On September 1, 1898, Carl Schenck opened the nation’s first school of forestry.
The school has its roots in 1895 when George Vanderbilt, who had just completed the Biltmore House, hired German-born Schenck to manage and restore his vast woodland properties.
Students who enrolled in Schenck’s school used Vanderbilt’s forests as a campus, splitting their time between classrooms and fieldwork. Combining theory with practice, they gained experience in the care of nurseries; the transplant and cultivation of seedlings; timber selection; felling; logging; and sawing.
Schenck had a disagreement with Vanderbilt and left the estate in 1909, establishing the school’s winter headquarters in Germany. He struggled to maintain the school as a traveling entity in America, and enrollment dwindled as new forestry schools emerged. Schenck’s final class graduated in 1913, and most of the school’s alumni (who numbered more than 300) became actively employed in the field. In 1914, Vanderbilt’s widow sold more than 80,000 acres of her holdings to the U.S. Forest Service. The acquisition was incorporated into the Pisgah National Forest.
In 1968, the federal government established the Cradle of Forestry on the site of Schenck’s school to commemorate the beginning of forestry education and conservation in the United States.
For more on the school, check out the State Historic Preservation Office.