This was an all day event for us. After entering the gate, you follow a lush, green winding road through the forest. I tried to imagine how it must have felt dressed in my finery, sitting in a horse drawn carriage, no, riding side saddle on a fine Tennessee Walker, trotting through the glade. It must have been such an honor to receive an invitation to stay with the Vanderbilts at their new country house. I’m sure it was the talk of the town.
The Vanderbilt’s money came from steam ships among other things. They were one of the, if not the richest, families in the country. When the “house” first came into view, I was stunned with it’s majesty. It seemed so grand. I was unable to imagine that this was a home at one time. Where children grew up and played in the yard. And yet, having been into genteel society, they probably never ever considered that they were living in the lap of luxury. Such things just came naturally. The servants, the ponies, the fishing pond, the reflecting pools. Not a life I can conceive of ever living.
This house is so large that I could imagine my seeing my husband in the drawing room and greeting him, welcoming him back from his trip only to find out that he’d been home for three weeks already! It is that big. I can’t imagine cleaning the bathrooms.
If you go, wear good walking shoes. The inside tour takes several hours and I highly recommend taking advantage of the audio tour. You will get a lot more out of it than just walking around. The narration is well done. I especially loved the winter garden, an inside courtyard filled with plants. High ceilings don’t even begin to convey how large the first hall is. It soars above your head. The grand staircase is off to the left and it is lined with windows and narrow doors that let the servants step out to clean them.
A lot of the walls were papered with velvets, fabrics, linens, tapestries and hand tooled leather. We got to tour the upstairs bedrooms and the guest’s living room, the billiard room, dining room (three fireplaces), the kitchen (there was a rotisserie kitchen, a pastry kitchen and the main kitchen.) There was an incredible indoor swimming pool, (you gotta see that one)and a bowling alley. The amenities they had in those days were astonishing.
The bad thing was that you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house. I think they want you to buy the postcards or the books.
Next on our list to do was the gardens. It is a walled garden filled with perennial and annual beds and rose gardens of which I took many pictures. The scents were incredible, the colors were vibrant. I can’t imagine how many people it takes to keep those gardens tidy.
Annual gardens just starting to fill in for summer.
One of my faves, these look like Globemaster alliums with orange poppies.
Into the walled garden.
Pink roses with a center spot. None of the roses had names on the tags, just numbers. Maybe they are test roses or there is a brochure with the name sot match the numbers. Anybody know?
Burgundy and chartreuse coleus in the pattern of diamonds. I was surprised to see them in the full sun.
Red single roses with a yellow center. Very striking.
A shot of the walled garden from another angle.
The rose garden.
This looks to be a coleus trained as a standard which I have never seen.
This is an attractive use of swiss chard in an ornamental basket with flowers.
A view of roses through a lattice keyhole.
A wisteria covered walkway. Nice and cool on that hot day.
these are some kind of succulent hung in an old frame on the wall. Love it!
Just when we thought we were done (our feet were killing us and my knee was giving me considerable grief, all those stairs inside and out) we looked down onto a building filled with exotic tropicals and orchids. I picked up some design ideas and interesting color combinations.
Orchids and other tropicals.
Finally, our legs could do no more and we walked back up to the top to wait for the shuttle. I would have loved to have had a shuttle from the bottom of the gardens!
I would suggest that you take two days for the grounds and inside tour. As it were, we missed the azalea gardens, the italian garden, the reflecting pools, and the bass pond. There is only so much that a body could do.