Cherubs and Railroad Barons
A photo from Biltmore Estate, the unbelievably opulent home built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. 178,926 square feet and 250 rooms of grandeur. This is one of those kinds of things I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the extravagance of the whole thing is just staggering. You can't help but think how much more good money like that could be put to instead of a residence for a single family. On the other hand, I'm glad it exists because it truly is a wonderful experience to see. The architecture, landscaping, and furnishings are exquisite and it's an amazing artifact of the Gilded Age. I feel lucky that it exists and that I got to see it. So I fall more on the latter side with respect to my feelings about the place.
My only undiluted complaint about it is that they don't let you take pictures inside the residence! Adult tickets are almost $60. For that amount of dough, they ought to let you capture some permanent memories. Yeah, I know – all the flash can damage antiquities. But I know how to disable my flash and I'm happy to do it. (In fact, I'd rather take pictures without it.) Besides, the Louvre somehow manages to deal with that issue, and their artifacts are even more valuable and delicate. Frankly, I think Biltmore's policy is driven more by wanting to force you into buying their postcards and coffee table books. Still, all the bitching aside, it is an amazing place to see.
[Update 9/2/2018 – I was just at Biltmore's web site and at some point over the 5 years since I posted this, they updated their photography policy. Photography is now permitted inside Biltmore House on the regular self-guided tour! Woohoo! The stipulations are no flash, and no commercial photography. I can totally live with those conditions. Time for trip back...]