The new year is upon us, and this time around a new year means a new decade! With 2020 on the horizon, locals are buzzing about “2020 vision” and bringing back Prohibition-era elements in celebration. In light of the forthcoming neo-20’s, let’s travel back in time to the birth of one of Asheville’s most iconic buildings: the Grove Arcade.
The Grove Arcade was originally founded by E.W. Grove, who made his fortune when he invented his tasteless chill tonic in 1878 in Paris, Tennessee. The tonic was suspended quinine in liquid form, and was used as a preventative of malaria and its chills and fever. Advertisements for the tonic claimed to make “children and adults as fat as pigs.” Though not exactly “tasteless," the product was nonetheless a hit, and Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic even outsold Coca-Cola by the year 1890! Even the British army made it a standard issue for soldiers who were deployed to areas with large mosquito populations.
In 1910, Grove relocated his tonic operation to Asheville from St. Louis after developing breathing problems due to the larger city’s pollution. The fresh mountain air of Western North Carolina relieved his bronchitis and revitalized his health. After completing construction of the Grove Park Inn in 1915, the Grove Arcade began to take form in 1920 as an attempt to enliven downtown Asheville. Designed by architect Charles N. Parker, the vision of the elegant Grove Arcade was to be filled with offices, living spaces, and shops. While original plans involved a five-story base with a fourteen-story tower, Grove’s passing in 1927 resulted in only the 269,000 square foot base being completed. The Grove Arcade’s grand opening took place in 1929, and the building included candy and cigar shops, a haberdashery, a public stenography office, fruit stands, millinery shops, beauty parlors, barbershops, a photography center, bookstalls, specialty groceries, and offices.
During World War II, the federal government closed the Grove Arcade in 1942 for military use because of its size and remote location, giving less than one month’s notice for all 127 of the offices and shops within to evict. In 1951, the Grove Arcade became home to the National Weather Records Center. So many filing cabinets were stored within the building filled with punch cards for record-keeping purposes that many feared there would be structural damage due to the weight.
The Grove Arcade became the very first enclosed mall to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. As part of a large revitalization effort in Asheville in 1980, renovations and enlargements began on the then largely abandoned commercial center, which had fallen into disrepair. The not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation (G.A.P.M.F.) formed in 1992, with a mission to restore the Grove Arcade to its original function and form and preserve its historical integrity. The National Weather Records Center was renamed the National Climatic Data Center and relocated in 1995. The plans for Grove Arcade to become Asheville’s new Public Market finally started to take shape. A 198-year lease was signed with G.A.P.M.F. in 1997 when the City of Asheville titled the building under the National Monument Act. The building reopened in 2002 after completed restorations with shops, local crafts, services, office spaces, restaurants, and 42 luxury apartments, fulfilling E.W. Grove’s vision at last. The building even has free wi-fi! The Grove Arcade remains the largest commercial building in Western North Carolina to this day.
The Grove Arcade’s Winter Wonderland event is underway until January 2nd, but the party is just getting started. On New Years Eve the history of the Grove Arcade will come full circle, echoing back to a century ago to when it was first built. From 7-10pm on December 31st, travel back to the age of jazz and the Roaring Twenties. The Grove Arcade will be transformed back to a time when fashionable flappers, economic prosperity, and Prohibition ruled Asheville.
Dress in your 1920’s best and enjoy a night of dancing, live jazz, and celebration! A team of Asheville’s best chefs will create enough hors d’oeuvres to feed a 300-plus crowd, and mixologist Johnny Burrit of Chemist Spirits will prepare a special cocktail inspired by Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic: a classic combination of lemon, honey and sage mixed with gin. The beginning and end of landmark eras will cross paths, so be sure to grab your tickets now for the biggest party of the century; or enter to win a pair of FREE tickets on Dig Local’s Facebook or Instagram! If you want to learn more about Grove Arcade and their upcoming events, be sure to visit their Dig Local profile.