⇙ Free online 〦 The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home download ⦄ Book Author Denise Kiernan ⧶ ⇙ Free online 〦 The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home download ⦄ Book Author Denise Kiernan ⧶ The Last Castle 1 A Winters Tale That was the year she started spending her winters in New York again Edith Dresser was fifteen years old when her grandmother, Susan Elizabeth Fish LeRoy, decided that she and the Dresser children would leave their Rhode Island home for the Christmas season The year was 1888 Seasonal migrations from Newport to New York were common among their privileged set, and the allure of the great city on the Hudson still drew their grandmother into its predictably casted embrace Grandmother was a woman at ease in the world of drawing rooms and calling cards, one who appreciated both the ritualistic behaviors and increased social diversions that New York could be counted on to provide New Amsterdamas Manhattan had once been knownhad been home to their familys Dutch ancestors Now Grandmother, in turn, had become all that constituted home and family to Edith, her three sisters, and brother Grandmother had arranged to rent a house at 2 Gramercy Square, a very respectableif not ultra fashionableaddress for the family Its next door twin, 1 Gramercy, had been the last home of the noted surgeon and professor Dr Valentine Mott Mott had helped establish the short lived Rutgers Medical College in lower Manhattan, and gained attention as the chair of surgery at both the University Medical College of NYU and Columbias College of Physicians and Surgeons More salaciously, he earned some notoriety as a disruptor of all that was good and pure in the world of medical instruction when he promoted the idea of using human cadavers to instruct up and coming clinicians His good works and surgical brilliance kept his reputation intact, even though the good doctor was known to have disguised himself as a laborer and visited graveyards to retrieve recently unearthed teaching aids Around the corner on the south side of Gramercy Square, at No 16, was the brand new Players Club, which was opening that winter The building had been purchased by the actor Edwin Booth, who could currently be seen as Brutus in a production of Julius Caesar Twenty three years earlier, Booth had announced his retirement following his deranged brother John Wilkes Booths assassination of President Abraham Lincoln Distraught over his brothers actions, Edwin penned an open letter to the People of the United States, which was published in several newspapers For the future alas, he wrote I shall struggle on in my retirement bearing a heavy heart, an oppressed memory and a wounded namedreadful burdensto my too welcome grave However, he curtailed his retirement to a nine month hiatus from the limelight, returning to the stageand welcome audiencesin 1866 as Hamlet, a role he continued to reprise The newly founded Players Club would house an impressive library of theater history, as well as collections of paintings and autographs Booth wrote a friend that he wanted the club to be a place where actors are away from the glamour of the theatre, and that thespians should spend time mingling with minds that influence the world To that end, founding members of the club included author Mark Twain and the celebrated Union Army general William Tecumseh Sherman 2 Gramercy Square, where young Edith and her family would be staying, was the home of the Pinchot familybusinessman James Wallace Pinchot his wife, Mary Jane Eno Pinchot and their children, Gifford, Amos, and Antoinette The Pinchot family had recently completed the building of a new Milford, Pennsylvania, home that had been designed by the noted New York City architect Richard Morris Hunt and subsequently dubbed Grey Towers The Pinchots oldest son, Gifford, was away studying at Yale, and Edith and her sisters knew Nettie Pinchot from dancing class in Newport The four story brick house was Italianate in style, with cast iron railings gracing its small balconies and floor to ceiling parlor windows Ediths brother, Danielwho went by his middle name LeRoywas in his final year at Columbia, which meant that he would again be living under the same roof as his sisters Susan, the oldest, was now twenty four, and two years older than LeRoy Natalie was nineteen and Pauline, the baby, was still just twelve The family would be together, nestled in this house across from the gated park From outside those parlor windows looking in, one might have seen four young ladies and one young man living the kind of gleaming nineteenth century life envied by scores of less fortunate citizens of the time A closer inspection of their lives, however, revealed signs of difficulty and strain, like scuff marks hidden beneath the smooth veneer of a freshly polished parlor floor They were five siblings, separated in age by twelve years joined, as so many other families of the time were, by tragic loss Ediths parents had met at West Point, New York, where her father was a cadet and her mother, Susan Fish LeRoy, was staying nearby with her family at the Rose Hotel After George Warren Dresser graduated from the United States Military Academy and posted at Fort Adams outside Susans home of Newport, he pursued his love It was not an easy road The Fish LeRoy family was exceptionally well known in New York circles where names carried the weight of history and bore the shackles of expected romantic pairings