A Column About Six Columns

I can’t say that I have been inside any building in which the support columns were a major source of conversation and debate – other than the 1913 Grove Park Inn. These six prominent columns in the Great Hall lobby have at their core a circular poured concrete pillar extending down to bedrock. Together they, along with the outer granite walls, support the four floors of rooms above the Great Hall in the section of the hotel called the Main Inn.

During construction in 1913, the water and waste pipes for the guest rooms in those upper four floors were attached to the poured concrete pillars. Then, to disguise the pipes, the pillars were encased with granite rocks brought down from Edwin Wiley Grove’s land holdings on Sunset Mountain.

For forty years the pipes functioned properly, but by 1955, when Charles Sammons purchased the Grove Park Inn and undertook a major remodeling project, problems had begun to emerge. Coupled with the need to run additional telephone and electrical lines to the upper rooms, the architects and designers decided to strip the rocks off the six columns. Once the updates were made, the designers convinced Sammons to let them wrap the pillars with vinyl covered plywood rather than reinstalling the rocks.

The 1950’s look quickly appeared out-dated, so in 1964 Charles Sammons hired yet another team of designers to make the columns compliment the original oak trim and Arts and Crafts furnishings. Back then, of course, it was still called Mission Oak. The oak encased columns, complete with Arts and Crafts corbels, remained in place from 1964 until just a few years ago, when yet another new owner’s team of interior designers decided a fresh look was needed.

This time they called up Rob Kleber of Earth in Home, an Asheville-area woodworker and former exhibitor at the National Arts and Crafts Conference, to design and construct the wood casing. Rocks had been discussed, but the ability to easily access the pipes and lines still attached to the cores eventually pushed them toward removable wood panels.

As you can see, Rob designed the oak casing with classic Arts and Crafts details.

Afterwards the lights designed and created by Old California Lighting, another former Arts and Crafts Conference exhibitor who had been selected by the hotel staff to assist in the Great Hall renovations, were attached to Rob’s panels, completing the project.

While purists will still long for the look of the original rock columns, I must now admit to preferring the combination of Rob’s joinery, the warmth of the wood, and the glow of the stained glass lanterns. And if you come and long to see the rocks, just turn around — at the Grove Park Inn, they’re all around you.

Until next Monday,

The more you do, the more you can do.