Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arts and Crafts Travel--The Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina

image from Grove Park Inn website

I have always wanted to visit the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC and this month I finally did!

Each year a HUGE conference takes place there in February for people interested in the Arts and Crafts Movement.  March is our spring break so we missed the conference --my plan was to meet with the conference organizer Bruce Johnson but he was travelling when I visited.  I secretly wish I lived in Asheville so that I could work on the conference each year--to me it would be the perfect job.  Here is a link if you are interested in the February 2015 Arts and Crafts Conference  this is probably the largest gathering of vendors and Craftsman aficionados each year in the country.

The main lobby is flanked end to end with huge fireplaces.

The hotel is pretty amazing. It was built in 1913 in just 362 days by 400 men working 10 hour days 6 days a week.  The scale of it alone is awe inspiring.
  Pictures of the notable people who have stayed there over the years hang on the walls, including 10 of our United States Presidents and countless well-known Americans. More ... The Grove Park Inn Story

While waiting for an elevator I noticed a photo of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and one of their sons.  Evidently they used to camp or hunt on the property and got to know Mr. Grove.  These stories always amaze me.  Our world was so much smaller back then and our degrees of separation smaller as well.

When we first arrived I asked for a room in the old hotel.  We did not have time to read about the hotel before visiting, we didn't know anything about the hotel except its' furnishings.  We were directed to the elevator INSIDE the fireplace!

My daughter and I are both tall-- and at 6 feet-- her hair was skimming the ceiling of the small elevator inside the great fireplace.  I could only imagine what we would have looked like if my 6'9" son and 6'4" husband had been with us.  The four of us would never have fit inside with the elevator operator (yes they have one of those to close the door and pull the iron gate shut) let alone our luggage.  As it was we were shoulder to shoulder and head to ceiling, people are just taller these days I guess.  It was a riot !  I loved it.

Elevator inside the great fireplace--yes inside!

Our room was on the 7th floor.  We did not know about the ghost.  Upon entering the room my daughter felt a cold spirit presence, ultimately we changed to a room in the new part of the hotel which was fabulous.  I do believe that some people have the ability to feel spirits that I cannot.   We have a home in our family that is on the National Register of Historic Places and my daughter had a similar experience when she stayed in a room in that house where a blue hazy spirit roams.  At the Grove Park, I met a woman and her daughter in a Pilates class in their athletic center--they couldn't stop talking about their room in the old hotel.  They stayed in the room for two nights, each night a dresser in the room was uncontrollably shaking--but only when the lights were out!

The mysterious Pink Lady at The Omni Grove Park Inn

(this section is an excerpt from Wikipedia.....)
She has been seen, felt and experienced by hotel employees and guests for more than a half century. Little was known about the Pink Lady - just a swirl of stories about a young woman dressed in pink who fell to her death in the Palm Court atrium around 1920. Mere rumors, tales and lore weaving through the inn's rich history. In 1996, the Omni Grove Park Inn conducted in-depth research on the Pink Lady phenomenon and the resulting evidence focused on room 545, two stories above the Palm Court atrium floor. Research suggests the Pink Lady ghost is the grandmother of the noted local author Bruce Johnson. (yes the same one mentioned above)

A painter from the late 1950s or early 1960s and the hotel's current engineering facilities manager have reported strikingly similar tales about room 545. Both got cold chills on their way into the room so severe they never again attempted to enter. Interestingly, neither employee knew of the other's experience, or about room 545's connection to the Pink Lady. Another employee who has seen the Pink Lady several times over the past five years describes the apparition as "a real dense smoke - a pinkish pastel that just flows...a real gentle spirit."

Warm Summer Nights at the Grove Park Inn

The Grove Park Inn has great outdoor dining and fireplaces and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is obviously a very, very busy place all summer long but the sheer size of it allows for lots of places to sit and hang out and enjoy the view. They also have a fabulous spa though we did not imbibe.  Instead we spent our 4 nights enjoying all the gluten free food options Asheville has to offer. Once I write that post it will be at
We also spent a lot of time in Edison's watching basketball at the bar and had an excellent meal there on our last night.

I think we missed some lovely weather by a few weeks.  For us it was gorgeous, a bit windy, and we even got a dusting of snow:

In the summer the trees will all be covered in green leaves and the grounds will be planted with flowers.

The lobby is a great place to listen to live music and enjoy a glass of wine. Take in the Roycroft furnishings and enjoy the new light fixtures proudly made by Old California Lantern or perhaps their new line called Wentworth Avenue.

Biltmore Estate

Aside from all the eating in gluten free Asheville heaven, we spent a day dreaming.....

The Vanderbilt's house was completed in 1895 and is a must-see for Downton Abbey fans visiting Asheville.  The house has been open to the public since 1930 and boasts gardens by Frederick Law Olmsted, paintings by Renoir and John Singer Sargent, and tapestries from the 1500s.  And the rooms have been beautifully restored--just gorgeous!

Downstairs is just as interesting as the upstairs. Featuring technologically advanced infrastructure for hot water, central heat, electricity, and refrigeration it's easy to imagine the servants domain bustling with non-stop activity.  Also downstairs a bowling alley, swimming pool and gymnasium.

When you go, plan to rent or bring bicycles.  I think this is the best way to visit the 8,000 acre estate.  Locals have an annual pass for hiking and cycling the property.  Plan your visit at Biltmore Estate
Or if you prefer it might be just the perfect day to see the estate on horseback m'lady.

Asheville has some fun shopping and dining-- we visited quite a few restaurants which I will review over at my other blog as noted above.  But for now don't miss Posana Cafe!