Book Journeys – The Biltmore – Gardens

Biltmore Gardens

On this day, 119 years ago, George and Edith Vanderbilt married in a service in France. After their four-month long honeymoon, George brought his bride (called by many of the Appalachian natives ‘a princess’) back home to his estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.

The story behind Edith Vanderbilt's arrival to Biltmore Estate in #Asheville, NC, and her grand legacy amongst the workers and families of #Biltmore.
Edith Vanderbilt – PinterestPinterestPinterest

I can’t even imagine what Edith’s first thoughts were as she rounded the corner of the gated entry and saw the grand chateau with similar hues as the surrounding mountains. Both George and Edith were not only readers, but also the outdoorsy sort. Their personal photos, many taken by Edith, show them in various places around the estate and in the gardens. Continue reading “Book Journeys – The Biltmore – Gardens”

Book Journeys – Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Winding-tower-stairwayWe are taking another little detour from our Biltmore Series to visit a location that appears in Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund. This is the third book in the Beacons of Hope Series which revolves around lighthouses and inspired by the REAL women who operated them throughout history.

This book takes place on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan (think the northernmost point in the state). Jody had the opportunity to visit Eagle Harbor Lighthouse while she was writing Undaunted Hope. She even got to stay in the assistant’s cottage for a week!  How cool is that?

Eagle-Harbor-Lighthouse-12The Beacons of Hope Series focuses on different women who operated and served in lighthouses. This particular story was inspired by a woman named Ceccelia Carlson McLean. Ceccila was not fond of living in a lighthouse at all. This got Jody to thinking about the hardships and the daily struggles that a light keeper and his family would have to go through. The isolation, the danger, the list goes on and on. Out of Ceccelia’s history came Tessa’s story.

Fresnel-Lantern-Used-in-the-LighthouseLighthouse Friends has amazing history about this particular lighthouse. Originally built in 1850, a fourth-order, L. Sautter Fresnel lens was installed in 1857. In 1868  the structure was remodeled to withstand the harsh environment of the Upper Peninsula.

On January 8, 1982 the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse was de-staffed. If you visit today you will find several original buildings still standing, many of which are used as museums.

Facts and details taken from the “Author’s Note” in Undaunted Hope with permission from the author. Other historical facts found on Lighthouse Friends.

About the Book

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won’t be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can’t help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she’s the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her. Learn more HERE.

About the Author

Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is the bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including Luther and Katharina, winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award. She received a bachelor’s from Taylor University and a master’s from University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. Visit Jody’s website HERE.

Undaunted Hope - Scripture

Pictures of Eagle Harbor property of Jody Hedlund, used with permission.

Book Journeys – The Biltmore Series – Downstairs

Biltmore - DownstairsOur last Book Journey gave an introduction to The Biltmore as a whole, so today, we’re going to take a little tour downstairs. I’ll stop before we get to the library because that’s going to be its own post 😉 But…let’s begin…with our approach.


The house sits in a most lovely area. The three mile driveway from the Gatehouse to the sprawling Biltmore is called the Approach Road. Landscape Architect, Frederick Olmsted, carefully created a beautiful build-up to the grand unveiling of the estate house. The woods open to a long, green lawn leading up to the house with a rock wall on either side.

The house stands as a centerpiece and welcomes visitors to the beautiful front doors. The Entrance Hall opens to a great view of the Grand Winding Staircase to the left and the lush Winter Garden to the right. The Winter Garden consistently showcases flora of various types, lit by the wood-framed and elegantly carved ceiling of glass.

IMG956576Just beyond the Winter Garden is the largest room in the house, The Banquet Hall. The tapestry-wrapped room houses a dining table which could seat up to 64 people. The high ceilings and massive fireplace add such beauty to this great room.

The Breakfast Room, a more intimate space for family morning meals, is a room with elaborate decor and family portraits, increasing its intimacy.

Interestingly, The Music Room was not finished until 1976, but is an important part of history because in this room some of America’s most precious artwork was moved from the nation’s capital during WWII to keep it safe. Later, a fireplace and some décor was discovered in storage which fit the specifications of the room, so the room was finally finished and opened to the public.

The Tapestry Gallery, a 90-foot long room which leads to the library, is lined with 16th century tapestries and floor-to-ceiling doors which lead out onto the loggia. This was the place of gathering, of afternoon tea, and of…parties.

In my current WIP, this room is used a lot because, not only does it connect to the library, but during the warmer weather, the loggia doors would be opened to allow for more room to dance.

So, what do you know of the Biltmore? Have you ever been? Did you learn anything new today?

Guilded and Gracious

biltmorehouseMy husband and I went to tour The Biltmore House for our Valentine’s Day celebration. It was such a fun time and there was a special exhibit – the costumes of Downton Abbey were on display. Hubs bought me a Valentine’s gift too – a Downton necklace 😉

But among the beautiful costumes and fantastic information about the changes in styles from Edwardian to post World War 1, I found something else much more interesting. Actually…someONE more interesting.

Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt.

I’m fascinated by her – and George Vanderbilt. Though she married into the wealth and opulence of a millionaire’s world, she kept a gracious spirit, adventurer’s heart, and overcomer’s will. Her story needs to be told!

biltmorehouse1She’s inspired my writing. She created schools, supported literacy for adults, created a school for African American boys to have a free and quality education. She visited mountain women, far back in the woods and hollers of the Blue Ridge, and trained girls and boys in skills such as sewing, knitting, and carving.

She had a healthy curiosity for the workings of the Biltmore Estate as well as the people who lived there. She often visited the families of the estate, providing food or clothes as the need arose.

I want to know more!

As one of the first people in my Appalachian family history to attend college, I love that she celebrated education and teaching skills. I love that she was more than the millionaire’s bride, but a true ‘lady’.

A great inspiration for life…and story.