LeRoy Pennysaver & News

LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - MAY 29, 2022 by Lynne Belluscio Not many people know that the huge mansion in Ashville, North Carolina, known as Biltmore, has a relationship to the LeRoy family. Jacob LeRoy who lived in LeRoy House had a brother Daniel. He married Susan Fish. (Susan’s brother was Hamilton Fish, Governor of New York, a United States Senator and Secretary of State under President Ulysses Grant.) Daniel and his wife SusanlivedinNewport,RhodeIsland. They had a remarkable collection of art, and their home was on the site of the present-day Tennis Hall of Fame on Bellevue Avenue. Daniel and Susan had a daughter, also named Susan who married Major George Warren Dresser. (Major Dresser had attended West Point and served as an engineer during the Civil War.) The Dresser’s daughter Edith was born on January 17, 1873. When she was ten, her parents died and she was raised by her grandparents, Daniel and Susan LeRoy. Not much is known about how Edith met George Vanderbilt. His father was Willian Vanderbilt and his grandfather was the famous railroad industrialist, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Edith and George Washington Vanderbilt were married on June 1, 1898, in a private 15-minute ceremony in a town hall in Paris. The next day, they had a religious ceremony in the American Church of the Holy Trinity. When they returned from their honeymoon, they moved into Biltmore. Construction on Biltmore began in 1889 when George Vanderbilt was 25.The250 roomFrenchRenaissance chateau was designed by William Morris Hunt and the grounds and gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. When Biltmore was opened in 1895, there were four acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. In 1900, the large dairy barn and horse barn was built. Adjacent to the property, were houses and cabins for workers and staff. Edith was directly involved with the people who worked at Biltmore. She visited the cabins and homes on the Estate and brought food, medical supplies and money when there was illness or a death in the family. She and her husband arranged for special medical attention and surgery when needed. She was concerned about the nutrition and diet of the local people who lived in the rural mountains. She also made efforts to make sure the children were able to get to school. A wagon was outfitted with plank seats, and children were picked up and taken to a school four miles away. It was said that this was the first school bus in the region. School classes were held in the dairy barn and eventually religious services and Sunday School were held in the barns. The tradition of Sunday School at the Dairy was continued until the 1940s. George Washington Vanderbilt died in 1914 when he was 52. Edith continued to manage the huge estate. She sold 86,000 acres to the United States Forestry Service following her husband’s wishes to create the Pisgah National Forest. Today, the estate includes about 8,ooo acres. Edith continued to be interested in sustainable agriculture. In 1921, she was elected the first woman president of the North Carolina State Fair. She used the fair as a way to promote advancements in agriculture, industry and education. She addressed the state General Assembly: “This is a day when women have come into their own, and each one of us must shoulder her responsibilities along with the men and try to fulfill her duty to her community, state and country, at the same time remembering her obligations to her home . . .” Although Edith inherited a sizable fortune, of $50,000,000, it was not enough to sustain Biltmore, and the estate passed on to her daughter, Cornelia. Today, Biltmore is still owned by the descendants of Cornelia, and is open to the public and draws about 1.4 million visitors a year. In 1925, Edith married Peter Goelet Gerry, a United States Senator from Rhode Island. Edith died on December 21, 1958 in Providence Rhode Island. In 1973, Paul McCartney in the band Wings, paid homage to Edith Vanderbilt, in the song “Mrs. Vanderbilt” which was included in the album, “Band on the Run.” “Mrs. Vanderbilt”