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The Biltmore Estate: A Bastion of Capitalist Greed

December 27, 2007

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.


From → Capitalism

  1. “So how does the Biltmore get away with it?”

    The airline industry oversells tickets all the time, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s who the Biltmore is taking its cue from.

    I have to say, despite all the exploitation on which the V’s fortune was built, I dig the Biltmore. I can’t help it. I also really like Asheville. Did you get to spend any time in the town?

    Happy New Year!


  2. Bob permalink

    Amazing what different people take away from Biltmore. You went and in my opinion became so self focused that you were inconvenienced by waiting in line that you failed to see the real benefit of Biltmore and what it does.

    A. As a tourist attraction it provides a huge boost to the local economy and tax income for local and federal government.

    B. It is largely responsible for the creation of thousands of jobs that started to supply the mansion and then extended to provide furniture and fabric around the world. For years Biltmore Industries financed by the Vanderbilts trained and people in wood working and fabric making, giving them a trade that they could market and make a living from.

    C. In a very poor area those greedy rich people you seem to despise so much brought badly needed and sustained employment. Much of which continues to this day.

    D. I suppose the donation of 125000 acres to create the Pisgah National forest was also a greedy move on the evil Vanderbilt’s part?

    Did you just choose not to see the loggers, stone cutters, furntiure makers, glass artisans, coppersmiths, wood carvers, tanners, painters, stone masons, caperneters, laborers, cooks, gardeners, farmers, curators and house keepers employed in the building’s construction and upkeep? Most of these people ended up with better lives because they got good paying work for that time when there was not much of anything else. Where would these people work in your perfect society? At the local DMV? Where would the money come from? Socialist ideas seem really good until you run out of other people’s money then what do you do?

    It amazes me , you envy and call it a bastion of greed, I marvel and call it a shining example of freedom philanthropy and genuine contribution to society. I wager that if Vanderbilt’s money was redistributed as I assume you think fit it would have been spent aimlessly with nothing whatsoever to show for it 110 years later. But because he did what he did there is a place there that people want to see and enjoy to go to. It sparks immagination, it gives a break from the mundane and the chance to appreciate the beautiful. And best of all, it still employs hundreds of people with sustainable employment. I find it really sad that someone has twisted your heart so.

  3. KnowwhatimtalkingaboutunlikeBob permalink

    Sustainable employment? Yeah right. We make poverty wages at the biltmore, no benefits, and almost everyone gets laid off for several months each year. They treat the workers like shit, and the corporate culture is the worst America has to offer. Everything is based on fear, intimidation, and harassment. There are myriad illegal practices etc etc etc and they fleece the customers on purpose. When you first get hired, Cecil comes to speak to you about how stupid the guests (customers) are

  4. Donna Davis permalink

    So the Vanderbilt’s had money and I thank God that they did. The Vanderbilt’s gave my great grandfather a job building that house and landscaping the land. My great grandfather then had the money to feed and care for his seven children.

  5. A disgruntled visitor permalink

    The acres for the Pisgah National Forest were SOLD–not donated.

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