First, middle, last, and family names were shuffled around from generation to generationperpetually recombining DNA of societal rankso that they would always be a part of ones title, ensuring that even the smallest link to storied heritage was immediately evident upon ones first introduction Fish LeRoy King Schermerhorn Stuyvesant Ediths mother had bestowed upon Edith a middle name taken from the surname of their ancestor, the famed Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant It would serve Edith in future times when money could not Ediths father was a congenial, accomplished, and educated man with an honorable if humbler background than that of her mother George Warren Dresser was of New England stock, educated at Andover, and hailing from a line of teachers, farmers, and lawyers Ediths grandfather Daniel LeRoy did not consider him an appropriate match for Ediths mother and objected vocally and often to George and Susans union But her mothers older sister, Aunty Mary Kingwho herself had made a predictably wealthy yet loveless matchstood firmly on the Dresser side of love Aunty King welcomed George into her home in Newport, where he was free to call on her sister Hearts won out In April 1863 at Calvary Church in New York, a line of groomsmen in uniform stood proudly by as George Warren Dresser married Susan Fish LeRoy Then George headed south to war along with classmates, volunteers, and countless immigrants just arrived from places like Ireland and Germany George rose from a second lieutenancy in the Fourth Artillery to major before the war ended Along the way he fought in the Battle of Bull Run and commanded a company out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he played a vital part in securing federal supply lines against Confederate attack Once the war ended, Georges accolades mattered little to Ediths grandfather, who insisted his son in law resign from the military and give his daughter the opportunity to live a life worthy of her bloodline George consented and began a career in civil engineering He made friends easily, and acted as editor of the trade publication American Gas Light Journal He had bright dark eyes, a barrel physique, and wore his hair parted down the middle with just the suggestion of a wave on each side The lower half of his face was wreathed in the friendly muttonchops popularized by Civil War general Ambrose Burnside George welcomed all into his homethe children of friends, army comrades, gas workers Ediths mother was soft spoken, attentive to her children, skilled with a needle and thread, and purposely eschewed much of the life laid out for her She loved her George dearly Of any residences in New York or Newport, the one perhaps most deeply etched in the minds of the Dresser children was the house at 35 University Place The salon on the front of the three story home provided young Edith and her sisters a view through a French window of Manhattan life outside Sitting among the brocade surroundings they watched the horse drawn streetcars passing by The sisters competed to see who could most quickly identify the car numbers as the vehicles made their way north in the direction of Times Square, hauled by a few of the hundreds of thousands of horses that powered the citys transportation, baptizing its streets with their urine and fertilizing whatever weeds managed to sprout between pavers with their manure In the back of the house, a glass conservatory overlooked the yard From this vantage point, young Edith, all gangly legs and long, bone straight hair, could keep an eye on her nineteen turtles She watched as they basked happily within their shells in a warm spot, dove deep under the soil and brush to hibernate for the winter, and erupted from the earth for another season in the sun Edith shared a room on the second floor with her two older sisters It had one row of beds with a small conservatory outside that normally remained empty, save for the time Edith was quarantined there during a whooping cough episode The servants quarters were in the basement, where the children found an excellent roller skating surface and there was always a soft perch for young Pauline atop warm, folded clothes It was a busy home, its halls reverberating with the broken English of French servants, the laughter of children, and the rumblings of adults at backgammon or immersed in conversation in the red library Ediths brother, LeRoy, entertained friends in his domain on the third floor George and Susan had visitors as well, even if the calendar of social events that regulated their world held little appeal for Ediths mother, who preferred to stay at home close to her children Sunday evening suppers were for stewed oysters and roast chicken, often set upon a red tablecloth in the dining room On Sunday, supper was eaten earlya high tea, as it was then calledand on those evenings Ediths father went to serve as a vestryman at Trinity Churchs St Johns Chapel on Vesey Street It took several transfers to arrive there by horsecar, but once in the hallowed space, the children watched as their father passed the collection plate among the pews In January 1883, the Hazelton Brothers piano factory across the street at 3436 University Place erupted in flame Servants and parents bundled the familys possessions into balls of sheets away from windows before the glass panes burst from the waves of heat emanating from the burning building Once the flames subsided the Dressers were fortunate that their