In the tunnels, it’s easy to visualize the staff from past decades, busily working to ensure the elite guests of the resort were treated like kings and queens and were never made aware of the great effort it took to create their exquisite experience. This is where the steamer trunks were hauled in from the railroad cars before being lugged up the hidden staircases to the guest rooms. This is where giant blocks of ice arrived and were stored in an ice-keep, the size of a small swimming pool. This is where hundreds of wires were strung to light the entire hotel, back when electricity was still considered a luxury. It’s where adventurous children played hide and seek from their nannies, and countless workers toiled day and night to keep the hotel running like a fine Swiss watch.
So when the modern-day worker gently “reminds me” that guests aren’t permitted down here, due to liability concerns, and kindly suggests I come back with the daily eleven o’clock tour group, I sigh, apologize (once again) and leave. But I’m really not that disappointed. You see, even though the underground tunnels are enticing, I experience much the same feeling in many other parts of the hotel as well. In fact, it’s difficult to wander very far in any direction, without finding something magnificent to stop and examine, including Tiffany glass, chandeliers, intricately carved fireplace mantels, massive iron gates, gorgeous antique furnishings and old photographs.
Ahh… the photographs! As I stop, spellbound, examining dozens of large photographs, some dating back as far as the late 1800s, I wonder about the lives of the early hotel visitors, captured by the camera’s lens. Who were these people? How did they earn a living? What kinds of pleasures did they find here? What would they think about the hotel and its visitors today? If only the photographs could talk…
In fact, it’s so easy for me to imagine that spirits of former guests still inhabit the hotel, trying to interact with modern-day visitors, that I decided to write about them. Blending historical facts with a vivid imagination, stories contained in my “Spirits of the Belleview” series allow readers to experience the glorious history of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, while at the same time, enjoy fictional tales of romance, trials and triumph. “Pearls”, the first of four novels planned in the series, is expected to be published later this year, followed by an additional volume each year while the hotel is closed for major renovations. But that’s a “story” for another time.
Today, I must force myself to leave the Belleview Biltmore, so I head for the lobby, speculating about how different this section of the hotel will look in a few years. Although the hotel won’t close for reconstruction until the end of May, like hundreds of others, I already miss her terribly and can hardly wait for her to reopen. My fondest hope is that our love affair with the Belleview Biltmore Hotel and the spirits of its past will continue for several generations to come!
For more information on my novels and the history of the Belleview Biltmore, visit my website: http://www.spiritsofbelleviewbiltmore.com