Discover a treasure, tucked away in AshevilleSpend time at Grovewood
Just behind the Omni Grove Park Inn, is a place to relax, decompress, enjoy art and history and savor good food. It’s Asheville’s Grovewood area, and those who haven’t discovered it are in for a real treat.
Visitors are often surprised that there is so much to see in Grovewood’s 12 acres of grounds — not only the Grovewood Gallery, a fine-arts destination in itself, but also, Appalachian history in the N. C Homespun Museum, the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, a tranquil outdoor sculpture garden, nine working artists’ studios and the Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen restaurant.
What makes the area so special is that Grovewood is the former weaving and woodworking complex of Biltmore Industries. The property, with its six cottages built from 1917-24, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
How it began
George Vanderbilt’s wife, Edith, took an interest in homespun fabrics made by local women. When she heard about Eleanor Park Vance and Charlotte Louise Yale establishing a craft school to better the lives of young people in Appalachia, the Vanderbilts brought Vance and Yale to the Biltmore Estate and decided to subsidize the craft education program — which became Biltmore Estate Industries (BEI).
The BEI hand-woven fine textile and woodworking crafts turned into viable businesses.
After George’s untimely death in 1914, Fred Seely, the son-in-law of Edwin W. Grove, paid Edith $10,000 to use the Biltmore name and develop the business.
Formal suits of fine wool were in fashion back in the day, and wealthy and influential guests at the Grove Park Inn often ordered Biltmore Industries’ wool fabric for tailoring into suits. In its heyday, Biltmore Industries employed 75 – 100 people.
After Seely’s passing, Harry Blomberg purchased the business in 1954. Blomberg kept the looms in operation until 1980, when production of Biltmore Industries’ homespun fabric stopped. It was Blomberg’s heirs who renovated the original six English-style cottages and grounds, opening the Grovewood Gallery in 1992.
“What brings us all here is the history,” said Biltmore Industries general manager Karen Babcock. “Grovewood has Appalachian art and history, and our goal is to bring that to the forefront.”
Gallery visitors will delight in the wide variety of traditional and contemporary crafts, all hand-made by American artisans. Visit the upstairs studio for hand-crafted furniture and the outdoor sculpture garden across from the gallery entrance. The Wind Forest features the spinning wind art of Lyman Whitaker, the gallery’s best-selling artist.
“The Grovewood Gallery showcases a variety of artisans you won’t see at other places,” Babcock said. “It’s one of the biggest crafts galleries in the state.”
NC Homespun Museum
Get a glimpse into the glory days of Biltmore Industries’ hand-loomed fabrics, while looking at the museum’s four-harness loom and artifacts. There are letters, photographs and antique industrial products, depicting this bygone era.
Admission is free, and tours can be arranged. Museum manager Tom Anders is a walking encyclopedia of historical Biltmore Industries information.
“The collection of what we have here surprises people when they discover it by accident,” Anders said. “Grovewood history and art are spectacular.”
The Dye House
Walking into the Dye House is like stepping back in time.
“It’s like everyone just got up and left,” Anders said. “Everything is in its place, untouched.”
The Dye House is accessible by special tour arrangement for groups. The antique industrial equipment gives visitors a vision of what life was like as a worker at Biltmore Industries in the era when wool was the fabric of choice. There are dye vats, wool carding machines, looms and a 30-gallon antique industrial coffee urn.
“It’s a museum waiting to happen,” Babcock said.
Antique Car Museum
The Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum is in the building that housed 40 working looms of Biltmore Industries. Established in 1965, the car museum showcases Blomberg’s collection of rare and vintage cars, horse-drawn carriages and an Asheville American LaFrance fire engine.
Notable cars on display at the museum include a 1957 ‘Lake Placid Blue’ Cadillac Eldorado with a brushed stainless steel top. This Cadillac model was so revered, notables like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Fidel Castro owned one.
Admission to the car museum is free, but donations are accepted. And, the space is available to rent for small private events.
Gallery of the Mountains
The Grovewood Gallery’s sister gallery, Gallery of the Mountains, is in the Omni Grove Park Inn, next to the Nantahala Outdoor Center shop.
“When guests stay at the hotel, they want to bring something home reminiscent of the mountains,” said Rita Barnes, assistant manager.
The Gallery of the Mountains specializes in American hand-made artisan crafts, from fine jewelry to hand-woven women’s clothing and accessories and more.
Golden Fleece restaurant
Opened in March, the Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen offers a warm, inviting gathering spot for brunch or dinner. Complete with a crackling fire, it specializes in rustic recipes featuring Mediterranean favorites, wild game, NC seafood and an abundance of produce.
The patio is available for private parties in its secluded outdoor garden setting.
Upcoming Grovewood events
Grovewood will host several special exhibits in the next few months, said marketing manager Ashley Van Matre.
• Grovewood Rocks, showcasing artisan-made rocking chairs by 10 American woodworkers, including six from North Carolina, in styles ranging from traditional to contemporary (now through Aug. 28).
• A Show of Hands calligraphy exhibition, featuring world-renowned calligraphers, in a special showing, coinciding with the 35th annual international calligraphy conference in Swannanoa (exhibit on display June 25 – July 24; opening reception June 25).
• Open Studio tours — behind-the-scenes free, self-guided tours of the artist studios on the Grovewood grounds. Meet with Grovewood’s resident artists (July 1, Aug. 20 and Oct. 8).
• Craft for Critters benefit for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. Discounts on ceramic art, drawings for a “Tubby Cat” sculpture by Bandana Yardbirds and hand-thrown porcelain critter mugs by Laura Cooke. Grovewood will donate 10 percent of that day’s gallery sales to BWAR’s ‘Help Me Heal Fund’ (Aug. 20).
“We invite you to come and spend the day,” said Van Matre.
The Grovewood Gallery is at 111 Grovewood Rd., in Asheville, adjacent to the Omni Grove Park Inn’s lower parking deck. For information on Grovewood, call 828-253-7651 or visit www.grovewood.com.