home survived relatively unscathed Yet they did not avoid all tragedy Ediths mother had become ill during a recent trip to Europe Her condition was worsening, and it prevented her from presenting Ediths sister Susan, then eighteen, to society Luckily, her mothers friend Mrs John Jacob Astor stepped in to help Susan alonga lovely gesture by a formidable doyenne of society Still, months of increasing silence fell over the once lively household Spring came and Ediths sister Pauline moved into the bedroom with her older sisters Nurses arrived Adults demanded quiet Doors shut the inevitable from Ediths view One morning that April, the doors and windows of her mothers room were opened The lifeless shell that was Ediths mother remained for the time being Mourners and friends came and went Edith went with Mrs Woodworth, a family friend, to the clothiers Arnold Constable, where she was fitted for an appropriate outfit of black crepe to wear to her mothers service at Trinity Ediths sister Susan fainted at the church Edith and her family could see that Georges health was also waning Still mourning her mother, Edith was faced with losing her father as well Knowing the children would soon be orphaned, Ediths Aunty King offered to take Natalie to live with her George begged his sister in law to keep the children together once he was gone, and Aunty King was soon called upon to keep her word Ediths father died a little over a month after his wife His funeral was held on a day best befitting his honorable career in the militaryDecoration Day Ediths parents were interred beside each other in the Newport cemetery Edith was not yet ten years old Shortly after, Edith and her siblings went to Newport for what would turn out to be a lengthy stay Her grandmother and that same, stern grandfather, the man who had frowned on his daughters marriage to a New England army officer, took the children in Daniel LeRoy was already eighty five years of age, and Ediths grandmother was seventy eight The following year, 1884, he built a two story addition onto the old red house at 206 Bellevue Avenue in Newport to accommodate his younger family members Grandfather passed away in 1885 at the age of eighty seven, just two years after Ediths parents, his mind having departed well in advance of his body Now, in 1888, Grandmother was bringing the Dresser brood back to New York As another winter in the city ended, spring brought the emergence of shoots from age old trunks, no one knowing which branches might cross and when, bending to the will of the wind That was also the year that another, prominent, Manhattan resident had grown tired of New York winters and decided to make a change In 1888, George Washington Vanderbilt was twenty five years old As the youngest child of William Henry Vanderbilt and grandson of the infamously cutthroat tycoon Cornelius Commodore Vanderbilt, George may have wanted for nothing financially, but that hardly meant his life was void of all expectation Quite the contrary To be a son of the Vanderbilt dynasty was to have your every move, dalliance, chance encounter, and passing venture watched and analyzed, whether via opera glasses across the expanse of the Metropolitan Opera or by eager eyes scanning the society pages of the newspapers His grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt had known much simpler times Born in 1794, Cornelius had grown up on a farm on Staten Island, where the Vanderbilt familyor van der Bilt or van Derbilt, depending on who was signing their namehad lived for than a century His ancestors had seen Dutch rule pass to the English and then, finally, the birth of the American colonies Through all the changing of guards and flags, many of the family continued to dwell within a world of their home countrys language and religion Though their farms expanded and the number of Vanderbilts multiplied, work remained arduous and compensation scant Uneducated in the traditional sense, and lacking in the most common of courtesies, young Cornelius was a diligent worker Whatever he lacked in finishing he made up for in grit and ambition As the most popular version of the story goes, during Corneliuss youth, his mother, Phebe, offered him 100 to clear some acreage on the family land Once the task was completed, Cornelius used those earnings to buy what the Native Americans in the region called a piragua This perry auger, a ramshackle boat, gave Cornelius access to the waters surrounding Staten Island, the same waters connecting their small island community to the nearby mecca of industry Manhattan Thus Corneliuss New York Harbor ferry service was born, and his nicknameCommodoresoon followed As his business grew, so did rumors of his ruthless dealings The Commodore outworked and undercut competitors, making no friends but scads of money along the way His ferries developed into steamship lines, which eventually gave way to railroad investments in the New York and Harlem, and New York and Hudson, lines The Commodore possessed both a fondness and knack for manipulating railroad stocks, which helped him further stuff his rapidly expanding coffers In 1867, he began construction on St Johns Freight Terminal, designed by architect John Butler Snook, on the site of St Johns Park near Trinity Church in lower Manhattan The Hudson Street side of the freight terminal featured a not so subtle 150 foot long bronze frieze featuring images from the Commodores life, including his steam yacht, North Star, and various