A Fortunate Find
A Fortunate FindDecember 7, 2020
It has often been laughed that no good deed goes unpunished.
Fortunately, enough good deeds do go as planned to keep us helping others.
Our Asheville Preservation Society has its office in a small Arts and Crafts building which Edwin Wiley Grove, the pharmaceutical millionaire who constructed the 1913 Grove Park Inn, had built in 1909 as his real estate office. The one-story granite structure is located at the base of Sunset Mountain on a tree-shaded corner of E.W. Grove Park.
The rectangular building has two large rooms separated by a wall featuring back-to-back fireplaces. The front conference room has a massive granite fireplace, while Grove’s personal office on the other side of the wall has a more modest fireplace. At some time in the past, however, someone pried what might have been tiles off the wall, leaving the fireplace looking like a raw, gaping hole.
I began another term on the Preservation Society board earlier this year, at which time I saw just how unsightly the office fireplace looked for our director and anyone else sitting in Grove’s former office. Without any vintage photographs, however, we had no idea what the fireplace looked like originally, so we were unsure just how to proceed.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a woman living a few miles north of Asheville who had attended the Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn and who had a few pieces of Arts and Crafts furniture and art pottery she no longer needed. There amid the pictures she sent was an Arts and Crafts fireplace surround leaning against a wall. Having in the past bought no fewer than three Arts and Crafts fireplace surrounds, none of which I was ever able to use in any house I owned, I knew how difficult it is to find a perfect match for one.
This one, however, struck me as possibly fitting in our Preservation Society office.
She and her husband had purchased the oak fireplace surround in Virginia, hoping to install it in a log cabin they were restoring in North Carolina. When that plan did not work, they placed the fireplace in storage for several years. While Leigh Ann and I did not have a need for the oak fireplace, we did think we could find a place for another Stickley sideboard and a Limbert sewing table she also had for sale. When I floated the idea of a package deal, including her donation of the Arts and Crafts fireplace to the Preservation Society, she gladly accepted.
After cleaning it up and buffing out a coat of paste wax, last week I scheduled a time to drive the fireplace into Asheville. Knowing I would have to do a small amount of fitting, I also loaded a tub full of tools into my truck. I will admit I was slightly apprehensive about the project, for I, too, had often repeated the lament about no good deed going unpunished.
This time, however, everything went exactly as planned. I only had to trim a half-inch of wood from the baseboard, then chiseled off the protruding old caulk and tile glue, and drilled two holes into the fireplace brick for the anchors to secure the surround to the wall. For once, each step went exactly as planned, and in little more than an hour the Arts and Crafts fireplace was looking like it had spent its entire life in Edwin Wiley Grove’s Arts and Crafts office.
Proving that good deeds are still worth doing . . . . despite the risk!
Until next week,
“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” – John Burroughs