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Somerset Community College Construction Technology Program visits, studies Biltmore House

Dec 17, 2013 - | 02:00 PM -

Above: The SCC Construction Technology program visited the Biltmore Estate on November 20 and received a behind-the-scenes construction tour as well as the public tour of the estate. They are shown here on the roof of the estate. From left: Kevin Sturgill (Leslie County), John Collet (Laurel), Travis McQueen (Instructor), Jackie Steele (Laurel), Joe Webb (Laurel), John Noe (Laurel), Jordan Burkhart (Laurel), Josh Wagers (Laurel), Shane Lee (Laurel), Calvin Strong (Jackson), Randy Flanary (Instructor), Vern Chadwell (Instructor), Evan Chaney (Laurel), Aaron Ping (Pulaski), Joseph Smith (Laurel), Wallace Goodin (Whitley), and Roger Angevine (Dean).
Biltmore pic
Above: As America’s Largest Home, Biltmore House has captured the imagination of millions with its sheer size – the square footage of four football fields – the 35 bedrooms, the 43 bathrooms, and a full-sized swimming pool in the basement. Yet it was also a warm and welcoming home where a family lived and a little girl grew up. George Vanderbilt’s dream lives on as one of western North Carolina’s rarest treasures.

Wallace Goodin, a Somerset Community College (SCC) Construction Technology student, described the recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore House as a “one of a kind experience.”

Goodin and other Construction Technology students had the chance to visit the Biltmore as part of an educational class field trip. Each year the Construction Technology students go off-campus to learn; however, they typically go somewhere in the area. Travis McQueen, program coordinator, decided to open the trip up to other area. When someone suggested visiting the Biltmore, everyone unanimously agreed. Only one person in the group of students had ever been before.

McQueen planned the trip from the beginning of the semester, contacting the sales coordinator for group tours, who put him in touch with the Biltmore Chief Curator, Darren Poupore. Though the program didn’t have the budget to pay for everyone’s expenses, McQueen managed to obtain a reduced rate so that each student could have the opportunity to go for a reasonable fee. The Biltmore even supplied a book, Images of America, Biltmore Estate for each attendee at no additional charge.

Eleven construction students, two masonry students and four faculty members participated in the trip. Poupore took the group on a tour not normally shown to the general public. While most visitors are in awe of the living chambers of the grand estate, especially when decorated for Christmas, this group was also taken on an architectural tour, which included a rare peak of the blueprints and original drawings in the archives. The students were also treated to rare views of inside the roof area as well as the main roof top itself.

“Very few people get to see the archives,” said Goodin. “It was very interesting.”

“It is amazing how the structure, built over 100 years ago, was made fireproof,” said student Joe Webb. “There are six sections all divided with mason walls, and it had a fire alarm. The whole house was wired and the slate roof was put on from the inside.”

“The technology was so advanced for 1889 with steel trusses and masonry,” said Calvin Strong.

“This trip sums up the passion Travis has for teaching…like the passion Vanderbilt had in building the Biltmore,” said student Calvin Strong. “He really cares about what he does.”

“Somerset Community College is a stepping stone to either work or further education,” said McQueen. “With such a diverse group of students of ages 19 to 63, this is an experience each one will always remember.  Darren (Poupore) gave the students information that can’t be experienced in a book. By actually seeing a structure that has been around for 118 years and still standing…that speaks for itself.” 

The Biltmore has over a million visitors each year. Construction of the house took six years, and the Biltmore was opened on Christmas Eve in 1895 to friends and family of George Washington Vanderbilt. It is the largest home in America.