tools of the marine trade In the midst of this sculptural scene was the man himself, regal and proud, a master of water and rail The Commodore finally consolidated his accumulating rail lines and created the New York Central railroad which, by 1870, would carry than seven million passengers and a million tons of freight into the city In 1871, the Commodore opened the immensely unpopular Grand Central Depot, again designed by Snook Fronting East Forty Second Street, the structure covered 5 acres and was dislikedand perhaps enviedby many who passed by or through its doors To gain control of the acreage he needed, the Commodore used tactics such as seizure rightspertaining to railroad lawto run off those unwilling to sell The area around the mammoth structure was clogged with trains, and lives had been lost crossing the maze of tracks But as with much of what the Commodore did, the depot was huge, unlike anything else that existed The scrappy young waterman turned rail magnates riches eventually surpassed those of Manhattans reigning multimillionaire, William Backhouse Astor Sr., son of fur trader and real estate mogul John Jacob Astor, Americas first multimillionaire The Vanderbilt name, once perhaps associated with farmers and river rats, was now synonymous with wealth and power The Commodore had fathered thirteen children, the oldest of whom was Georges father, William Henry Georges mother, Maria Louisa Kissam, had met his father while William was still a young clerk in the banking house of Drew, Robinson Company Partner Daniel Drew was one of the Commodores business rivals The Commodore was as brusque and harsh with his children as he was with any businessman who dared cross his train tracks or ferry routes, and he routinely called his son William a blatherskite, a fool When Williams health faltered, the Commodore gave his son a small family farm to run in New Dorp, Staten Island William soon increased his initial 70 acres to 350, and respectable earnings followed The Commodore took notice, giving William attention and responsibility William then took the Staten Island Railroad from insolvency to profitability Every challenge the Commodore put to him, William met and then some As the Commodore grew older and weaker, his respect for William deepened and strengthened When the Commodore died in January 1877, he left the bulk of his massive fortune to his son and Georges father, William Henry Vanderbilt Though the notoriously hard nosed and impossible to impress Commodore eventually recognized Williams abilities to run the family business, he likely would never have imagined that his primary heirs accomplishments would so quickly dwarf his own Within six years, the blatherskite had than doubled his inheritance of about 90 million William Vanderbilts income in 1883 was estimated at than 10 millionand income was not taxed at the time Georges father had an estimated net worth of 194 million and an estate exceeding 200 million Georges parents, who once had not enough money to furnish their small house on Staten Island, soon amassed the greatest fortune in America, very possibly in the world Georges family home was a resplendent brownstone at 640 Fifth Avenue Finished in 1881, the Triple Palace, as it was known, took up the entire block of Fifth Avenue between Fifty First and Fifty Second Streets on the West Side The so called palace was actually two conjoined town houses comprising three distinct addresses and residences George and his parents occupied the southern structure A one story vestibule connected this to the northern structure, which was divided in two and occupied by Georges older sisters and their families Emily, who had married William Douglas Sloane, lived at 642 Fifth Avenue, and Margaret, who had married Elliott Fitch Shepard, had an entrance at 2 West Fifty Second Street The west side of Fifth Avenue was dominated by the Vanderbilts Georges brother Frederick and his wife, Louise, lived at 459 Fifth Avenue, William Henry Vanderbilts home prior to the construction of the Triple Palace Another brother, William Willie K and his wife, Alva, lived at 660 Fifth Avenue in a house known as the Petit Chateau de Blois Georges father built 680 and 684 Fifth Avenue for Georges sisters Lila and Florence, and their husbands William Seward Webb and Hamilton McKown Twombly, respectively Georges oldest brother, Cornelius II or Corneil, who had been living in the heart of New York society at Fifth Avenue and Thirty Second Street, moved uptown to join the rest of the clan, building a mansion at 1 West Fifty Seventh Street that would become the largest private home in the history of Manhattan This encampment of Vanderbilt homes was located farther north than the homes of most moneyed New York families twenty blocks south Before William Henry Vanderbilt broke ground on the Triple Palace, the lot was the domain of a vegetable gardener who occasionally dealt in ice and cattle Now the area was a much desired neighborhood referred to as Vanderbilt Row or, depending on ones view of the family, the less patrician Alley Unlike his older brothers, George had no interest in his familys railroad business Cornelius II was chairman of the New York Central railroad and taught Sunday school at St Bartholomews, where the Vanderbilt family attended services Willie K was second vice president of the New York Central and chairman of the board of the Lake Shore and Nickel Plate New York, Chicago, and St Louis lines Frederick was director