The Biltmore Estate

The transportation business was very, very good to George Washington Vanderbilt II. Between the shipping business and the railroad industry, he was able to amass one of the largest fortunes in American history. (No doubt, today he would  have added a few fleets of trucks to his empire.)

After visiting the Asheville area and falling in love with the countryside, he decided to build a weekend retreat which he called his "little mountain escape." Expanding just slightly on the word "little" he purchased nearly 700 parcels of land which included over 50 farms and at least five cemeteries. With 125,000 acres (195 square miles) of property to landscape, whom else would you call other than Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of the Chicago World's Fair and Central Park in New York among many other well known parks and reservations? In addition to rustic forests, ponds and streams, Olmstead created 75 acres of formal gardens including an Italian formal garden, a walled garden, a shrub and rose garden, fountains, and a conservatory with individual rooms for palms and orchids.

The mansion is no less impressive. Still the largest privately owned house in the United States it took 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons to construct. A local woodworking factory and brick kiln had to be built just to provide building materials. The 250 rooms have been outfitted with furniture, tapestries, carpets and artwork from all over the world.

Today, tourists visiting the estate could easily spend several days touring the mansion, the gardens, the stables, the restaurants and gift shops and winery and still not see every breathtaking feature. But on Friday, SSA will be taking all registered convention attendees and guests on a tour of the facility. Your transportation and admission will be paid for. But for food, souvenirs and extras ... well ... you might want to bring along a little extra pocket money.

We hope you will join us. This is an experience you'll talking about for the rest of your life.

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