Growing up in suburban America, my idea of what constitutes a mansion was formed mainly by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Dallas. Big, airy houses with fluted, two-story pillars framing fancy double doors. They had vaulted ceilings and pools out back and extra room for a long suffering servant or two.
That’s not to say that I didn’t know about castles and manor houses in lands far, far away, but my brain simply couldn’t imagine the true scale of these places. Corridors so long and winding one could become lost? Preposterous. Wings so far apart that you could have a ball in one wing and sleep soundly in the other? Crazy talk. I honestly couldn’t picture these things when reading my beloved historical romances, set in the sprawling country homes and massive townhouses of England.
But a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of just such a home when my mom and I decided to visit the Biltmore House in Asheville North Carolina. And my, oh my, did it open my eyes! The scale? Beyond massive. The house and furnishings? Spectacular does not begin to describe it. Walls covered in hand tooled leather? Check. A dining hall with its own pipe organ? Check. A huge, ten-foot deep indoor pool? Check. Servant’s quarters large enough to house thirty-five permanent servants and another thirty visiting servants? Check.
In a word? Magical :) Visiting America’s largest private home is an event, one that I hope you have the chance to participate in some day. This time around, I got to enjoy a day with my friend, critique partner, and fellow Regency writer Catherine Gayle. It was her first time there, which made it doubly fun for me. We were there for almost six hours, and I swear we only sat down once, and that was for lunch (in the refurbished stables, mind you!). The rest of the time we were walking, walking, walking—and even then, we only saw the public parts of the house!
This trip was a total blast, and I am feeling all kinds of inspired. I think, perhaps, my heroine may get lost on the way back to her room on a dark and stormy night... ;)
For a little treat, here are some of the pictures I took while on our trip. Oh, and the best part? Totally a tax write off! Gotta love research, baby!
So tell me - have you been to the Biltmore? Or any other truly massive old home? If not, where would you like to visit?