Most visitors come to the Estate for the House. Soaring Gothic design, artisan workmanship, 250+ rooms including 34 family and guest bedrooms and almost as many servant quarters. 43 bathrooms with indoor plumbing, built at a time when a flush was still a novelty in the mountains.
A glass-roofed Winter Garden room where family and guests sat amid greenery in the cold of winter.
They exercised in a well-equipped gym, a bowling alley and a 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool.
It took 3 kitchens to feed the household and 2 laundries to do the wash when the Vanderbilts were in residence.
This was one of my favorite views. A hint of life's coil.
But the Estate's lands took my heart. Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, started with 125,000 acres of overgrazed farmland. Then he applied principles of natural landscaping to restore forests, create productive farms and preserve waterways.
Law designed formal gardens near the House, using hardscape, trees and perennial shrubs and seasonal plantings.
The day we visited, a hundred thousand tulips rioted within the Walled Garden.
Grape-candy clusters of wisteria drooped from vines as thick as tree trunks.
Beyond the Walled Garden, azaleas and rhododendrons white, pink and purple bloomed in a room carpeted by lawn, roofed by sky and bounded by the fresh leaves of spring.
It's not Texas, but it's still close to heaven.
Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott ,for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.