St. John in the Wilderness

Just round the bend from the Sandburg home is the historic church of St. John in the Wilderness. This Episcopal Church is on the National Register of Historic Sites. The congregation began as a pioneer settlement in the early 1800’s in response to a need for a healthier environment for those afflicted with malaria and other illnesses. A chapel was built on the grounds with slaves and whites worshiping in unison.

Church size increased quickly and the church became a community focal point. Due to its location in the mountains many of the Southern aristocracy flocked to the church escaping the summer heat.

The cemetery is well maintained and for those with interest in cemetery and gravestone history it is an excellent place for a visit.

The church is a simple yet beautiful sanctuary with the surrounding grounds offering a cool respite under the shade of many trees.

Church Altar

The church remains active with services on Sunday at 8:45 and 11 a.m.

A healing service is also listed on their brochure on Wednesday 10:30 am in the Parish Hall.

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence: Rafael Guastavino

The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina

For anyone who visits Biltmore the name Rafael Guastavino resonates as the Spanish architect and builder who was responsible for the construction of the Biltmore arch supports and swimming pool. So fascinated by this structure I sought out the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville to see more of his work. This church is the only property where Rafael was the primary architect and builder. He is also buried in the Basilica.

Rafael Guastavino spent three decades in America involved in crafting many American structures. Following are a sampling of his credits:

  • New York City – Carnegie Hall, Grant’s Tomb, Grand Central Terminal, St. John the Divine Church
  • Boston – Boston Public Library
  • Washington D.C. – Supreme Court Building
  • Chicago – Rockefeller Chapel at University of Chicago

He developed a system of self supporting arches which he patented as the “Tile Arch System.” Using tile and mortar his system was used in domes and other vaulting systems throughout the world. To date his process is still in use. Below is a more in depth picture of the dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence.

Thanks, Rafael for coming to America.

Asheville Day 2: Biltmore

Biltmore is considered by most as America’s only castle. With building construction beginning in 1889 and lasting over 6 years, 1000 workers crafted this majestic residence. Two architects worked in concert to produce this amazing property. Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame created the outside landscaping and gardens, and Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of the home. While assessed on tax rolls at $64 million it is priceless and pricey to visit but well worth the fee as the visit is captivating and one you will never forget.

After obtaining tickets to the venue there is a long drive to the home through forested lands. It is amazing to think in 1896 this was desolate farmland recreated as a forest on Olmsted’s recommendation.

The forest continues as you walk to the mansion from the parking lot. Then the awesome structure appears at the end of a grassy courtyard. Walking closer to the entry large stone lions greet you as doors open into a foyer of plants with a domed ceiling.

From the spectacular entry walk to the dining room where George and Edith Vanderbilt dined with their guests on 6 to 10 course meals.

In the library is George’s immense collection of books. He also entertained great authors and poets in this room discussing their works. If only walls could talk.

Then there is the room housing priceless tapestries..

And take a glimpse at George’s bedroom..

Next visit the exquisite gardens, greenhouses, and forest. Stroll the many many trails. You will understand why George chose this spot to build.

Tours are timed for entry with limited numbers of visitors allowed making for a comfortable visit. Audio tours are an additional cost but well worth the price. Purchase your tickets on line a week prior to visit for savings. There are interesting back stage tours given by docents. Read the bios to see what fits your desires and interest. It takes at least 90 minutes to view the 39 rooms and spaces for tour in the home. There are docents in each room to answer questions. Christmas is the best time of year for visit as Biltmore glows with festive decor.

Bathrooms are not available in the house so to ensure a comfortable visit take care of those needs prior to visit. Walk past the entry doors of the home to a complex which has food, retail, and bathroom facilities. Here there is much to buy, eat, and sample. Wine tasting is included in the price of admission, however the larger tasting is available off-site at the Antler Hill Village and Winery. Here there is also a small animal farm for children, interesting trains, and a museum explaining more of the Vanderbilt’s life.

To make every aspect of your tour a valuable experience pick up a copy of “Your Visit to Biltmore,” which is available through the Asheville on line services. Also, investigate the extensive Biltmore web site for all specifics and needs. I highly recommend reading information on the Vanderbilt family prior to visit. This will make your visit even more valuable.

Asheville: Day 1

Within 30 minutes of destination a horrific rain storm occurred while driving through the mountains. Though some folks stopped on the shoulder I continued. Once the rain abated a scene of mist from the mountains rose with a pink sky and the harvest moon in the back drop. Asheville certainly has a beautiful pink sky.

Upon arrival and with greetings completed we ventured to the downtown Asheville area. This is a busy spot with much music playing on this, Friday, the 13th. Besides the weekly drumming group in the square there were other musicians playing as folks strolled the streets.

Asheville is a town with many older, well maintained buildings with quirky stores repurposed from older venues. F. W. Woolworth was a collage of many smaller stores with some original artifacts remaining.

Then there are the restaurants and bar venues. We stopped at an Asian tapas restaurant and later heard more music from an eclectic group.

Never had a Friday the 13th quite like this!