The Omni Grove Park Inn

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Grove Park Inn
Grove Park Inn, Asheville NC, May 2007.jpg
Front entrance, May 2007
The Omni Grove Park Inn is located in North Carolina
The Omni Grove Park Inn
Location Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°37′14″N 82°32′32″W / 35.62056°N 82.54222°W / 35.62056; -82.54222Coordinates: 35°37′14″N 82°32′32″W / 35.62056°N 82.54222°W / 35.62056; -82.54222
Built 1913
Architect Fred Loring Seely
Architectural style Arts and Crafts
Governing body Omni Hotels & Resorts
NRHP Reference # 73001295
Added to NRHP April 3, 1973

The Omni Grove Park Inn is a one-hundred-and-one-year-old historic resort hotel on the western-facing slope of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Asheville, North Carolina. It is a AAA Four-Diamond Hotel and has been since 2001. It has been visited by many United States' presidents and other people of notoriety. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is an example of the Arts and Crafts style. It also features a $44 million, 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2), modern subterranean spa, which placed #13 worldwide in Travel + Leisure's World's Best Hotel Spas in 2008. The Omni Grove Park Inn is a member of the Historic Hotel of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Inn[edit]

The Omni Grove Park Inn features 55,000 square feet of versatile event, banquet, convention and meeting space. This includes an 18,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom and an 8,800-square-foot Heritage Ballroom. The inn has 510 guest rooms plus, 42 meeting rooms and suites as well as pre-function areas and outdoor terraces, patios and balconies. Upon entrance is the Great Hall, which measures 120 feet (37 m) across and features 24-foot ceilings and two 14-foot stone fireplaces and the resort’s grand lobby is famous for the elevators hidden in the chimneys of the fireplaces, which transport guests to their rooms. Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen on the adjacent side of the Great Hall on the grand patio where every day at sunset the Grove Park Sunset Chime is sounded. Many United States' Presidents, famous actors and actresses, and other people of notoriety have stayed at the "Inn". It is also said that the Inn has a perpetual visitor: The Pink Lady Ghost. The legend of the Pink Lady states that in the 1920s, she fell, or was pushed from the hallway outside her room over the rail where she fell to the floor of the Palm Court Pavilion below. The room that she stayed in was 545 and there have been reports from people who stayed in the room of experiencing cold spots in the room and sometimes seeing her apparition.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The Grove Park Inn was conceptualized by Edwin Wiley Grove (1850–1927) with the help of his son-in-law Fred Loring Seely (1871–1942). Edwin Wiley Grove, known as the “Father of Modern Asheville” was born in 1850 on a small farm in Tennessee. After serving in the Civil War he had a very definite plan for his life and career – the pharmaceutical business and the determination to rise from his early poverty to great wealth and success. While in his mid-twenties, Grove purchased Paris Medicine Company. Originally based in Paris, Tennessee, the firm was moved to St. Louis. Its primary money-making product was Grove's Chill Tonic, which was a tasty syrup elixir containing quinine. This formula would help tame the raging chills brought on by malaria. While still pursuing new pharmaceutical inventions, Grove met Fred Seely in Detroit, who was making a name for himself in the pharmaceutical business. While working together in Detroit, the two sparked a friendship and mutual admiration. Grove invited Seely to his summer home in Asheville. One week later he left his position in Detroit to work for Grove and his Paris Medicine Company. But business was not the only thing that interested Seely. When Grove introduced his daughter, Evelyn, to the bachelor, within 24 hours Grove had given Seely permission to wed her. Seely was married to Evelyn Grove (1877-1953), Edwin's daughter with his first wife Mary Louisa (Lou) Moore Grove. Lou died in 1878 when her daughter, Evelyn, was only one year old. Grove's second wife, Gertrude, was to bear Mr. Grove a son, fondly known as Eddie. After Grove died on January 27, 1927 his second wife and Eddie and Evelyn inherited the income from a trust Mr. Grove had set up. Gertrude sued for widow's rights and busted the trust, but then died in 1928 which allowed Eddie to inherit his mother's share of the Grove fortune. Eddie died six years later in 1934. Most of the fortune was exhausted according to historian Bruce Johnson. In the late 1890s, Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic, which had become a household staple, sold more bottles than Coca-Cola. After 20 years on the market, Grove has sold over 1.5 million bottles of his Tonic and surpassed his dreams by making millions of dollars.[citation needed]

Edwin believed the Asheville, North Carolina climate would have health benefits and be the ideal location for a resort. His doctors sent him there to determine if the climate would help reduce or cure his bouts with extreme hiccups, which would last several weeks at a time.

