The Biltmore Estate: A Bastion of Capitalist Greed
We’ve been on the road recently, and last week we stopped at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The Biltmore prides itself in being “America’s largest home,” and for hundreds of tourists each year the mansion is an edifice that represents the limitless possibilities of the American Dream. The house was commissioned by the railroad tycoon George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, and it was designed by leading architects and landscapers, including Frank Law Olmsted.
Our family anticipated the experience of seeing the estate, so we purchased tickets to take a tour of the mansion and its winery. We arrived on the sprawling, pastoral acres of the estate and drove up to the parking lot, where we waited about 40 minutes in line for our turn to ride a shuttle. Once we finally made it on the shuttle, the driver informed us that the Biltmore Estate sold 2500 tickets for the day. The long lines and delays, he said, were due to the fact that over 3000 more “unanticipated guests” had arrived. In total, our wait just to make it inside the house would be almost two hours.
It’s not surprising that Vanderbilt dynasty, built on taking advantage of people, inconvenienced us, the unsuspecting tourists. Is not the idea of a ticket such that it provides access to an experience or event? Baseball teams don’t accidentally sell tickets to more fans then they can reasonably accommodate. So how does the Biltmore get away with it?
I suspect that the curators and caretakers of the estate harbor the same sense of self-entitlement that George Vanderbilt himself exhibited when he had his estate built.