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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 148;
Hotel History: The Omni Grove Park Inn (1913), Asheville, North Carolina*

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

The Omni Grove Park Inn is a historic resort located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. It was built by Edwin Wiley Grove (1850-1927), owner of the Paris Medicine Company, manufacturer of Bromo-Quinine and Tasteless Chill Tonic. When Grove could not find a local architect who grasped his concept, he entrusted the project to his son-in-law Fred Loring Seely, who had no formal training in architecture or the building trades. Nevertheless, Seely designed a magnificent lodge which was built of native uncut granite boulders quarried from Sunset Mountain. The Inn was furnished by the Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York, one of the most important designers and manufacturers of American Arts and Craft furniture, metal work and other accessories. Some 400 rugs were made in France, and linen curtains and spreads were imported from Ireland. To make the building fireproof, Seely designed a three-foot thick roof composed of cement, steel rods, asphalt and red clay tiles.

Construction was completed in 11 months and 27 days by careful planning and paying high wages to dedicated workers who were housed in tents erected on the job site. The golf course at the Grove Park Inn was built in 1899 and redesigned in 1924 by Donald Ross. Now owned by the Grove Park Inn, the par-70 course is a member club open to guests, members and the public.

The Inn was used for some unusual purposes:

  • During World War II, it was utilized as an internment center for Axis diplomats
  • Later in the war, it was used by the U.S. Navy as a rest and rehabilitation center for returning sailors
  • In 1944-45, the Inn was an Army Redistribution Station where soldiers rested before being assigned to other duties
  • The Philippine Government operated in exile from the Presidential Cottage on the grounds during the World War II

The Grove Park Inn has attracted many celebrities in the past 100 years including William Jennings Bryan (who spoke at the hotel's opening), Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Elbert Hubbard, Woodrow Wilson, John D. Rockefeller, General John J. Pershing, Dean Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, David & Amy Sedaris, Sanjay Gupta, Trey Anastasio, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Enrico Caruso, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bobby Jones, Wiley Post, Will Rogers, Bill Tilden, Billy Graham, Don Cheadle, Barack Obama, and many others. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived at the Inn for about a year in 1935 and 1936 when he was struggling with tuberculosis and alcoholism. His wife, Zelda, was institutionalized with schizophrenia in an Asheville hospital.

Mementoes of the Grove Park Inn's past are found throughout the public areas. Photographs of former notable guests hang in one corridor and empty bottles of Tasteless Chill Tonic and early menus are on display in glass cases. Also in evidence is the eight-foot-tall clock made by the Roycraft Shop for the Inn. With its hand-hammered face and oversized hardware, the clock may well be one of the most important objects to come out of the Roycraft Shops. The Grove Park Inn provides great activities including horse-drawn carriage rides, an 18-hole golf course, nine tennis courts and a fully equipped sports center as well as a nightclub and eight gift shops. The most appealing guest activities at the Grove Park Inn may be the simplest ones, a meditation before a blazing fire or a post-dinner conversation in a mission rocker on the porch.

From 1955 to 2012, the Inn was owned and operated by Sammons Enterprises until 2012 when KSL Resorts acquired it. The Inn features a 43,000 square-foot modern subterranean spa which recently was ranked #5 in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure.
*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)

Return to The Omni Grove Park Inn


About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley_Turkel_3.jpgStanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."


Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting

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