Sunday, December 17, 2017

Grove Arcade -- Asheville, NC

A long time ago we were newly married and set out to explore areas of the United States where we thought we might want to live.  We landed in Appalachia, built a house way up in the mountains, and established ourselves in careers around Asheville, NC.  By the 1970s, Asheville's heyday of opulence and elegance were far behind and dark days and hard times had fallen.  Its beautiful old buildings were empty and deteriorating, eaten up by dark years of urban decay.     
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.  


  1. I've never heard of this "chill tonic" for the relief of Malaria.
    Having had two attacks in the 60's of malaria in my youthful days in
    Papua New Guinea and I got the worst version of malaria - cerebral malaria
    which kills your immune system, I just wonder what this miracle tonic
    may have achieved??????????
    Strange that if this was so miraculous, the Allied Armies fighting in PNG in
    WW2 did not make use of it as thousands of troops died from so called pneumonia
    which in reality was malaria!!!
    Interesting post, Cynthia

  2. Interesting post. Asheville is on our list of places to visit next summer to avoid the heat down here.

  3. So great to see beautiful old buildings brought back to life. It's a much more attractive mall than the collossal new buildings we mostly see.

  4. Where would I be without the 'chill tonic' in my gin!! It is so good to see new life brought back to a derrlict building.

  5. Good to read about the Asheville, some towns make it and other don't.

  6. I like the idea of being able to explore your country and picking an area to settle in - how many get a chance to do that? Wonderful! That shopping centre looks really tastefully done - and beautifully restored; some of these places are dreadful (well, they are over here!).

  7. What a nice history, I always like arcades we don't have much of them here helas.

  8. How wonderful that it has been restored:)

  9. Looks like a wonderful place to visit and great that the area is enjoying such a wonderful restoration.