Tryon Toymakers Featured in Asheville Exhibit

Attendees of February’s annual National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC are familiar with Biltmore Industries, a 1905 cottage industry which in 1917 moved to the grounds of the Grove Park Inn. The Arts and Crafts woodworking and weaving enterprise remained in business until 1972, and the five Arts and Crafts buildings have since been restored as two museums, a café, the nationally-ranked Grovewood Gallery, and several artisan workshops at what is now known as Grovewood Village.

On Saturday, November 18, the Grovewood Gallery will showcase a new exhibit entitled “Craft in Toyland,” which will run through the end of December. This group exhibition will showcase American made handcrafted toys and games for sale. An opening reception will take place on November 18 from 2:00 – 5:00pm. It is free and open to the public.

Also on display, but not for sale, will be a collection of antique Arts and Crafts wooden toys from the heyday of Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers, which will be on loan from Tryon, NC resident Rick Dunn. For nearly 20 years, Dunn has been collecting wooden toys made by the renowned Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers, a children’s toy and fine craft company established in 1915 by two enterprising, artistic women: Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale. The Tryon toys were the finest made in the United States at that time, and today the surviving toys and woodcarvings are highly sought after by collectors (see Collectors Guide article).

Today, Julia Calhoun, who is one of the featured artists in “Craft in Toyland,” is working to keep the Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers’ artisan legacy alive. She is the fourth individual owner of the business and has recently begun bringing the enterprise back with the production of some of the earliest toys designed by Vance and Yale, working from antique sets and photographs. She will be showcasing a reproduction of a wooden circus set, an early item in the company’s history that is extremely rare.

“The only one we know of is in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh,” Julia says. “A second one was located a few years ago in Boston, but sold before our local collector could get to it. I had to draw my pieces from a photo of the one in the Museum.”

Established in 1992, Grovewood Gallery is a locally-owned Asheville destination for fine American-made art and craft. The gallery is located in historic Grovewood Village, on an 11-acre property adjacent to The Omni Grove Park Inn. Free parking is available on site. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00am – 5:30pm, and Sunday, 11:00am – 5:00pm.

For more information on Grovewood Gallery and Grovewood Village, visit or call (828) 253-7651.

Also see this week’s Little Journeys and Collectors Guide for more related information.