Asheville History: 1900 - 1920
Right around the turn of the century Asheville’s sleepy mountain town status was rapidly diminishing and economic growth erupted. Urban culture was drawn to the area in the form of great religious assemblies, a convention auditorium, and a grand opera house. In 1900, a newly organized chamber of commerce, the “Asheville Board of Trade,” launched national advertising campaigns, branding the city to be one of the “leading convention cities in the country.”
Many flocked to Asheville for its natural healing modalities such as nature walks and other traditions prescribed by mountain doctors. In 1908 best-selling short story writer, O. Henry visited Asheville and Hot Springs looking for a cure for his neurasthenia(stress –induced ailment). Henry sought out these natural methods instead of prescribed medicines. William Bartram, world famous botanist, had traversed the mountains of WNC discovering their peerless variety of flora. His novel Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, etc., serves even today as a bible of sorts for conservationists and herb-seekers.
Art Deco Architecture
The economic explosion of the turn of the century brought Architects and wealthy philanthropists to create a diverse downtown area. Asheville’s collection of Art Deco Architecture continues to remain second only to that of Miami Beach as far as the southeast is concerned. Such architects as Richard Sharpe Smith, Ronald Greene, Douglas Ellington, and Rafael Guastavino are among the many that helped to architecturally represent the diversity felt by those who live and have lived in this forever progressive heart of WNC.
Distinctive stylistic techniques were used by Spanish designer Rafael Guastavino and designer Richard Sharpe Smith to create the St. Lawrence Catholic Church in 1909. This religious edifice was recently granted the distinction of minor basilica. Its two Spanish Baroque towers are enshrouded in colorful tiles, that to some match the soil colors of the area. Considered by many to be an architectural masterpiece, the basilica is home to the largest unsupported tile dome in the United States measuring 52 feet by 82 feet.
Today, structures such as the Jackson Building, City Building, Buncombe Courthouse, Grove Arcade, Battery Park Hotel, S & W Building, First Baptist Church, Flat Iron Building, and many other pockets or neighborhoods echo Asheville’s architectural individuality which is becoming obscure and far from the norm in other American cities.
From 1912 to 1918 The Langren Hotel, The Grove Park Inn, and The Kenilworth Inn were built and served to expand further the luxury resort industry in Asheville. It is rumored that the most enduring of these, the Grove Park Inn, was built in part because of a case of bronchitis.
Edwin Wiley Grove and the Grove Park Inn Resort
As owner and founder of Grove's Pharmacy and Paris Medical Company of St. Louis, Missouri, Edwin Wiley Grove began spending summers in Asheville in the late 1800s under the advice of his doctor. The soothing, mountain climate acted as therapy for Grove's occasional bouts with bronchitis. Soon Grove fell in love with the area and became involved in local doings. In his travels, Grove had visited and become captivated with the rustic, yet grand mountain lodge at Yellowstone Park. Viewing the breathtaking vista from Sunset Mountain Grove knew he had found the location of his own mountain lodge that would soon be constructed.
Grove’s son-in-law, Atlanta journalist Fred Seely, a young man with no architectural experience became the candidate to realize Grove’s desire. The novice builder acquired granite boulders from Sunset Mountain on which the inn was built, and red clay tiles from Tennessee to emphasize the extravagance of such lodging.
The Grove Park Inn Resort endures today as an historical site in Asheville, welcoming guests with a celebrity hall with signed photographs of famous visitors, award winning golf and spa facilities and one of the best sunsets in Asheville.