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The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love,…

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the… (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Denise Kiernan (Author)

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4871939,392 (3.49)19
Documents the story of the Gilded Age mansion Biltmore, tracing George Vanderbilt's construction of his European-style estate and the efforts of his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, to become its protector in the face of changing fortunes and times.
Title:The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home
Authors:Denise Kiernan (Author)
Info:Touchstone (2017), Edition: Not for Online ed., 400 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home by Denise Kiernan (2017)


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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
If you are interested in visiting Biltmore, then this book will enhance your pleasure and understanding of seeing the home in person. There were a lot of details of the people who populated the home either living there or visiting during the Gilded age. I came away impressed by the Vanderbilt’s foresight in starting forestry and woodworking, woven homespun, and homemaking schools. ( )
  bereanna | Aug 4, 2020 |
Books about very wealthy people I often find sad, and this one is no exception. This does not mean, however, that the story itself isn't fascinating. I found the book quite interesting. George Washington Vanderbilt inherited a large fortune from the Vanderbilt family. George left his New York/Newport circuit in search of fresh air, and found Asheville, and particularly, Mount Pisgah, a perfect location to build his home. And quite a home it was. As built, it encompassed 175,000 sq ft, set on 125,000 acres. Much of the book covers the development of the property. The landscape was designed by the already famous Frederick Law Olmsted, and the architect was Richard Morris Hunt, also quite well known. Vanderbilt married Edith Dresser, and she brings a social justice component into Biltmore, setting up schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and connections to the burgeoning local Arts and Crafts movement, helping provide a way for people to earn a living in this relatively poor area.

They always say that it takes 3 generations to lose a fortune, and while the George Vanderbilts were never penniless, their fortune was greatly reduced in part because of circumstances like the Great Depression, and in part because a building this size, and the accompanying town and businesses, were money pits. Misfortune also strikes the rich, and George died young of complications after an appendectomy, one of many losses within the family. By the time George and Edith's daughter, Cornelia, inherits the property, she is restless for change, eventually abandoning it to her ex-husband, John Cecil, and two sons. It is only through Edith's efforts, and eventually the Cecil brother's work, that Biltmore remans open to tourists.

Still, the story is compelling. George and Edith remind me in a way of 'Forrest Gump' characters, intersecting with famous people like Henry James and Edith Wharton, not to mention politicians of the era, but they also were a part of history....just missing boarding the Titanic, participating in the Jazz Age, World Wars, etc.

The most interesting part of the book, for me, was reading about how Edith developed programs throughout the community, forever changing a previously sleepy hamlet into an internationally known destination. ( )
1 vote peggybr | Jul 10, 2020 |
The writing is so dry and yes I know it is historically accurate non-fiction, yet the events and discussion of the building of The Biltmore and the reforestation of the property is quite boring - mind-numbing and, dry- so unless you really want to learn how bizarre the rich were in this time period (think of a woman wearing cats pelts tails and heads as an evening costume and a guy building the biggest house in the US, for no reason other than 'he could' and owning a stunning amount of property) you may want to step back a bit. Yes, this is a Kindle Unlimited book so I am not out any cash, but I just thought that there would be something more here to make me feel the way George and Edith felt about this house. The second half of this book made it a little more bearable as we got into more personal issues and a more recognizable time period- for me at least.

I have never seen it and this book is most likely going to appeal to historians, architects, forestry managers, or botanists. This will also appeal to those who want to learn more about the Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age.

For me, it was just so much blah, blah, blah interspersed with an occasional interesting historical fact or tidbit. Most of this book seems to be written based on letters and perhaps diaries and a lot of research- which is flawless but has no feeling. The character list is HUGE and some of the names are confusing.

I did manage to finish this book, but I still never 'felt' anything. The last half of this book takes a huge turn and gets fairly personal and stays with the historical bent. There are a lot of pictures at the end of the Kindle edition, but they are poorly captioned. ( )
  Cats57 | May 8, 2020 |
Well written and researched history of the Biltmore House, the grandest of the gilded age homes. Financed by George Washington Vanderbilt, and designed by Richard Morris Hunt, Biltmore, located in Asheville, NC still stands. Considered by many in its day as Vanderbilt's folly, Biltmore is the epitome of the Vanderbilt family's wealth, power and privilege of the early 20th century. Woven into the story of the creation of the home and its environs is the story of Edith Dresser, eventual wife of GWV, and how after his untimely demise at age 51, she managed to sell resources, consolidate efforts and ultimately open her home to the public so as to preserve her husband's legacy. ( )
  phoenixcomet | Jan 13, 2020 |
  LSS312 | Sep 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Documents the story of the Gilded Age mansion Biltmore, tracing George Vanderbilt's construction of his European-style estate and the efforts of his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, to become its protector in the face of changing fortunes and times.

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