Friday, April 15, 2011

Grove Park Inn: An Arts & Crafts Masterpiece

The historic Grove Park Inn Resort, one of America's most important examples of American Arts & Crafts style, would not have been built had it not been for a nasty bout of hiccups. Edwin Wiley Grove (1850-1927) who made his fortune selling Tasteless Chill Tonic, was sent to Asheville, North Carolina by his doctor to see if the temperate climate in the Blue Ridge Mountains would cure his chronic hiccups. No word on whether or not the hiccups were banished, but Grove, believing the temperate mountain climate bestowed health benefits, did indeed move to Asheville. He conceptualized a mountain lodge built halfway up Sunset Mountain, using the mountain's natural rough stones for building material, and to be featured prominently in the overall design. When Grove could not find an architect who could grasp his concept, he hired his son-in-law, Fred Seely, as both his architect and contractor, despite no formal training in either discipline. Using ropes and pullies, mules, and 400 masons, stone from the top of the mountain was rolled into place around a frame of reinforced concrete. The building was completed in 1913, an astonishingly-short 11 months and 27 days after construction began.

One of two fireplaces in the main lobby. The light fixture is an original Roycroft from 1913
One of the more striking features of the hotel are the massive fireplaces situated on opposite ends of the rock-walled main lobby. The stones were placed to fit, like a puzzle, not chiseled to fit. An amazing feat, considering some of the larger granite boulders that make the fireplace are 10,000 lbs. Though it's hard to tell from the photo above, the fireplace opening is large enough to fit a van inside. In the sides of the big fireplaces are elevators, the noise of which is muffled by the stone. Both of those 97-year-old elevators are still in service today.

Much of the furniture in the common areas, along with many of the guest rooms, are handcrafted Roycroft, the legendary arts community in New York that produced some of the finest furniture, light fixtures, and art in the Arts & Crafts heyday. And though much of this original furniture has now appreciated greatly in value, the owners of the Grove Park Inn have decided against stowing away the now-valuable furniture for safekeeping, preferring for these Arts & Crafts gems to be enjoyed by all. In the photo below is an original Roycroft clock just off of the main hall. A recent appraisal valued the clock at $500,000.

Below, looking closely at the very bottom legs of this same clock, you can see teal paint. In the 1950s, the clock was located in area of the hotel being repainted teal, and there was no bother to either move the clock nor protect it from the paint.

Below, this original Roycroft grandfather clock, located just off the main lobby in a common area, was recently appraised at $1,000,000.  There is no signage indicating the million-dollar clock's value nor its provenance, though it is one of the featured stops on the official tour of the Grove Park Inn's history. There are those who drive from out of state just to view this clock, one of only five of its kind made by Roycroft, and the only one known still in existence. All the parts, both interior and exterior, are original, and the clock is still perfectly operational.

The carved inscription reads,"not enjoyment and not sorrow, is our destined end or way, but to act that each tomorrow, find no farther than today."
A room with a view! Looking out towards downtown Asheville, and down below to the subterranean Grove Park Inn spa.

One of the mineral pools at the Grove Park Inn spa. Though not original to the hotel, the spa, completed in the late 1990s, continues the design theme of the property with the stone features and Arts & Crafts lighting.

Below is the Hathaway cottage on the Grove Park Inn property. Built just after construction of the hotel, the Hathaway house has the exact dimensions as the Anne Hathaway cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon. During WWII, the Philippine government functioned in exile based at the Hathaway house, while the main hotel was used as an internment center for Axis diplomats.

Even the guard shack at the entrance of the hotel property is in charming Arts & Crafts style.

Also on the Grove Park property is the historic 1924 Bynum house. Described by the Preservation Society of Asheville as a "petite chateau of quarry-faced random course stone," the house, sadly, has been condemned. Efforts at raising the $1,000,000 to fully restore this faded beauty have failed.

A closer view.

The rear of the abandoned house, still beautiful and majestic.


  1. I don't understand how such a beautiful house could become condemned when it was beautiful and nothing wrong with it when it was sold to Grove Park Inn in 1998. Its sad that just because they cant do what they want with it they have just let this beautiful house go.

  2. And only 1,00,000 to restore have failed??? Breaks my heart maybe I’ll win the lottery!