An entrepreneur who had a great impact on the urban design of Asheville was Edwin Wiley Grove (1850-1927). A druggist who had settled in Paris, Tennessee, Grove made his fortune, beginning in 1880, by creating “Tasteless Chill Tonic,” distributed by his Paris Medicine Company. Designed to prevent or lessen the effects (“chills”) of malaria, prevalent in nineteenth century North America, the liquid quickly became popular because Grove was able to mask somewhat the bitter taste of quinine in the medication with lemon. Although it wasn’t exactly “tasteless,” the tonic was so well-liked that in 1890 it outsold that other bottled favorite Coca-Cola! In 1897, Grove himself suffered from bronchitis and a chronic case of the hiccups for which his physician suggested a trip to the mountains of Asheville to recuperate. Thus began a thirty-year period of building that would forever change the face of the city.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, Grove began accumulating land within the Asheville city limits. A beautiful spot on the westward-facing slope of Sunset Mountain would become the site of his resort, the Grove Park Inn. Construction began in 1912 and was completed within a year, using rough granite stones from the mountain to fashion the rustic exterior. Visitors can still admire the original building with its large fireplace in the lobby and the expansive porch overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains out back. Many new buildings have been added, as well as a 16,000 square foot spa, tennis courts, and swimming pools. Over the years famous guests have stayed at the inn: William Jennings Bryan spoke at its opening in 1913; presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama have stayed there; celebrated Americans from Thomas Edison and Henry Ford to actors like William Shatner and Don Cheadle have found their way to the Grove Park Inn. We were there in time for the annual gingerbread house competition at Christmas.
Another building project of Edwin Grove was the Grove Arcade, considered by some as the 1st indoor shopping mall in our country. Architect Charles N. Parker originally conceived the space as a fourteen-story tower on a five-story base. But Grove died before the Arcade was opened and plans for the tower were then abandoned. Restored in recent years, the Arcade contains shops, restaurants, offices, and luxury apartments. Not all of Edwin Grove’s projects received support by inhabitants of the town. For example, he had the old Battery Park Hotel torn down, the hill razed, and a new one put up in its place. One thing is for sure: Grove had a sizeable influence on the building of modern-day Asheville.