Between 1912 and 1913 the Roycrofters, a group of artisans led by Elbert Hubbard in East Aurora, N.Y., produced hand-hewn Arts & Crafts furnishings for the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.
Copper lighting fixtures for the Inn’s Great Hall, massive oak breakfronts and corner cabinets for its dining room, as well as three clocks – one almost nine feet tall – were among the one-of-a-kind pieces the Roycrofters produced.
The group employed 500 artisans during its peak years, but still contracted with the White Furniture Company of Mebane, N.C. to crank out hundreds of chairs, desks and beds for the rooms at the Inn.
American oak was the wood of choice, selected for its honesty and simplicity.
Alas, by the time the 1980s rolled around, the Mission style had fallen way out of favor.
“You could buy one of the original dining room chairs by the Roycrofters for three dollars in the 80’s,” says Sue Angell of the Grove Park Inn. “Now they sell for $1,500 in bad condition and as much as $2,500 in good condition.”
The Inn let a lot of the original furnishings go back then – and began to re-acquire it shortly thereafter.
Among the items that left the Inn was a nine-foot Roycroft-designed pool table, constructed of quarter-sawn oak, one-inch-thick Vermont slate, mother-of-pearl inlays, and rosewood rails. “The rosewood was there for its ability to withstand a lit cigar,” Angell says.
In the 1960s, it was given or sold to one of the Inn’s employees, but re-acquired in 2007. Sadly, it’s been placed aside almost as a museum piece today, though it’s nearly indestructible – and play-worthy.
The Inn has been on an acquisition binge in recent years, collecting works by Roycrofters and Stickley among others, and for the past 25 years has hosted the nation’s largest Arts & Crafts Festival in February.
Clearly, the staff at Grove Park Inn, now approaching its centennial celebration next year, knows how to play to its core strengths.
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