Land Rover's Biltmore school is one of three.Enlarge Photo
A home for the holidays
Asheville is a happy hippy little town, full of funky shops, halfbackers (retirees who tired of Florida and made their way halfway back to the Northeast), and students itching for classes to end and skiing at nearby Boone to begin.
Biltmore stands in majestic contrast. In any European country it’d be called a castle. In Laos it’d be a skyscraper. But to locals and other North Carolinians it’s “the house,” one of the prime tourist attractions in the entire state.
The story of its origin is simple: George W. Vanderbilt wanted a country home. So after purchasing 8000 acres in the town of Asheville, he commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt (who designed the base of the Statue of Liberty) to pen the house, and hired Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park architect) to design its gardens. Imagine hiring Rem Koolhaas to style your casita and then having HGTV over to program your yard, and you have the general idea of the massive wealth it required to build the original estate.
And aside from being a huge home and a National Historic Landmark, Biltmore’s one of the hallmarks of early-century technology. The house has some of Edison ’s first light bulbs, indoor plumbing, and telephones, all new inventions when it was built at the turn of the 20th century.
It’s imposing in any season, but in December, Biltmore is transformed into a wonderland of holiday trim and, if you’re lucky, snow and ice. During the Christmas at Biltmore Estate and Candlelight Christmas Evenings, it’s transformed into a fairytale castle with miles of evergreen garland, hundreds of poinsettias, dozens of Christmas trees, and a magnificent 35-foot-tall live Fraser Fir decked with lights, ornaments, and gifts.