Rich corinthian leather and admission fees

news-biltmore A reporter's ears perked up during an August 2 visit to America's largest house in Asheville, North Carolina when the headphones advised that the mansion's Breakfast Room was clad in "hand-tooled leather." This conjured several mirthful notions:

• the late Ricardo Montalban enthusing about his Chrysler Cordoba,
• the now-closed Swannanoa mansion at Rockfish Gap, which also has a leather-clad room,
• the Hook's new Annual Manual with the look and feel of hand-tooled leather, but also
• how the Biltmore just charged a Hook reporter $60.75 (and that's with a $4.25 online discount) for a self-guided tour that didn't include any interaction with a human being. (By contrast, Charlottesville's own historic mansion, Monticello, provides an informed person on all tours, and the tours cost just $20.)

5 comments

Biltmore is way overpriced. They probably lose so much money by overpricing. I mean, I'll go back to Monticello four or five times and pay the $20 but with the price the Biltmore uses they are lucky that I go once. You do the math!

hey! That's Richie Rich's house!

I hear that Charlottesville may soon have a new mansion equal in size and grandeur to the Biltmore right here in Albemarle County. The railroad magnates of old, have been replace by the developer magnates of Albemarle County. Maybe this article will inspire a hand-tooled leather room as an addition to the current plan--stay tuned.

Biltmore was delicate, fey George Vanderbilt's overreaction to the snubbing of his great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt during a yacht tour of Europe on what was then the world's largest, most sumptuous paddlewheel steamer. In America even self-made wealth was treated like royalty (Cornelius started with a rowboat ferry service on Staten Island), so imagine the Vanderbilt family's surprise to discover that royalty, in fact anybody with a title, would refuse invitations to their yacht. The merchants in England threw a big banquet--but anyone with a title? Declined. Busy. So sorry. The Vanderbilts were--ahem--in trade. Still smarting form the snub, young George upon getting his inheritance decided to out-Europe the Europeans, and built a French chateau in the middle of the North Carolina wilderness, complete with a vaulted ceiling in the dining room sporting colorful coats of arms none of which of course, had any actual relation to his own family. Continuing the tradition of parvenu pretentiousness, the introductory movie on the tour repeatedly tells tourists, vacationing plumbers, accountants and reporters, that for a price they can join the ranks of the exclusive ("sample our exclusive wines," "stay at our exclusive hotel," "enjoy an exclusive ice cream in our exclusive ice cream shop"). They nickle and dime, or ten and twenty you at every turn. Take your photo midway through the tour, and then at the end offer to sell you a print for $30. They take the photo incidentally in front of the atrium featuring the statue of a naked adolescent with a bird which in North Carolina they call "boy with goose." Were you to mention Zeus and Ganymede you'd get only a blank stare--or maybe that is how they always look. George was a little fey as mentioned; most of the prints decorating his house are unclad males--but back then you could only go so far.

Nice garden though.

Thurston Howell IV, I love you, whoever you are! Great post exposing the Biltmore scam. You can put lipstick on a pig, but...

Would relate my own Gloria Vanderbilt story here, but a lady doesn't kiss and tell...