A Great Camp in the Great Outdoors
Written By Judy Ross
In the late 1800s, it was fashionable for families like the Vanderbilts to have a getaway “great camp” or lodge in the Adirondacks so that they could enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, and boating. With Biltmore House complete, George Vanderbilt was able to focus on creating a similar getaway lodge so that family and friends could enjoy the beautiful, remote wilderness that comprised much of his 125,000-acre estate in Western North Carolina. Photo above of Buckspring Lodge, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.
Richard Howland Hunt (son of Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt) designed such a camp structure completed in 1896 and named Buckspring Lodge. Located on Mount Pisgah about 20 miles from Biltmore, the lodge was made from chestnut, yellow poplar, and hemlock logs and consisted of three connected buildings; a main lodge, kitchen, and dining building. Later, an assistant ranger's house was built in 1900, with a stable and additional four-room house added in 1903. Perched on the side of the mountain, Buckspring Lodge afforded guests spectacular views of the pristine wilderness. Photo above, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.
In today’s terms, Buckspring Lodge would probably be described as “rustic elegant” in design. Inside, there were wood-burning fireplaces. Eventually the lodge was equipped with electricity, telephone service, indoor plumbing, and hot water, all powered by onsite sources. Outside, there was an orchard, tennis and croquet courts, garden, and beehives. In the summers, sheep grazed on the open land at this high elevation, and a Jersey cow was sometimes kept here when the Vanderbilts were in residence. Photo above, ca. 1920; donated by Mrs. William Todd Ashby.
In 1910, a major construction project was undertaken to build a road from Stoney Fork in the Hominy Valley west of Asheville to Buckspring Lodge so it could be accessed by motor vehicle. Mr. Vanderbilt purchased the old Stoney Fork log school and church building in 1911, and had it rebuilt at the lodge for a guest house that later became known as the “Honeymoon Cottage.” In 1912, a log cabin knowns as the ranger's house was erected with hewn logs from three cabins located on Vanderbilt property elsewhere. A full-time ranger and caretaker lived at Buckspring, and a cook and other staff came to stay while the family was at the lodge.
After George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, Edith sold around 90,000 acres of land to the U.S. government for the creation of Pisgah National Forest. But she retained Buckspring Lodge and nearly 500 acres surrounding it, and the family continued to enjoy this retreat for decades. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was being developed in the 1950s, Buckspring Lodge and its surrounding property was sold to the state of North Carolina and then transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior to be incorporated in the Parkway property.
Restoration of the lodge proved to be too costly for the Park Service, and it was razed in 1961. Robert C. (Bob) Allen procured logs and materials from the Ranger's Cabin and erected a log cabin in Asheville's Royal Pines neighborhood in the early 1960s. The Allen family, represented by Ernest H. Allen and his sons, Bob and William E. (Bill) Allen, were longtime estate residents. Ernest and Bill both served as farm managers for decades and Bob drove a truck for Biltmore Dairy. Bob and his wife Phyllis lived in the Royal Pines cabine until his death in 1990. Upon Phyllis’ passing in 2014, Bob’s children Dick and Susie Allen inherited this historic cabin and contributed it, plus many furnishings, to Biltmore in memory of the Allen family.
In 2015, Biltmore dismantled the cabin and carefully reassembled it piece-by-piece on the estate. It now serves as the Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village, where guests can arrange outdoor activities including fly-fishing lessons, trail rides, Segway rides, and much more. Stop by to see this cherished part of Biltmore’s history, and plan your own adventures in our 8,000-acre backyard.