E. W. Grove began to accumulate the land for the inn and his Grove Park-Kimberly Avenue developments in 1910. He bought several farms and sloped areas all the way to the top of Sunset Mountain. Grove bought and demolished several TB sanitariums in his zeal to change the face of Asheville. Construction began in 1912 and was completed in 11 months and 27 days. This was accomplished by paying high wages to the dedicated workers. Circus tents were erected on the job site to house the workers. Just three days shy of one year, The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan delivered the keynote address to four hundred of the most distinguished men of the South, gathered for the opening banquet. He had no idea of how true his words would become when he proclaimed that The Grove Park Inn “was built for the ages.” The hotel was outfitted with furnishings from the Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York, one of the most important designers and manufacturers of Arts and Crafts furniture, metal work and other accessories. The hotel was built of rough granite stones and the expansive lobby is noted for its enormous granite fireplaces and expansive porch with its scenic overlook. It was advertised as having "walls five feet thick of granite boulders".[1] Four-hundred men worked 10-hour shifts six days a week. With only the use of mules, wagons and ropes, granite boulders, some weighing as much as 10,000 pounds, were hauled from Sunset Mountain to build the hotel. Seely kept his promise to be open for business in less than one year from the ground breaking.

Sketch of the exterior of the Grove Park Inn by Fred Seely, 1912

During World War II, the Inn was used first as an internment center for Axis diplomats. The diplomats and their staff were allowed guarded trips to town, where they would purchase goods from the local merchants. This was a boom to the strapped local economy. The Inn was then used by the Navy as a rest and rehabilitation center for returning sailors. In 1944–45, the hotel was an Army Redistribution Station where soldiers rested and relaxed before being assigned to other duties. The Philippine Government functioned in exile from the Presidential Cottage on the grounds during the war.

The Grove Park Inn became part of Sammons Enterprises in 1955. The resort has been expanded over the years under the direction of the owners Mr. and Mrs. Sammons and continues to be a popular tourist attraction. Although pets are prohibited at the Inn, Mrs. Sammons would bring her dog in under cover in a baby carriage. Mrs. Sammons died in 2008. KSL Resorts acquired The Grove Park Inn in 2012 for 120 million dollars. The painting entitled "The Scream" sold about the same time for 121 million dollars. They sold it to Omni Hotels in 2013, and it was renamed The Omni Grove Park Inn.[2]

Grove Park and Biltmore Relationship[edit]

In 1917, just four years after the completion of the construction of the Grove Park Inn, Fred Seely purchased Biltmore Estate Industries from Edith Vanderbilt, wife of George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862–1914), the owner of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This new venture came in addition to his responsibilities as the manager of the Grove Park Inn. E.W. Grove, his father-in-law and owner of the Grove Park Inn had refused to sell the hotel to Seely though he had eagerly allowed him to construct the building. He instead leased the hotel to Seely to manage and Seely managed the hotel until 1927, the year of Grove's death and the year Seely lost his legal bid to own the hotel. Jealous to the grave, Grove left his hotel to his wife and son and daughter. Though Seely was married to his daughter, Grove made no concessions to Seely and the Inn passed into the hands of what one advertisement described as "more liberal management." An interesting annotation by Seely scribbled next to the advertisement found in his files takes issue with that characterization.