of the West Shore and Canada Southern lines In contrast, George enjoyed other pursuits available to members of their class Georges father had amassed a tremendous collection of paintings, sculpture, and books, and George had delighted in all of them since he was young While his father may have enjoyed spending leisure time driving his sleek, trotting mares Maud S and Aldine along fashionable stretches like the Gentlemens Driving Park in Morrisania or along Harlem Lane, George was content to spend hours, if not days, in the parlors and sitting rooms of 640 Fifth Avenue, reading and studying He had grown up devout in his faith and for a time thought he might pursue a calling in the Episcopal church A priest perhaps Diary entries from when George was thirteen years old reveal him to be a penitent, thoughtful young man I read my Bible this morning and began Isaiah and I think that was what made me feel so happy through the day I have been reading a book this afternoon from which I ought to learn a very useful lesson of truth and gaining control over my temper, but I can do nothing without Gods help because if I rely on my own resolution I am sure to fail I dont think I have spent today as I should have done I have trusted too much in my own ability and not enough in Jesus At a young age, George began diligently recording all of his expenses, down to the penny He also detailed all the literary and academic titles he consumed in a series of notebooks titled Books I Have Read His fondness of the written word was well known, and he had been invited to become a founding member of the bibliophilic Grolier Club He could often be found with his head of dark hair bowed over a tome penned in another language He was said to be fluent in eight of them In 1888, three years after his father died, George, the youngest and only unmarried child of William and Maria, continued to live at 640 with his mother The home would pass to him upon her death, along with lots and stables on Madison Avenue, furnishings, and chattels and carriages William Henry Vanderbilt left eight surviving children Another son, Allen, had died at the age of twelve, four years before George was born The bulk of his fortune and business went to Georges oldest brothers Corneilnineteen years Georges seniorand Willie K The remainder was divided between George, the youngest child, and his five older siblings Frederick, Margaret, Emily, Florence, and Lila Eliza There was than enough wealth to go around George had already received than 1 million in stocks and bonds when his grandfather, the Commodore, died That was now worth closer to 2 million His father gifted him another million in cash, as well as the title to the family estate, Homestead, on Staten Island, when he turned twenty one And now, upon his fathers death, George received 5 million in cash and the interest from a separate 5 million trust He could not access the capital This brought the sum of Georges monies to be in the neighborhood of 12 to 13 million by the age of twenty three, with an annual income of about 520,000 What to do with such a sum when one had not lifted a finger to earn it This was the enviable dilemma of many in Georges class During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the answer to that question was often presented in mortar and limestone, friezes and tapestries It was de rigueur for a man of Georges station and family name to have a summer cottage somewhere like Newport, or perhaps the Berkshires, to construct something lavish and lasting, a structure both opulent and memorable That could have been how George decided to make his mark A year earlier, he had purchased a property in Bar Harbor, but the Maine winter held little enticement No, George craved something other Few, frankly, would have anticipated that young George would eventually land so far, at the very least geographically speaking, from the fold The train pulled into the station at a small crossroads known to some as Asheville Junction, to others as Best The station, post office, and handful of structures were named for W J Best, a Boston railroad magnate who had headed up the Western North Carolina Railroad in 1880 and was credited with bringing rail service to this mountain town in North Carolina In 1888, three years after his fathers death, George had come South After a near daylong journey from Manhattana long ride no matter how tufted the seats in Georges private railcara few miles by carriage remained George, whose persistent bachelorhood and bursting bank accounts made him quite the New York society catch, was traveling with the most significant female in his lifehis mother Georges mother, Maria, was now in her sixty seventh year, and agreed with her sons desire to seek out a winter climate milder than that of New York No matter how luxurious, the walls of their city mansion were unable to keep the chill at bay George was slight and possessed a healthy fear of tuberculosis He was viewed by members of the society press as weak, ill, or lacking that robust manner many men of means born to a family of industry might seem to possess But then, George was no man of industry He was a scholar Mother and son stayed at the Battery Park Hotel, a grand, shingled structure perched high above Asheville, yet still dwarfed in turn by the imposing colossus of nature looming on the landscape beyond The peaks of the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains adopted varying shades of that indigo hue, each