Biltmore Estate

In 1889, George Vanderbilt began construction on his summer house at Asheville, North Carolina. He called the 175,000 square foot home his “little mountain escape.”

By the time it was completed in 1895, over 1,000 workers plus about 60 stonemasons had labored on the Gilded Age mansion.

Look at that detail.

It remains today the largest private residence in America. Most private residences don’t have a front door flanked by life sized stone lions. I’m obsessed with these lions.

Tomorrow I will show you some inside photos. Did you catch yesterday’s story about the grounds? Click here to read it.

Revisiting Wesley Chapel

One of my favorite stories I have told here involves Wesley Chapel, an abandoned church just 30 minutes up the road. I hope you’ll revisit that story here.

Meanwhile, I stopped by the other night just to check on the old place and to further mourn its deterioration. Here are some pictures.

Things have worsened a lot since my first visit.

The windows had all been been boarded up but someone has removed some barriers so you can see inside from a few angles.

The piano remains, likely because it was too heavy to carry and impossible to even give away.

Can’t you hear it? I’m imaging an elderly woman named Mabel who pounded those keys with vigor as the congregation sang “Shall we gather at the river.”

This next image will haunt my dreams.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much but I find the sight of that lone chair in an empty and forgotten church entryway incredibly troubling.

The steeple still reaches Heavenward but it looks worse for the wear.

Here’s a closer look at the cross on the other side of the steeple.

Part of me wishes I could stop going there and part of me doesn’t want to try. Meanwhile, go read that first story if you don’t mind. Here’s that link again.

Barbour County Courthouse

Welcome to the Barbour County Courthouse in Phillipi, West Virginia. They call this architectural style Richardsonian Romanesque. This was a new one for me so I had to look it up. It uses 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics.

It was built at the turn of the twentieth century and prominently occupies the center of town. This courthouse looks heavy and imposing, like a fortress, and it is impressive. The brownstone was quarried near Hummelstown, Pennsylvania and was shipped here by railroad. I can’t fathom how much effort was involved to do this in 1903.

My trips to Phillipi have been limited to weekends so I haven’t been inside but I’m kind of dying to do that. They performed a restoration project back in 1995 and evidently did a nice job repairing the stained glass interior dome.

Phillipi is a neat town in a beautiful area and it’s home to my favorite covered bridge in the world. Read about that one here.

If you’re ever in the vicinity, check out Phillipi and take the scenic drive down to quaint Thomas and scenic Blackwater Falls. It’s worth the trip!

Happiness Is…

Happiness is seeing a grand old building hold its own among the new. You see it a lot in cities like Columbus, Ohio where progress has mostly paved over history but a few old structures refuse to budge.

For example, downtown Columbus has a number of old churches. Here you see the Broad Street United Methodist Church living in the shadow of Encova, a boring monstrosity like so many others in our modern cities.

The church dates to 1875 and is positively gorgeous. Want to see inside? They offer a virtual tour online. Click here for that.

Maybe it’s silly but I always root for the underdog, value the historic and enjoy their successes almost as much as I would my own.

Lewisville Town Hall

At first glance. I thought it was a church or perhaps an old school. On closer inspection, it’s actually the town hall.

Whatever it is, it’s a nice focal point in Lewisville, Ohio, a town of just over 200 residents. I caught a glimpse one fine summer day in 2020 when in I took a scenic drive through the Wayne National Forest.

Remember, fellow adventurers, sometimes you just need to hop in the car and go for a drive down a road you do not know. Find some lunch or a great milkshake and just go see what’s out there. Trust me. You’ll love it.

Boyce United Methodist Church

This Methodist Church in Boyce, Virginia was so charming I had to stop for a picture. Old churches always catch my eye but this one seemed special for the details in the windows and steeple. I like how shapes are repeated throughout the design without seeming at all fussy.

Boyce isn’t far from Winchester and that area is brimming with history, old barns, churches and other interesting landmarks. It’s close to Shenandoah National Park as well. There is plenty to do and I have written a lot about this area in case you’re looking for a getaway this spring.

In addition to the tour guide quality attractions, there’s plenty of off the beaten path stuff to see along the way.