Gifford Pinchot in WNC



Gifford Pinchot

Everyone who comes to visit western North Carolina, and in particular the city of Asheville, comes to visit The Biltmore Estate. The Estate is almost unrivaled in its historical grandeur and beauty, both inside the main house as well as out.  In fact, its lush gardens are arguably some of the most exquisitely beautiful in the world.  Most do not know, however, that this artistry originated from the mind of one, particularly visionary man.


Gifford Pinchot.  The name rings synonymous with forestry.  Indeed, working hand in hand with the United States Forest Service, Pinchot was one of the twentieth centuries leading conservationists.  Born in Connecticut in 1865, Pinchot received training as a forester and later became the first chief of the US Forest Service.  Extremely passionate about forestry, Pinchot traveled to Europe extensively to train and study forestry techniques there, even attending a forestry exhibit at the Paris World Exposition of 1889.  

Through his wealthy father, a New Yorker who had made his fortune in land speculation and lumbering, Pinchot was introduced to George Vanderbilt and asked to become the private forester for the Vanderbilt’s North Carolina estate, The Biltmore Estate in 1892. gifford-pinchot-arrived-in-asheville-nc-to-serve-as-lead-forester-at-the-biltmore-estate Pinchot’s idea was to implement a forestry plan that not only would improve the intrinsic value of the grounds, but also return a profit to the landowner himself.  This idea was visionary and would become the national model for other such forests in America.  Pinchot remained at the Biltmore Estate until 1896, when he then left for Washington D.C. to head the Division of Forestry.

Upon his leaving, forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck took over, eventually going on to establish the Biltmore Forest School.  Despite having opposing opinions on matters of professional forestry, and after recommending that the Biltmore Forest School be closed at one point, Pinchot would eventually lecturers to the school from the USDA, Bureau of Forestry, and the Forest Service.  Letters between Pinchot and Schenck from 1895 to 1908 offer remarkable insight into the minds of two very different, yet equally ambitious men.

Pinchot passed away on October 4, 1946 in New York suffering from leukemia.  Today, his name remains deeply embedded in the realm of historians, certainly always when the word forestry comes to mind and in the discussion regarding the launch of the American conservation movement in the early twentieth century.  The Biltmore Estate remains a testament to the man and his vision, and Asheville proudly keeps that legacy alive.

Featured Image: Postcard depicting the approach tot he Biltmore House, Pack memorial Library NC Collection. 

Thanks to Ashley McGhee for contributing this post to The State of Buncombe! Be looking out for more content for her in the future. Follow her on Instagram @wncwaterchild.

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