Presidential visits[edit]

Ten presidents have stayed at the hotel: Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

  • William Howard Taft – 27th President of the United States (3/4/1909 to 3/3/1913)
  • Woodrow Wilson – 28th President of the United States (3/4/13 to 3/3/21)
  • Calvin Coolidge – 30th President of the United States (9/3/23 to 3/3/29)
  • Herbert Hoover – 31st President of the United States (3/4/29 to 3/3/33)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - 32nd President of the United States (3/4/33 to 4/12/45)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower - 34th President of the United States (1/20/53 to 1/20/61)
  • Richard M. Nixon – 37th President of the United States (1/20/69 to 8/9/74)
  • George H. W. Bush – 41st President of the United States (1/20/89 to 1/20/93)
  • William J. Clinton – 42nd President of the United States (1/20/1993 to 1//20/2001)
  • Barack H. Obama – 44th President of the United States (1/20/2009 to present)

Supreme Court and Grove Park Inn[edit]

According to a 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, the US Supreme Court was planned to relocate to the Grove Park Inn in the event of a nuclear attack.[3]

Famous guests[edit]

The hotel has hosted numerous celebrities over the years including William Jennings Bryan (who spoke at the hotel's opening), Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Elbert Hubbard, Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, John D. Rockefeller, Gen. John J. Pershing, Dean Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, John Waters, David & Amy Sedaris, Mischa Barton, Mike Huckabee, former NC Governor Bev Perdue, Sanjay Gupta, Trey Anastasio, Charles Schwab, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Enrico Caruso, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bobby Jones, Wiley Post, Will Rogers, Bill Tilden, Billy Graham, Barack Obama, William Shatner, Don Cheadle, Vijay Kansupada, and many others.

F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed at the hotel for two years to write while his wife was in an insane asylum in Asheville. The rooms in which he stayed, 441 and 443, are available for guests. One is furnished exactly as it was during his stay in the 1930s. Rooms in which famous people stayed are marked by plaques on the door saying who stayed there and when.

On February 3, 1930, William Howard Taft resigned from the US Supreme Court in the Great Hall Lobby.

In 1999, gospel artist Bill Gaither recorded "Mountain Homecoming" in his series of Gaither Homecoming videos and CDs in the Great Hall lobby, including artists Gloria Gaither, Mark Lowry, Larry Gatlin, the Bishops, Stephen Hill, Joy Gardner, and Ben Isaacs.

Pink Lady Ghost[edit]

The mysterious Pink Lady at The Omni Grove Park Inn has been seen, felt and experienced by hotel employees and guests for more than a half century. Little was known about the Pink Lady - just a swirl of stories about a young woman dressed in pink who fell to her death in the Palm Court atrium around 1920. Mere rumors, tales and lore weaving through the inn's rich history. In 1996, the Omni Grove Park Inn conducted in-depth research on the Pink Lady phenomenon and the resulting evidence focused on room 545, two stories above the Palm Court atrium floor. Research suggests the Pink Lady ghost is the grandmother of the noted local author Bruce Johnson.

A painter from the late 1950s or early 1960s and the hotel's current engineering facilities manager have reported strikingly similar tales about room 545. Both got cold chills on their way into the room so severe they never again attempted to enter. Interestingly, neither employee knew of the other's experience, or about room 545's connection to the Pink Lady. Another employee who has seen the Pink Lady several times over the past five years describes the apparition as "a real dense smoke - a pinkish pastel that just flows...a real gentle spirit." My dad, Bill Camp was working for a construction company remodeling the Inn. He saw the pink lady. He was standing at an elevator when the door opened and she was in it. She disappeared in front of his eyes. He knew nothing of the stories about her when this incident occurred.

Extras[edit]

The Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet is a 300-seat restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Attire is resort casual. It has seating overlooking the Asheville skyline and GPI golf course. They offer a Friday seafood buffet, a Saturday prime rib buffet, and a Sunday brunch.

Vue 1913 is a (Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, AAA 4-Diamond) 75-seat, upscale casual[clarification needed], dinner-only restaurant. They offer over 600 wines. A private dining room and semi-private tables are both available, as is the Chef's Tasting.

The Sunset Terrace is a resort casual steakhouse serving prime beef and fresh seafood for dinner and a variety of salads, sandwiches and entrées for lunch, all with western views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Spa Café is the smallest and most casual dining room serving lunch and dinner. Seating is available by the waterfall or in the spa.