ridge growing lighter as it receded behind its neighbors, until they faded into a wash of pale gray azure grazing the sky, cloudy wisps clinging to their slopes The beautiful and bewitching smokiness emanated from the trees themselvesthe lungs of the slopesexhaling emissions often in the form of a blue haze of isoprene The Battery Park had views to spare, its own house orchestra, and wide, awning topped verandas Asheville was growing rapidly due in great part to the areas well established reputation as a resort and sanitarium destination In this part of the country, those who could afford the views and the springs might be healed of everything from tropical diseases to mental distress by cures as exotically enticing as electric bitters and as ordinary as plain old air inhaled in the usual manner on plain old porches George was not the first person of means to consider a permanent foothold in the Land of the Sky Charlestonians had begun coming to Asheville and nearby Flat Rock from the Low Country of South Carolina at least a century earlier, building spectacular summer homes there Milder, breezier summers lured the highest of the well born to abandon their palmettos, magnolias, and fashionable shops for a life 2,200 feet above their sweltering sea level homes They followed in the footsteps of decades of river explorers, holler settlers, game hunters, timber cutters, and French speakers The Cherokee preceded all of them, calling the area Shaconage, place of the blue smoke The Cherokee, in turn, had myths about those who had preceded them, like the great mound builders and Judaculla, the Great Slant Eyed Giant, who controlled thunder and rain and leaped and bounded from boulder to stream, leaving his footprints etched in the ancient stones These aged mountains had seen than a billion years of life in all its forms Now many well heeled visitors and the doctors who cared for them believed the mountain air could heal lungs ailing from tuberculosis or the suffocating by products of the industrial age They came, they spent, they built breathing porches and marveled at the freshness of a timeless resource that was free to all, but for which they were happy to pay dearly Georges mother was still struggling with the lingering effects of a bout of malaria, so she sought treatment as well as peace and quiet while away from New York In Asheville, she was cared for by Dr Samuel Westray Battle, a physician well known to the area and its Northern visitors George left his mother to relax and breathe deep the curative atmosphere while he took in the exquisite vistas the hotel offered, or hired a horse to ride out for a closer look at lands farther afield Thats when he saw her Pisgah George found her to be simply stunning Standing proud among her neighbors, nestled in the crook of their slopes, the peak beckoned him with her silent grace She had seen much in her time here, and age had perhaps rendered her softer, but she retained a stature and elegance that captivated George And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho If Moses viewed the Promised Land from atop Pisgah, then so did this dreamer from a faraway northern island see promise in this ancient mount on the other side of the world from its biblical namesake Promise for the kind of life he believed he wanted, for his vision Was this the promised land, then These peaks and valleys dotting the banks of the French Broad River If so, then this heavenly kingdom was fit to house a castle That June George bought his first 661 parcels His initial play was to buy land as secretly as a Vanderbilt could, cleverly purchasing tracts in a piecemeal fashion through purchasing agents who included Edward Burnett, an agriculturist and Charles McNamee, a lawyer with the firm Davis, Worth and McNamee in New York Why let the cat out of the carpetbag and run up prices The acres began to add up Asheville, though not a stranger to outside seasonal visitors, was still a small town Rumors about land being snapped up and who was doing the snapping seeped into the press It wasnt long before the man behind the money was revealed When Georges name made it into print, citizens began to wonder what this young Croesus intended to do with the quickly accumulating tracts Despite that scrutiny, the mountain town must have seemed a refuge for the quiet young man Here is where he would build his country home Here is where he would make his mark, far from the rocky shore of Newport, where straw boaters and candy striped umbrellas dotted a tired scene he knew all too well Here, in southern Appalachia, the land of Highland Scots and mountain laurel, regal Pisgah would stand as his anchor, and estates of time past and castles beyond the sea would soon serve as his muses The altitude had his head swimming in visions of what might be While the land was all important, those fields and mountains, streams and slopes, banks and burrows were merely a canvas upon which his vision would be painted Every stroke of stonemasonry, every line drawn of maples, they all mattered To bring this vision to life he needed a team that would see this world as a whole, an integrated destination, a place with a life and a pulse all its own George was in a position to employ the greatest creative minds of the time to help him shape his vision, and bring it down to the earth he believed had so much promise He could also afford it. The Last Castle is a soaring and gorgeous American story that gripped me from the very