Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Became an American Icon

Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Became an American Icon

4.1 7
by The Biltmore Company, Howard E. Covington Jr., Biltmore Company Staff
     
 

Lady on the Hill tells the inspiring story of the thirty-five-year effort to restore this fading beauty to her former glory—all without a penny of government funding or outside foundation grants. Central to this true-life tale of rebirth against the odds is George Vanderbilt's grandson William A. V. Cecil, a well-mannered, highly educated man who, when caught

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Overview

Lady on the Hill tells the inspiring story of the thirty-five-year effort to restore this fading beauty to her former glory—all without a penny of government funding or outside foundation grants. Central to this true-life tale of rebirth against the odds is George Vanderbilt's grandson William A. V. Cecil, a well-mannered, highly educated man who, when caught up in an idea, becomes a whirling dervish, generating enough energy and enthusiasm to motivate everyone around him. And, according to author Howard Covington Jr., Cecil gets a week's worth of ideas before he's done with his Monday morning shave.

In the late 1950s, attorneys, financial managers, and tax accountants were united in advising Cecil and his brother, George, to sell off the estate's 12,000 acres in order to create a suburban subdivision. Cecil quietly ignored this advice and came up with a better idea: over the next four decades, he would turn this down-at-the-heels mansion that was a drain on the family business into the most successful, privately preserved historic site in the United States, perhaps even the world.

Cecil succeeded beyond even his wildest dreams. Not only did he raise the money needed to begin and continue a painstaking, decades-long restoration of the house itself, but he also achieved a goal that even his grandfather had found elusive. He made Biltmore Estate a self-sustaining, working enterprise that included a vibrant tourist destination, a working winery and vineyard, and a farming operation; employed hundreds of people; and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy every year.

Lady on the Hill tells a lively tale of eccentric, upper-crust characters, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and one man's determination, innovation, loyalty, and stubborn persistence to succeed against the odds. It also provides a brilliant, if unorthodox, model for anyone involved with the preservation and restoration of a historic home.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, January 2, 2006)
Publishers Weekly
Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471758181
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
03/17/2006
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
176,413
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.13(d)

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Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Became an American Icon 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
manirul01 More than 1 year ago
Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For a wonderful behind the scenes look at the struggles and accomplishments. Great from cover to cover.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I had recently been to Biltmore. I found this book fascinating to know what went into making it the showplace it is today. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Biltmore. I think it's better to read it after you go visit, so you have an idea of the places they are describing.