaded.
Roger and Susan

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