To An Original Grove Park Inn Room
When the Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913, it featured approximately 150 guest rooms. The precise number remains a bit elusive simply because not every room had been finished by the one year deadline Frederick Loring Seely had imposed upon himself and the hundreds of stonemasons, carpenters and tile setters who worked for him. Seely had married the only daughter of pharmaceutical magnate Edwin Wiley Grove, who divided his time between homes he kept in St. Louis, St. Petersburg and Asheville. Determined to prove his mettle to his father-in-law and to his wife, Seely threw himself into the project with steely zeal and determination.
He turned to his friend Elbert Hubbard for assistance in furnishing the Grove Park Inn, but the small band of eight woodworkers in the Roycroft Furniture Shop were simply overwhelmed by the massive order and Seely’s looming deadline. Hubbard reluctantly declined the opportunity to produce the more than 1,000 beds, nightstands, rocking chairs, vanities, dressers, chairs and writing tables Seely had required. As a compromise, the Roycrofters agreed to build the furniture needed for the dining room, along with enough bedroom furniture to serve as models for the well-respected White Furniture Company, who had a modern furniture factory in nearby Mebane, N.C.
When the first guests arrived that Saturday in July, they found rooms modeled after the Arts & Crafts style. In addition to the Roycroft-designed furniture produced by the White Furniture Company, they discovered hammered copper drawer pulls, table lamps and suspended ceiling lights all bearing the prominent shopmark of the Roycroft Copper Shop, then directed by journeyman designer Victor Toothaker. The walls were decorated with stained burlap wallpaper amid oak battens and high chair rails, while the floors featured a tile edging and wool carpets woven in France.
Fred Seely stayed on to manage the hotel until 1927, when the death of E.W. Grove sparked a bitter family battle which Seely eventually lost — along with his beloved Grove Park Inn. Over the course of the next eighty years the rooms gradually lost some of their Arts & Crafts flavor. The burlap wallcovering came down, the copper shades on the Roycroft lights were altered to emit more light, the rugs were replaced, and the furniture was refinished to a brighter Golden Oak.
For decades the owners and hotel staff struggled to hide the ancestry of the aging queen on Sunset Mountain, but with renewed interest in the Arts & Crafts movement and the inaugeration of the annual Arts & Crafts Conference in 1988 came a new identity. Rather than hiding her history, the owners began to promote it. Once called “the finest resort hotel in the world,” the Grove Park Inn would soon be known as “the finest Arts & Crafts resort hotel in the world.”
Two additional wings, the Sammons (1984) and the Vanderbilt (1988), along with an underground spa, were furnished with a combination of quality reproductions and authentic Arts & Crafts antiques. The original Main Inn guest rooms were also refurbished. The White and Roycroft furniture that had survived was refinished and reupholstered. A combination television-appliance cabinet was designed to match the antiques, and has been complimented by additional Arts & Crafts chairs, side tables, and oak mirrors bearing Arts & Crafts mottos. The floors received new carpeting, the walls were painted in appropriate Arts & Crafts colors, the windows received new drapery and the beds new coverings — all with the assistance of well-known Arts & Crafts artisans and designers. As a crowning touch, reprints of rare George Masa black-and-white photographs of regional scenes were selected and hung in the rooms.
After the dust had settled, the historic hotel emerged with a total of 510 rooms, all of which are decorated in the Arts & Crafts style and 144 of which are located in the original Main Inn. Those 144 original rooms are coveted by many of the attendees of the annual Arts & Crafts Conference, prompting us to assign them in the order in which the reservations are made.
Starting at 8:00am on Sunday, January 1st, the Grove Park Inn will begin accepting reservations and room requests for the February 2013 (no, not a typo – that would be 14 months in advance) 26th National Arts & Crafts Conference.
No one ever said Arts & Crafts collectors weren’t determined.
Until next Monday,
Have a great (and final) week of 2011!