In-room dining is available 24 hours a day.

The Cabana Grille is open for lunch on a seasonal basis. It is an outdoor grill near the outdoor pool and clubhouse.

There are three lounges, the Great Hall Lobby Bar, the Presidents Lounge and Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar.

There are 40 meeting rooms and two ballrooms totaling 53,000 square feet. Support services include floral, presentation services (SAV) and business center.

The 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course is a 6,400-yard, par 70 course. Golf Digest ranked the course 4 out of 5 stars. It was ranked 32nd by the NC Golf Panel. There is a full service pro shop with logo retail items.

There is a 43,000-square-foot spa with 31 treatment rooms and over 60 treatment selections including open air Pagoda massage rooms.

There are six tennis courts (3 indoor and three outdoor), and outdoor and indoor pools. The Sports Complex has Paramount fitness equipment and features aerobics, yoga, racquetball, and health and wellness programs.

The Omni Grove Park Inn has accumulated a significant collection of Arts and Crafts decorative items and hosts an important Arts and Crafts conference once a year

Accolades[edit]

2012 awards
  • AAA Four-Diamond Hotel since 2001

• Condé Nast Traveler – Top 121 Golf Resorts in the World and 9th in Top Southern Golf Courses • Golf Magazine – Silver Medal – Premier Golf Resorts • Golf Magazine – Silver Medal - Premier Golf Resorts/Best Resorts Near You

2011 awards
  • AAA Four-Diamond Hotel

• Travel + Leisure – Top Hotel Spa in the U.S and Canada – 17th • Condé Nast Traveler's annual Reader's Choice Awards Poll – one of two Asheville hotels was rated a Top U.S. • Condé Nast Traveler Magazine — Top 20 Southern U.S. Golf Resorts • Condé Nast Traveler Magazine Top 150 Mainland U.S. Resorts - 92nd • Condé Nast Traveler, Top 100 Resort Spas - U.S. Mainland • Fodors (reader-nominated list) - "125 Top Golf Resorts." • AAA inspectors’ 12 favorite lodgings for celebrating the holidays • AAA Four-Diamond Award, Horizons Dining Room (since 1993) • NC Golf Panel – Top 100 golf courses in NC and One of the Best Remodeled Courses Since 2000 • Spa Magazine’s Silver Sage Reader’s Choice Awards – Best Resort/Hotel Spa, Southeast & Mid-Atlantic – honorable mention • Meetings Focus – Best of the South Award • American Culinary Federation Achievement of Excellence • Tennis Resorts Online, Top 75 Tennis Resorts • DiRoNA Award – Distinguished Restaurants of North America, Horizons Dining Room • The Daily Meal – Best U.S. Restaurants to Watch a Sunset, Top 10 Award, Sunset Terrace • Mountain Express’ Best of WNC Readers’ Poll – 1st Place, Best Spa & 3rd Place, Most Romantic Dining, Sunset Terrace

2010 Awards: • AAA Four-Diamond Hotel • Travel + Leisure “World’s Best Awards” – 7th Best Hotel Spa in North America • Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence 2010 (Horizons Dining Room) • Condé Nast Traveler magazine - Top 15 Southern U.S. Golf Resorts • Condé Nast Traveler magazine – Top 100 Spas in North America • Golf Magazine’s Premier Resorts - Gold Award Winner • SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Awards - Top 10 Best for Romance • Tennis Resorts Online - Top 100 Tennis Resorts—Ranked #12 World • Successful Meetings, Pinnacle Award • Meetings & Conventions, Gold Key Award • Top 100 Golf Courses, North Carolina Golf Panel • Meetings Media – Best In South Award

Literary references[edit]

In Cormac McCarthy's 1979 novel Suttree, the title character and his girlfriend spend four days at the inn, staying in what McCarthy described as "a cool room high in the old rough pile of rocks."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Grove Park Inn". The Independent. Jul 6, 1914. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  2. ^ http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/12/2959057/texas-based-omni-hotels-acquires.html
  3. ^ "A Place to Chill in Cold War". Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  4. ^ Cormac McCarthy, Suttree (Vintage, 1992), p. 407.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]