first page With a historians keen insight and a poetsgift for language, Denise Kiernan depicts life at Bilt with such skill, I felt like I was there through it all weddings, divorces, elaborate and slightly bizarre balls,financial glory, financial ruin, murder, suicide, natural disasters, betrayals, love, loss, despair, and triumph The story of George and Edith Vanderbilts remarkable liveswill stay with me for a long time to come Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy If you inherited billions, how would you spend it Dont bother building Americas largest and most lavish home Its already been done in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where than a million visitors a year stroll the grounds of Bilt Estate Yet only in the pages of Denise Kiernans The Last Castle will they come to know George Vanderbilt, the bookish heir who began Bilt in his 20s, and his determined widow, Edith, who kept it alive as a working estate and a time capsule of the Gilded Age In the pages of The Last Castle, Kiernan serves up a true tale of American excess, generosity, and perseverance Bill Dedman, New York Times bestselling author of Empty Mansions The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune This is as much a story about the creation of Bilt House as it is a window into what it was like to be an American at the turn of the 20th century Kiernan makes Edith and George Vanderbilt, among the wealthiest Americans at the time, feel like living, breathing human beings navigating lifes obstacles in this magnificent book And she tells the story of how one fiercely devoted woman was able to save the home her husband loved Kate Andersen Brower, author FIRST WOMEN The Grace The rich have secrets In her well researched and captivating book, Denise Kiernan tells the fascinating story of how a phenomenally wealthy Vanderbilt scion transformed a rural North Carolina town by building the ultimate rich mans folly and reveals the eccentricities, heartaches, and even money problems of these Social Register denizens and their friends and employees Meryl Gordon, author of Bunny Mellon The Life of an American Style Legend This is a timely and timeless American story of wealth and the responsibility and opportunity it carries In Kiernans hands, this mashup of Downton Abbey like extravagance set amid the rugged mountain simplicity of Appalachia reads like a Southern fairy tale Brothers Grimm meets Gone with the Wind A passionately researched family saga of death and divorce, suicide and sickness, fortunes gained and lost, spanning two world wars and set at the crux of the Gilded Age yielding to the modern era, The Last Castle is ultimately a story of fortitude and survival A stunning and important achievement Neal Thompson, author of A Curious Man The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert Believe It Or Not Ripley Ms Kiernans research is prodigious.she brings the place to life And she doesnt leave out the juicy bits from the family history adultery, bankruptcy, suicide The Wall Street Journal The books vitality lies in the details Kiernan reveals about the architects, writers, artists and peers of the Vanderbilts who spent time at Bilt The New York Times Book Review Evocative, meticulously researched Kiernan brings a deft eye for detail and observation to a very different kind of story Her re creation of Bilts origins hits like a flute of fine champagne while lending social context to the mansion The Last Castle is Edith Whartons The Age of Innocence sprung to life Bilt is an ideal vessel for an exploration of our worship of affluence and social cachet, and importantly, the American myth of classlessness The Last Castle plumbs these themes and history with subtle insight and lan Knoxville News Sentinel But reading The Last Castle, the flowing novel like narrative really is about America Its about celebrity culture, wealth disparity, the remarkable charity and foresight of a few wealthy people, the urge to create and maintain a family legacy and, in its darker moments, the ever present potential for personal tragedy Its grounded in Kiernans years of globe trotting research and yet also immediately relevant to the topics that clog social media in 2017 Asheville Citizen Times Astory that brings the glitz and glamour of the British royal family to American soil Reigning royalty of the Gilded Age, Edith and George Vanderbilt, and their lifetime of financial excess, ruins, scandal, and perseverance come alive on these pages RealSimple.com The Last Castle The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation s Largest Home Denise Kiernan on FREE shipping qualifying offers A New York Times bestseller with an engaging narrative array detail Wall Street Journal Captain for Life And Other Temporary Fulfillment by FBA is a service we offer sellers that lets them store their products fulfillment centers, directly pack, ship, provide customer these Khmer Rouge Wikipedia Khmer k m r u , French km Red Khmers Kror Horm was name popularly given to followers Communist Party Kampuchea CPK extension regime through which ruled Cambodia between had originally been used Norodom Sihanouk as Arizona Superior Court Pima County Online Calendar DISCLAIMER While every effort has made ensure information provided at this website correct, declares contained via Calendar does not constitute official record The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home

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