This past weekend I was reminded strongly of the folly of living for stuff. A few weeks ago a friend gave us tickets to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. We had not been there since the day we got engaged, almost 33 years ago. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, even though it was cold and rainy. We could not believe how many visitors there were! It was a packed out house (or as I love to say, a packed outhouse)!
As we toured the house many thoughts went through my mind. Some of the rooms were literally so large that our entire little house would fit inside them. The 175,000 square-foot (16 300 m2) house with its 255 rooms and beautiful gardens reminded me of the châteaux we have visited in Europe. Although today's liberal politicians would try their best (or worst) to incite us to class envy by criticizing George Vanderbilt for using his own money to build the house he wanted and could afford, the building project and maintenance afterwards provided jobs for many people. I said to my wife that since Obama wants to create jobs, he ought to build a house like this. One difference would be that he would not be doing it with his own money.
As I viewed some of the amenities in Biltmore, my mind went to a post I did called Changing Times about what life was like in the US in the year 1900, which is right at the time Vanderbilt had just moved into his new estate. There was quite a contrast between what we saw in Biltmore and what most Americans considered the norm in 1900.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but I was able to find some online to show some of the amazing features.
The first thing you see upon entering is the "Winter Garden." There were many plants and flowers throughout the house, and as far as we could tell by what we touched, they were all real.
Here's a view of just part of the banquet hall. The table can be extended to a length of 40 feet. Notice the triple fireplace at the far end.
In the basement of the house we saw the Vanderbilts' two-lane bowling alley.
Although there was no water in it, we were able to see the world's first indoor swimming pool in the basement.
After visiting the house we stopped at the River Bend Farm on the Biltmore Estate. Even though it was winter and rainy, we were glad we visited it. As we watched a film inside the barn we learned much of the good that had come to the people living in that area as a result of George Vanderbilt's having built his mansion there. His interest in horticulture and his goal of running Biltmore as a self-sustaining estate was extremely beneficial to people in the area and added to advances in farming techniques in the United States.
Near the barn we visited the woodworker's shop, the blacksmith's shop, and the mercantile. The blacksmith was particularly entertaining and informative.
There was a barnyard with animals to pet, including two huge horses. Here's one of them.
We enjoyed petting the adorable baby pygmy goats that were the size of our cats.
I don't know how much George Vanderbilt obsessed about his mansion, but I do know that he was able to live there for only a short time 1898-1914, dying at the age of 52 of complications from an appendectomy. And his magnificent house is still here – he couldn't take it with him. It made me think of a story to share.
There once was a believing rich man who was dying. While on his death bed, he tried to get the Lord to let him bring his earthly treasures with him to heaven. "Lord, please, I have worked so hard to accumulate all these riches. Can't I bring them along?"
The Lord spoke to his heart, telling him, "I never grant this request. Go ahead and plan what you would bring if I permitted you to bring just one suitcase, and we'll talk about it once you're in heaven."
The man immediately began to think about what he could take in just one suitcase. Finally he had a servant fill a large suitcase with gold bricks. Shortly thereafter, he died.
When the man got to heaven, he was amazed at the beauty surrounding him, and to say he was overwhelmed when he saw the Lord for the first time would be a huge understatement.
Enjoying the splendors of his new home, the man completely forgot about the suitcase he had wanted to bring along, until the Lord asked him about it. "My child, tell me what you planned to put into that suitcase you wanted to bring."
"Oh yes, Lord. I forgot all about that! I had my servant pack a large suitcase with bricks of gold."
The Lord said, "I know you haven't been able to see everything up here yet." He continued by asking him kindly, "But what in the world were you thinking when you decided to bring pavement?"
Have you ever visited the Biltmore or other mansions of the world? What were your impressions? Becka reminded me Saturday of a quotation from Joan, a friend of my mom, "Europe is a nice place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to have to dust it!"
"Possessions have a way of possessing us as they take the place of God in our hearts." - Dr. Drew Conley
I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.
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