The Cradle of Forestry in
America was officially dedicated in October 1964. The goal was to show the role of forestry in
the Appalachian Mountains and throughout the U.S., both today and in the
past. For 50 years the Cradle of Forestry’s
interpretive exhibits have allowed visitors to experience and learn about our forests
in the Forest Discovery Center Exhibit Hall and along the Biltmore Campus Trail
and Forest Festival Trail.
It all began when George
Vanderbilt started purchasing land southwest of Asheville in the 1890s. Noted landscape architect Fredrick Law
Olmsted developed a plan that included the house surrounded by a park-like
setting with formal and informal gardens, farms near the French Broad and
Swannanoa Rivers, and commercial forestry covering the mountains.
|Dr. Carl Schenck at the Biltmore Forest School marker
erected in his honor in 1950.
In 1892 Vanderbilt hired
Gifford Pinchot to manage his vast property.
At the time planned forestry management was new to America. Pinchot was American but had studied forestry
in France. The Pinchot family would
later endow the Yale School of Forestry and Gifford would become the first Chief
of the U.S. Forest Service.
In 1895 Carl Schenck replaced
Pinchot and changed the direction of managing Vanderbilt’s forestland. He worked to restore the forest that had been
heavily logged. Schenck established the
first school of forestry in America which operated from 1898 until 1909. The school combined traditional classroom
learning and hands-on experience in the heart of the forest.
In 1914 Edith Vanderbilt sold
over 86,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service and in 1916 the Pisgah National
Forest was created. Fifty years later
the Cradle of Forest would recreate the experience of forest education begun at
Biltmore Forest School by Carl Schenck in George Vanderbilt’s forest.
|Jesse McCall family outside of their home, one of the ranger lodges.|
Original structures along the Biltmore Campus Trail include a lodge and the
Hiram King House. The lodge is a frame
structure with heavy timber beams and has a high peaked roof in the Black
Forest architecture style. Originally
there were 12 lodges for Vanderbilt’s Rangers who patrolled the forest for
fire, poachers and timber thieves. This
lodge was moved to the current location.
The Hiram King House is a typical 1880s wooden frame house. It was later used to lodge forestry
students. The trail also includes a reconstructed one-room schoolhouse, general
store, blacksmith shop, and cabins.
|Hiram King House at the Cradle of Forestry, photo taken in 1991.|
Biltmore’s Landscape and
Forest Historian Bill Alexander will discuss “Vanderbilt’s Forest” during the August
16 Bag Lunch at the Transylvania County Library. On September 8, “America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck and the Asheville Experiment”, a
documentary film produced for the Forest History Society by Bonesteel
Films will be
presented at the Library.
Photographs and information
for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room,
Transylvania County Library. Visit the
NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history
and see additional photographs. For more
information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-3151 X242.