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Biltmore in the Green Mountains

Rights and Privileges

Many years ago in Vermont, the Webbs (in Shelburne) and Billings (in Woodstock) chose to buy in, and play, country gentlemen on lands formerly farmed by folks ill-positioned to resist a buyout. In mid-scale, it happened at innumerable times and places up and down the Appalachia (yes, Vermont is technically a part of Appalachia).

Towards the upper end of the wealth scale, there’s the Reynolds’ Tanglewood on the once-small-farm outskirts of Winston-Salem, N.C., and, of course, at the apex of such ventures, there’s the once-near-county-size Biltmore Estate in the hills of western North Carolina.

It turned out that even the vast late 19th century rail fortunes of the Vanderbilts were not enough to subsidize such a magnificent trust-funder playground. Thus, in the early 20th century, most of the land was sold or gifted off; the French chateau version of Potemkin Village with an agricultural-theme-park was converted to just enough profitable mini-enterprise to replace red ink with black on the balance sheets.

The Biltmore has been doing just fine ever since. Right now the day-visitor’s ticket costs $59.

Rhetorical question: has the high-cost-of-entry-and-stay Biltmore been the model for the contemporary Gentry-Left restructuring of the Vermont economy—a new Biltmore in the Green Mountains?

Vermont is no exception to the general rule that those who are gentrified out of their houses and businesses—and off their land by government or the evil rich—don’t like it and say so.

The Dutch truck-gardeners of mid-Manhattan in the mid 19th century didn’t like being run off at bayonet point for the creation of Central Park (it wasn’t even shown on the infamous 1811 Manhattan street-grid plan). Wikipedia notes that it wasn’t envisioned by the planners until 1853.

The hill-farmers of the mid Appalachians were similarly run off by government for the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway (for their motoring betters) during the Depression and didn’t like it either.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris now lives in Tennessee.

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