“If you had come to the Grove Park Inn in 1913…”

Many, many years ago, as I was writing my first book on Grove Park Inn and planning one of the early Arts & Crafts Conferences, I wrote:

“If you had come to the Grove Park Inn in 1913, you could have sat in Old Hickory rockers, read beneath Roycroft lights and purchased pottery from Newcomb, Roseville, Pisgah Forest and Weller. And if you come in February to the Arts & Crafts Conference, you still can.”

I was back up at the Grove Park Inn a few days ago, up on Sunset Mountain with those spectacular views of Mt. Pisgah and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, a colorful backdrop for the historic Asheville skyline. I’ve lost count of the number of trips I have made up to the Grove Park Inn since my first visit in 1985, a journey inspired by Elbert Hubbard’s almost-forgotten essay written just weeks before its celebrated opening on July 12, 1913.

The Inn, for those of you who have yet to experience it (the word ‘visit’ just doesn’t do it justice), consists of the central Main Inn, built in 1913 and consisting of the enormous Great Hall lobby with its towering twin fireplaces, along with 142 original guest rooms above it. It is flanked by two more recent wings, the Vanderbilt Wing (1988) and the Sammons Wing (1984), which push its total number of rooms to 512 and, just as important to us, provide two spacious ballrooms and several meeting rooms for our seminars, small group discussions, workshops and three shows: antiques, contemporary craftsfirms and books.

All of the rooms, I must add, like the public spaces, are furnished in the Arts & Crafts style, either with authentic antiques, accurate reproductions or a combination of both.

Each year since 1988 the Grove Park Inn has provided us with the ideal setting for our national Arts & Crafts Conference, the oldest and still the largest gathering of Arts & Crafts enthusiasts anywhere in the country – and beyond.

And while the focus of our conference continues to be on the education of the Arts & Crafts collector, from first-year attendees to those who have never missed a single one of our previous 23 conferences, for many it has grown to become more than just a series of seminars and a display of Arts & Crafts works for sale.

It has become a gathering of friends, a celebration of the Arts & Crafts spirit and a reunion of our growing Arts & Crafts family.

And there’s always room for more.

As my late friend Peter West used to say, toasting us with his glass of wine from one of the soft couches in the Great Hall, “I can’t quite tell whether it feels like summer camp – or an Arts & Crafts church camp. But I love it.”

For more information and a slide show on the February 18-20 Arts & Crafts Conference, please go to http://www.arts-craftsconference.com.

– Bruce Johnson