It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

When we went to Biltmore in April, Christopher mentioned, on more than one occasion, that it was insane how highly they thought of this house to charge $65 per ticket. Well, $65 to walk yourself through an old house without air conditioning might seem steep, but I now think it is well worth it!

What’s that? You question this? Well, take a look at what you get for $65 at Biltmore:

The grounds are immaculate. They continue to expand on the property. There are restaurants, stores, a winery...a hotel. The inside of the house is perfectly kept up. The estate holds events, and decorates elaborately each year for Christmas.

Check out the front lawn at the Vanderbilt Mansion, where we entered the grounds for free and toured the house for $8:

And it’s not just the lawn at Vanderbilt. The back patio, where we used to take family pictures, is now closed off and there are weeds growing up through the cracks in the concrete. Inside the mansion, the elevator has been broken since 2007. They are slowly raising the money to bring it back to its original working order.

This is the rose garden at Vanderbilt. The gardens are taken care of by a group of volunteers. They do a pretty darn good job for volunteers, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

And here’s what you get at Mills Mansion when you enter the grounds for free and tour the house for $5:

I wish I had taken more pictures here. The stone wall that runs the length of their property at the road is in pieces. Chicken wire keeps loose pieces from falling to the ground. From the road it looks like there would be a haunted house through the trees.

When the property was originally gifted to the state, they used it for the grounds. The house was more or less just a building that happened to be there. When some of the exterior stucco of the house started to crack, they sprayed it with gunite, a cement coating, which turned the brilliant white stucco grey. Not only did the gunite turn the color dull, but also it coated all the intricate details. What was once dental molding now looks like bumpy trim.

And the Mills Gardens – they have been done away with long ago. The greenhouses were torn down and I couldn’t see anything that even slightly resembled a flower.

They are slowly starting to restore the Mills Mansion, but it will be a slow renovation as they continue to raise money.

I left all these pictures their original size so you can click on them and enlarge them.

Of course it’s lovely that anyone can just drive up to one of these estates and use the grounds for free and tour the house for a more than reasonable price. Roosevelt’s home tour was $14…that seemed to me a happy medium. It didn’t break the bank, but nothing seemed to be in too bad of disrepair. Of course I’m sure that property carries a bit more weight being that of a former president.

Where’s the happy medium? I’m not sure, but the next time I pay to go to Biltmore I think I will appreciate it a bit more.

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