Arts and Crafts
In February, a couple of like-minded friends and I made a pilgrimage to attend the 21st annual Arts and Crafts Conference at the historic Grove Park Inn and Spa in Asheville, North Carolina. I call it a pilgrimage because this is like heaven for Arts and Crafts enthusiasts. And it felt like we were in heaven when we finally arrived at the inn. The first things we noticed were NO SNOW and flowers in bloom!
This conference was overwhelming, from the locale to the antiques, lectures, workshops and vendor showcase. This is the place to come if you want to find that rare original copy of The Craftsman, or that perfect piece of Grueby pottery or one-of-a-kind Van Erp lamp (bring your checkbook, or rather, prepare to take out a second mortgage).
The Grove Park Inn opened in 1913 and is considered an Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Its massive granite boulders are in evidence both outside and within the lobby. The Great Hall features original Roycroft fixtures and furniture. This is where the well-worth-it free guided walking tour commences. Its founder established the resort as a sanitarium of sorts, where guests could come for serenity and relaxation. Our idea of relaxation was sitting in a rocking chair on the grand terrace overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains with a drink in hand.
After two days immersed in so much Arts and Crafts history, we needed a breather. So we decided to check out the claim of Asheville’s official visitor’s guide: “Downtown Asheville features more Art Deco architecture than any other southeastern city outside of Miami Beach.” Downtown, we found two Art Deco buildings: the City Building of Asheville and the S& W Cafeteria, both designed by Douglas Ellington.
The City Building of Asheville is considered Douglas Ellington’s masterpiece and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed as a ziggurat with familiar setbacks, it was built in 1928 primarily of Georgia pink marble and brick. It sports an exuberant pink terra cotta octagonal roof, ornamented with a green feather design, recalling Native American motifs. The upper band of windows is topped by chevrons, and the feather motif is repeated. The entrance is dramatic, with lovely, elegant art deco lanterns and soft pink mosaic walls.
The City Building was originally supposed to be paired with the county courthouse and both were designed to complement each other. However, the county scrapped this plan and had a neoclassical building erected instead. The result is a quirky skyline, with the City Building’s pink and green domed exuberance standing beside the county’s staid and sober courthouse.
The second Art Deco building we found, the S&W Cafeteria, resides in a city block amid other buildings in one long façade. It stands out from the others, however, because of its Art Deco design. It was built in 1928 and designed by Ellington to reflect the “note of gaiety” a popular eating place would have. The building ornamentation includes black and gold designs existing side by side with pastel zigzag patterns around the door and windows.
At the time of our visit, the building was undergoing some construction making it impossible to see inside, but we learned that the interior of the building was also quite remarkable, with geometric patterned tilework and wonderful ironwork, some of which has unfortunately been lost.
Two other Art Deco buildings designed by Douglas Ellington are the First Baptist Church and the Asheville High School. For more information, check out this website: http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112120/.
Asheville is an area of many attractions, not the least of which is its historic buildings from the early twentieth century.According to the city’s website, after the Great Depression, Asheville was not able to afford “urban renewal.” Therefore, they left standing much of their old architecture, both Arts and Crafts and Art Deco, which is now viewed as worth saving. We are fortunate they are still with us to enjoy today.
– Theresa Shepherd