Written by Arthur Treff | Photos by Linda D. Cluxton
September rain hisses through the morning air. Outside the Grove Arcade, restaurant lights are coming to life while waitstaff set tables under brightly colored awnings. The subtle hues of the building’s Gothic decoration stand out against gray skies.
Grotesques look down; gargoyles spout rainwater; office workers collapse umbrellas, and then trundle through rotating doors, en route to the office. The scene is reminiscent of metro Paris.
Inside all is quiet, save for the whine of a distant vacuum cleaner. Shops are closed, but the building still feels alive. Rivulets of rain undulate over the atrium skylights, which are supported by a network of black, riveted steel beams, looking like they could have come from the Eiffel Tower. Period light pendants outline the mezzanine level and cast a warm glow. Spiral stairs appear to float suspended between floors, their curved ceramic underside reflecting the soft light. Brass railings from the mezzanine support lush hanging planters, which soften the marble and stone walls.
An intricate ceramic frieze camouflages the elevator door, which opens for a resident on her way to the airport. The click-click-click of her rolling luggage against terrazzo flooring fades as she exits. Cosmopolitan? Classical? European? Gothic? No stylistic word can adequately describe the feeling this piece of architecture conveys.
The bakery shop is open, a steaming espresso machine center stage at the counter. Breads and other sweet gastronomic delights draw the eye and bathe the tile floor golden.
Stand anywhere in the interior of the arcade and you never feel small, or swallowed by a huge space. Everywhere you look, the changing perspective and elevation belies the massive volume that the structure contains. Your eyes are continuously entertained by delicate figures, molding and faces cast in the taupe terra cotta. All the visual changes conspire to trick the human psyche. Everywhere you go, the Grove Arcade feels cozy and intimate. It makes you want an excuse to stay just a little bit longer.
The Grove Arcade building is an architectural landmark that lives up to all the hype surrounding it. Inside and out, it’s a space that sends you on a sensory journey back into a different time.
Features in Capital at Play are always about the people behind a business, the ones with the ideas, the individuals who carry the weight of an enterprise on their shoulders. This article is a bit of a departure. It’s about a building, the entrepreneur behind its construction, and the manager who tends to the flock of small businesses that call it home.
Were he alive today, you’d probably be reading about Edwin Wiley Grove in the Wall Street Journal. He was one of the first players in the billion dollar, over-the-counter drug industry. In the time before income tax was invented, his financial success was extraordinary.
E.W. Grove was born poor in Bolivar, Tennessee in 1850, and moved to Paris, Tennessee, in young adulthood. He was employed at Dr. S.H. Caldwell’s drugstore, and at age 29, raised enough capital to buy the business from his employer. Soon afterward, he formulated his first popular product, “Groves Tasteless Chill Tonic.” The chill vernacular didn’t describe a refreshing cold beverage; it referred to the racking chills caused by malaria, a disease, which was prevalent in the mosquito-rich southeast of 1879. Liquid quinine was the only cure for malaria, but it tasted vile.
Treating the disease required that patients drink between 600 and 1,200 mg of liquid quinine per day. The medicine’s bitter taste caused it to be known as: ‘the cure that kills you.’
By suspending the drug in a lemon and sugar emulsion, Grove’s tonic made the quinine cure easier to endure. Because the tonic helped malaria sufferers recover faster, the federal government bought it by the truckloads and pharmacies everywhere stocked it.
His $50,000 pharmacy investment suddenly became the multi-million dollar Paris Medicine Company, which was eventually moved to larger headquarters in St Louis. The company grew their product lines and continued to satisfy the buying public. Paris Medicine Company’s name and product reputation was nationally known by 1898. It is said that everyone, recognized their logo.
To gain a better perspective of Grove’s success, it is important to note that Bayer did not introduce their newest product, Aspirin, until 1899—21 years after the Chill Tonic was introduced.
When he wasn’t working at his medicine facility, Grove used his financial power to give back to the communities that had supported him. He bolstered the coffers of the Paris, Tennessee, school system, enabling the construction of a new high school. Concerned for the health of the students, he financed a fresh fruit and vegetable delivery program.
Atlanta was a city he frequented on business and on holidays. Here too he put money to work developing neighborhoods. The Atkins Park area of midtown Atlanta was a trolley suburb that Grove developed.
Twenty years of running the Paris Medicine Co. and investing his money found Grove suffering from bronchitis and insomnia. His doctors prescribed rest and relaxation in the clean air of Asheville, North Carolina. Grove first visited the city in 1898.
He liked the mountains so much that when he returned, Grove decided to stay. He brought ideas and money…lots of it, but much to his doctor’s chagrin, he didn’t relax at all. E.W. Grove was one of Asheville’s visionaries who held onto the idea that the little Appalachian city would someday compete with its larger brethren, so he got busy.
During his address at the dedication of the Bon Marché department store (now the Haywood Park Hotel) in 1923, Grove looked back on his time in Asheville and said, “I stated more than twenty years ago, that Asheville could be made a great playground for eastern and western tourists, and…could be to the east and south what Los Angeles is to the west.”
Grove invested much of his time and money to support that statement. In 1913, he built the Grove Park Inn with the help of his son-in-law Fred Seely. The Grove name was stamped on several other projects in the area: Grove Stone, a quarry and gravel factory; Grove Park, the subdivision near his Inn; and Grovemont, a community in Swannanoa.
(article continues on page 2 and more photographs are at the end)