The Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville is Western North Carolina’s largest commercial building, home to a variety of shops, restaurants, markets, salons, offices, and apartments. Completed in 1929, the building has gone through several phases and has been utilized in several different ways throughout the years, but the spirit of being a civic and community resource has always remained. Let’s find out what the Arcade has to offer today! (Hint: it doesn’t offer video games like I once thought….but there is a pinball museum just across the street!)
Completed in 1929, The Grove Arcade was dreamt up by self-made millionaire E.W. Grove. Moving to the area in 1910, Grove completed the luxurious Grove Park Inn in 1915, and wanting a vibrant downtown environment for the city he had fallen in love with, Grove set his focus on creating a retail building that he promised would be, “the most elegant building in America.” I don’t think he was too far off in that proclamation. After hiring architect Charles N. Parker to design the structure, work on constructing the Arcade began in the mid 1920’s. In 1927, Grove passed away with only the base of the building having been completed. The initial plan was to have a 5 story base, and a 14 story tower. But after Grove’s death, construction was suspended, and the tower was never built.
Opening it’s doors in 1929, the huge 269,000 square-feet Arcade quickly became home to many shops and offices, including specialty groceries, a photography shop, a cigar shop, fruit stands, bookstores, a candy store, a stenography office, and a haberdashery. The main level was meant for commercial and retail space, while the upper floors were to be used as office space. The Arcade became a central part of downtown life, and it was a vital addition to the growing mountain town.
Taking cues from a myriad of different architectural styles, the Arcade resembles something one would find in Italy or France. Marble walls and grotesques line the interior, Roman style panels can be found above entrances, royal and medieval shields are carved into walls throughout, gothic canopies can be seen above windows and surrounding the elevators, and the hallways harken back to the free form baroque style, as they all are asymmetrical in design.
Another architectural style the Arcade borrows from is the nearby Biltmore Estate’s Rampe Douce, which is French for ‘gentle incline’. Located at the north entrance, the ramps of the Arcade were designed for pedestrians to easily walk up to the rooftop garden.
I highly suggest visiting this link, which details a self-guided architectural tour that you can save or print off and take with you on your visit. It will go into much greater detail about all of the architectural details featured in the building. Plus, it’s fun to hunt down and see all the architectural touches that have been put into the Arcade.
After 13 years of commercial use, the Federal Government took control of the building in their efforts to win World War II. Following the war, the Federal Government remained in the building, eventually turning it into the headquarters for the National Climatic Data Center (which has since moved just down the street, and has also had a name change to the National Centers for Environmental Information). In the 1980’s, the government began discussing plans to remodel and enlarge the building, but due to public outcry, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Soon, plans to turn the building back into commercial and retail use were being discussed, but it wouldn’t be until the year 2002 before the building would be open to the public again.
Since reopening, the Arcade has thrived in its mission to be a commercial and public space for citizens and tourists alike. Let’s take a look at what’s inside (and around) the Arcade.
Inside, you’ll find a plethora of dining options. Carmel’s offers sidewalk seating for those wanting to sip on some wine and do some people watching (as well as eat some delicious contemporary food). Thai Tara offers, you guessed it, Thai cuisine. Modesto is a great experience for those wanting something more than just a basic meal. Santé Wine Bar and Tap Room is a great place to grab a bottle of wine and share a snack with some friends. If you’re in the mood for a burger, Burgerworx has you covered with fresh meats and cold drinks. Want to get some reading in, visit the Battery Park Book Exchange for some wine with your Walt Whitman.
On top of all the great places to eat and drink, there are also candy and chocolate shops to help tame that sweet tooth. True Confections specializes in all-natural baked goods…and the goods are supremely good. Nutz About Fudge has an assortment of fudges, ranging from traditional chocolate, to some unique fruity flavors. They also serve Ultimate Ice Cream, made locally in Asheville. If it’s produce you’re after, Fresh Quarter Produce has fresh and local fruits and vegetables.
If you’re more in the mood for some shopping spree type action, the Arcade has approximately 20 stores to peruse. A few of my favorites include; Mountain Made, which offers regionally produced arts and crafts; The Battery Park Book Exchange, for used books (and that sweet wine); Tic-N-Time is a fun shop that features luxury clocks. There really is a shop for all interests. Click here to see and read about all the shops that are featured at the Arcade.
And the shops aren’t only relegated to the inside. The Grove Arcade features the Outdoor Artists Market, which is conveniently located directly outside of the building. Open rain or shine (don’t worry, it’s covered from the elements), the Outdoor Artists Market features locally made jewelry, paintings, soap, honey, musical instruments, and so much more. It’s really a unique environment.
If you’re visiting Asheville, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t check out the Grove Arcade. It truly is one of Asheville’s (and America’s) architectural jewels. You can find out more about The Grove Arcade by visiting their website here. And have fun exploring everything it has to offer!