WASHINGTON, October 1, 2013 - If only the old, new and middling granite stones in Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn could talk. A century of stories abound about U.S. presidents, celebrities and others, some who started married life at the inn, then celebrated anniversaries and later family milestones within.
There are tales about big business deals and conferences , which occur regularly at the inn. The design of the hotel epitomizes the Arts and Crafts era and has hosted nearly three decades of gatherings by antique dealers and collectors of those who embrace the genre.
The inn’s most “storied” guest is The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who with his wife Zelda, are often credited with inventing the 1920’s Jazz Age. The pair were deep into their personal demons during the summers of 1935 and 1936 when Fitzgerald occupied rooms 441 and 443, drinking and brooding over his wife who was a patient in the local mental hospital.
Autumn is a great time to call, as the hills bloom with color, fresh air, and the magic of holiday festivities. With new ownership by Omni Hotels and Resorts which invested about $25 million in renovating and adding contemporary features, the inn is embracing its second century.
Guests first notice the iconic Great Hall has new lighting on the grand entranceway’s architectural details, massive fireplaces and original granite stone walls. Also, the Vanderbilt Wing’s 166 guest rooms have been updated for the new era.
EDISON is the new bar and restaurant that focuses on local craft beer and hand-crafted cocktails, plus casual Southern comfort dishes with a sophisticated Asheville flair. Views of the mountains vie for diner attention. And just below the west front’s famed Sunset Terrace there’s a new cocktail terrace where guests may imbibe local beers, cocktails and small plates while they watch the sun set behind the mountains.
New retail outlets and major enhancements to the inn’s extensive meeting and event spaces are also part of the resort’s new profile.
Throughout the entire resort, Grove Park guests now find a masterful meld of stones that deliver a historic yet contemporary experience from first step into the entryway to features like the 43,000 square-foot spa and the 6,720-yard golf course.
Grove Park will host its 20th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition on November 17, and the winners will be on display from November 20 through January 2 throughout the inn, as well as the Asheville Visitors Center and the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. A hop-on-hop-off trolley tour from the visitors center will carry takers to all viewing sites and provide a narrated history tour of the city along the way. Seasonal festivities at the inn pair nicely with the Christmas décor at the nearby Biltmore Estate, which George Vanderbilt unveiled to his Gilded Age friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895. Decorated trees, evergreen garlands, floral displays, wreaths, bows and thousands of ornaments adorn one of America ’s most famous mansions November 2-January 1.
Out and About
Asheville is a gentile, scenic town near the Blue Ridge Parkway that’s always evolving, especially where the arts are concerned.
The River Arts District is where the vibrant creativity of locals like Jonas Gerard and about 165 other studio artists have set up studios amid cafes and pubs. In the past decade, the creative community has brought new life to a decaying warehouse and railroad district that dates to the late 19th century.
Downtown, there are First Friday Art Walks among 25 galleries, studios, and museums that share billing with the town’s heralded collection of Art Deco architecture.
Asheville’s independent and creative spirit is also on display in the town’s new food and drink variety, an array that retains Southern favorites with local flair, alongside international dishes composed of local and fresh ingredients. Blissfully absent among the 250 independent restaurants, 13 active famers’ markets, and 12 microbreweries in this town of 85,000 population, are chain restaurants that many locals believe sabotage a food culture.
Faith Traveler Stops
The Basilica of Saint Lawrence is a National Historic Site that was completed in 1909 is an architectural treasure in the middle of downtown. Designed and built by Rafael Guastavino, a Spanish architect who came to Asheville in the mid-1880s to work on Biltmore House, it is a piece of Europe in downtown Asheville. The interior is a trove of stained glass windows, statuary, tile work, and wood carvings.
The Cathedral of All Souls is another treasure from Asheville’s golden age is this church, which George Vanderbilt added to the city in 1896. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Biltmore House. The chancel Casavant Freres organ was installed in 1971, and the church was designated cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1995. The church’s style is from the Norman period of transition from Romanesque to Gothic, and resembles churches in both Northern England and the south of France.
Set amid 1,200 acres of woodlands near Asheville is the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, a retreat property, complete with classrooms, inns, chapel, and training center where guests study Bible with leaders of the evangelical community.
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