Monday, August 13, 2012

Cradle of Forestry

While we’re in the area and all immersed in the legacy of George Vanderbilt, we wanted to visit the Cradle of Forestry located only about 8 miles from Mt Pisgah Campground.

The Cradle of Forestry is the location of the first school of forestry in the United States.  It came about thanks to George Vanderbilt.  Most of the 125,000 acres of Vanderbilt was forest (which he called the “Pisgah Forest”) and for him the forest was all about making money.  He wanted someone to manage his forest so that profits would continue to roll in.  He hired Gifford Pinchot to oversee his forest.  Pinchot eventually passed this job on to Carl Schenck.  It was Schenck, who had been educated in a German forestry school, who had the vision to open a forestry school in America.

The Biltmore Forest School opened in 1898 and turned out to be very successful.  During the 15 years in which the school was in operation, some 350 students studied the science of forestry.  From this small beginning came the Forest Service of today.

In 1914 the Forest Service purchased the “Pisgah Forest”, which also included the site of the Biltmore Forest School, from George Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith.  Her only request was that the name be retained.  Today, we know this area as Pisgah National Forest.

Cradle of Forestry Visitor Center
We started our tour at the Visitor Center.  This is a magnificent facility with a theater, display gallery, classrooms, and, of course, a small gift shop.  We were in a hurry so zipped through this very quickly.  We did not allow nearly enough time.  That just means we’ll have to go back some time.

The Biltmore Forest School
We spent most of our time on a guided tour of the Biltmore Forest School campus.  We were the only ones on the tour, so had the tour guide all to ourselves.  I love it when this happens.

The King House
Our first stop was at a reconstruction of the small school building.  Apparently, Dr. Schenck was a real task master and the students worked long and hard to get their education.  As we continued along the mile-long trail around the campus we visited the general store, the King house which was used as a forestry employees’ residence, the blacksmith shop, Schenck’s office, and the Rangers’ residence.

The Rangers' Residence with Gene and our volunteer guide
There is a second tour along the Forest Festival Trail.  This tour is a more in-depth look at what Biltmore Forest School taught the students and explains the science of forestry.  We had other plans so were not able to do this tour.  We’re putting it on our list for our next visit.

We will definitely be back to the Cradle of Forestry.  We had no idea it entailed so much and didn’t allow nearly enough time to do it justice.  We’ll be back.

Jo, Fred, and Boo Boo taken in Rio Grande Valley in 2009
The reason we were in such a rush was a visit with friends, Fred and Jo Wishnie of The Wandering Wishnies.  They are volunteering at Cradle of Forestry for the next couple of months.  We’ve been following the Wishnies in their wanderings for several years and first met them in person 2009 while in the Rio Grande Valley.  It was good to see Fred and Jo again.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. What an intersting place to visit!

  2. It's been several years since we visited the Cradle of Forestry and I don't remember doing a school tour - we mostly walked the trails. Also loved the reminder of the Wishnie's. I followed them for some time at the very start of their journey when I believed our full-time journey was less than five years away. When our plans changed and when I started my blog, I had to let go of some people I'd been following and they got caught in that mix. Thanks for the reminder to return and get caught up!!

  3. Thanks for a great tour and history of the Cradle of Forestry. It was a good idea at the time and it's still a great idea today.

    Nice old school building too.