But in our forty years of absence, downtown Asheville has made a stunning comeback! The Grove Arcade is an example. I used to pass this empty behemoth just about every day, eyeless with its big shopwindows covered, people sleeping in the once-ornate doorways, broken bottles, newspaper and plastic bags swirling in its corners. And I always longed to know what beauty was hidden inside.
Well, I wonder no more! Downtown Asheville has made a stunning comeback and the Grove Arcade is the cornerstone of a city wonderfully restored to its former bustling glory.
"I had a little drug business in Paris, Tennessee, just barely making a living, when I got up a real invention, tasteless quinine. As a poor man and a poor boy, I conceived the idea that whoever could produce a tasteless chill tonic, his fortune was made.”—E.W. Grove
E.W. Grove did indeed make a fortune with his "chill tonic" for relief of malaria and set out to create his architectural vision of elegance in Asheville. He built the Battery Park Hotel and across the street from it began construction of a 269,000 sq. ft. indoor "shopping palace". Although he died before it was completed, the Arcade opened in 1929.
Winged lions still flank the entrance where I used to pass the homeless sleeping out of the wind.
The lion entrance is on the side by the tall building on the right, the Battery Park Hotel, which is now apartments for seniors. This old photo from the back gives you an idea of the size of the building.
(Grove had envisioned a five story base with 14-story tower of shops and apartments. The tower was never built.)
The Arcade now has shops, restaurants, offices, and 42 apartments. Skylights, offices, and apartments are on the upper levels, shops below, indoors, and outdoors under awnings.
Take the old elevators ("Going up. Watch your step, Madam.").
enter the wooden door with the wreath and take one of the enclosed circular staircases.
When the Arcade first opened in 1929 it housed shops, offices, services such as barbers and hairdressers, a photographer, fruit stand, grocers. It was closed when the federal government took over the building for the war effort in World War II, evicting 74 shops and 127 offices with less than a month's notice. Led by a group of citizens, it was named a National Monument, restored to its former glory, and reopened in 2002.