Aug 14, 2007

The Thing About Old Houses

I was so whiny yesterday. I thank you all for not complaining about it and here is a little reward... vacation pictures.

Old Homes Tour 2007
As you can see from these pictures, this vacation can best be described as a tour of really old houses. We saw Ashlawn (home of James Monroe), Monticello (home of Thomas Jefferson), Montpelier (home of James Madison) and Michie Tavern and, finally, Biltmore. They were all incredibly different and, taken as a whole, the experience was kind of inspiring and informative.
We started our trip with Ashlawn which is very close to Monticello but much more modest. It's the yellow house seen peeking between the hedges in the collage above. The guide was very knowledgeable about Ashlawn, James Monroe and the times he lived in. Two things stand out most about our visit here. One is the impression that very little of what is there actually belonged to James Monroe. He died without many assets and most of his posessions were sold off so the home is furnished with things that are like those he would have had. The other strong message hubbo and I got was that we had to see Montpelier. All of the guides here said it was a must. We put it on our to do list but we went to see Monticello first.
Monticello is probably the home that is most familiar to people. Everyone knows it as the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was every bit as lovely as you would expect it to be. It's full of nifty little details implemented by TJ to make life more efficient and better. I found the small pond near the house in which he'd hold the fish for upcoming meals to keep them fresh (this is what the reflection of the house is seen in in the picture above) to be rather clever. Other people were intrigued by the whole he cut in his front hall floor to install the weights for his clock. The gardens impressed me quite a lot but that's a post for another day.
Visiting to Montpelier was not initially in our plan but, after the way they talked it up at Ashlawn, hubbo and I were intrigued. Many of the pictures in the collage above were taken during our visit. In the bottom right corner is a picture of the exterior surrounded above and beside by pictures of the details we saw there. If you think it all looks a little rough and unfinished - you're exactly right. Montpelier was owned by the DuPonts for many years and during the time they lived there, they added wings, moved doors and windows and turned the home into something Madison never would have recognized. Upon the death of the last resident, the home was bequeathed to the National Trust with money to return it to the way it was in Madison's time. The process of restoring it is still under way and it's a real treat to visit it and see the workmen measuring, plastering and excavating. A tour of the home today provides a behind the scenes look at the detective work required to achieve the authentic restoration of our treasured past. There is a picture in the collage of a group of boards with many layers of paint and the shadow of a staircase. These boards were found throughout the house and pieced back together to reveal the exact pitch of a staircase in the home. Montpelier was one of the coolest things we saw.
The middle picture is of Biltmore. You may recall that I went to see it last year with a friend of mine. This year I went back with the family. It was really nice to be able to share it with them. The picture in the bottom left of the collage may not look like it belongs there but it was also taken at Biltmore on the terrace. They have concerts there in the summer and was enjoyed watching Chris Isaak's soundcheck. We didn't watch any of the concerts but we were really amused by the one that took place on Saturday night. It was Clay Aiken, and a whole group of his fans were staying at our hotel. They were mostly mature women and they were all decked out in shirts, bags, etc. with Clay plastered all over them. It made me wonder if this is what Clay imagined his following would be like. If he knew that he would be the idol of the middle-aged chick set rather than giggly girls would it have changed anything. Probably not. Ka-ching sounds the same no matter where the cash is coming from.


Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

Oooo, I love touring old homes! It is always fun to compare the guides too. The best one I ever had was a guide who got into character at the Molly Brown house in Denver. It made the next house pretty dull, LOL! Sounds like a fun trip!

Cursing Mama said...

mmmm chris issak.....

Carol said...

Wish my old house looked like one of those! I love being able to take a peek into history :)

skhpottery said...

We were in a resturant in Asheville that night and it was full of 'mature women' with matching T-shirts all headed to the concert. Very strange and they call themselves Claymates!