April 24, 2009

Postcard: Biltmore Estate

Asheville, North Carolina
(Used - postmark 1911)

Completed in 1895 after six years of construction, the Biltmore House was the country estate of George Vanderbilt. Located in Asheville, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, it remains the largest private residence in the United States. The house is remarkable – if "house" is the correct term for a 250-room mansion – but equally astounding are the surrounding grounds.

Originally 125,000 acres, the estate now covers 8,000 acres. Vanderbilt chose the area for his home because of his love for the mountains, but at the time, the site was anything but scenic. It was an area of worn-out farmland, and depleted and fire damaged forests.

Conceived to be a self-supporting estate, Biltmore Estate remains family owned and self-supporting today. Farming was a primary function for the estate in the beginning and it continues there today. Although it may be hard to imagine a four-acre house with 43 bathrooms as "green", many of the concepts used in the construction of the estate and the restoration of the land were forerunners to some of today's conservation and environmental efforts.

Vanderbilt hired landscape architect Frederick Olmsted, known for his design of New York's Central Park, to transform the site. Olmsted was an early conservationist believing in natural settings and the use of native plants. He created five distinct gardens surrounding the house. From the gardens, the grounds gradually turn into managed woodland to create a natural setting.

Vanderbilt also hired Gifford Pinchot, a German trained forester, to replenish and restore the surrounding forest. Pinchot believed that forests could be preserved yet also yield timber. Vanderbilt wanted Biltmore to be the proving ground for "managed forestry" – a concept unknown in America at the time. Pinchot's work at Biltmore turned it into the first planned forestry program in the U.S. In addition, 86,000 acres of the original estate is today the Pisgah National Forest. Pinchot would go on to found the U.S. Forestry Service.

The Biltmore Estate has been open to the public since 1930. Today it provides visitors a look not only at an extravagant house, but with its original furnishings and history it also provides a look back at a period and lifestyle we can only imagine. Through George Vanderbilt's love of the mountains and its forests, and through his foresight, we have learned how to preserve and maintain the land. Within Pisgah National Forest, you can visit the Cradle of the Forestry, a learning center dedicated to the men who believed in forest conservation.

— Dan Hardison

(Unused - undivided back era, early 1900's)

April 17, 2009

When Morning Comes

In youth my thoughts were filled
with lofty goals,
wondrous dreams,
and endless possibilities.

As years slipped by
these goals and dreams
became harder
to achieve.

New courses made,
expectations altered,
goals changed,
dreams were lost.

But now I find a need
for new goals and dreams
or perhaps . . .
the ones I left behind.

When morning comes
I will rise to a new day
with goals and dreams
I have yet . . . to realize.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Balsam Mountain Inn - Balsam, North Carolina

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April 10, 2009

Just Once

Just once in the year do the geese fly south,
And once does the first snow fall,
Just once do the buds burst forth in spring,
And once does the corn grow tall!

Just once in the day does the purple East
Light up with the glow of dawn,
And once do the deepening shadows fall,
At dusk, when the sun is gone.

Then how can a person be tired of Life
Or bored in a world like ours?
Where once is the season of crimson leaves
And once is the time of flowers.

For so it is planned in the life of man,
His story is quickly told,
Just once he's a child at his mother's knee,
And once he is gray and old.

Then give me the wisdom, good Lord, to know
The miracles shown to me,
That I may watch any passing day –
Yet never again may see!

Stillman J. Elwell
(From his book "Windows of Thought")

Photo by Dan Hardison
Off the Coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts

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April 4, 2009

"Gifts - An Open Studio Exhibition"

"Holy Mountain"
Digitally Enhanced Photograph

The image is a composite of two photographs. The mountain landscape was taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina as the sun broke through an overcast sky. The photograph of the Christus Rex was taken at Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church in Sherwood, Tennessee. The image was created as a reflection on the collect for the last Sunday after the Epiphany.

"O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." — Book of Common Prayer, p165

This image was included in the online exhibition "Gifts: An Open Studio Exhibition" for The Espicopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA). Visit www.ecva.org to view the exhibition.

Dan Hardison