SVM historic hike explores Grovemont
The Swannanoa Valley Museum leads a hike in Swannanoa overlooking the historic North Fork Valley on May 9. This moderate three-mile hike on Grove Stone and Sand Quarry roads will feature guest hike leader Jason Connor, the manager of the site who will lend his geological expertise.
This walking tour is the fourth destination in the museum's Valley History Explorer Series. These excursions visit historic sites throughout the Swannanoa Valley. Participants can complete the entire series of seven hikes or sign up for a single hike.
Located in the heart of Swannannoa, Grovemont is a model community designed by Edwin Wiley "E.W." Grove. Born in Tennessee in 1850, Grove began as a drug store clerk, purchased the drugstore at age 29, and soon established the Paris Medicine Company, where he developed "Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic" and other popular patent medicines. The self-made millionaire relocated to St. Louis in 1889, and suffering from a bronchial ailment, first visited Asheville in 1897, upon the recommendation of his physician.
As Grove's interests turned from pharmaceuticals to land development, he envisioned a residential suburb centered on a resort hotel nestled on the side of Sunset Mountain. The Grove Park Inn opened in 1913, surrounded by elegant Arts and Crafts-style residential homes along Kimberly Avenue.
He established a rock quarry, the Grove Sand and Gravel Company, east of Asheville on Old Route 70, to gather, sort, wash, and load the stones onto rail cars for transport to the inn and his other building sites. The quarry, still in operation today under the ownership of Hedrick Industries, features winding roads that lead to sweeping vistas of the North Fork Valley and City of Asheville Watershed.
Beginning in 1924, Grove acquired land, adjacent to the quarry, to found his model community, Grovemont-on-Swannanoa. As the advertisements boasted, Grovemont was "located just 12 miles from Asheville, in the center of much coveted surroundings of natural beauty."
Grove sought to recreate on the banks of the Swannanoa River the English village his grandparents had lived in. Located on a broad plateau, set against a backdrop of mountains, the idyllic residential village was to include homes, shops, a post office, library, a hotel, a country club, two lakes, and town hall, all centered on a green, linked by a web of roads and sidewalks.
Grovemont was billed as America's first planned community, where Grove extolled, "people of moderate means could secure large lots at reasonable prices." Expansive residential lots, typically measuring 80 feet wide and 160 feet deep, offered ample space for lawns, gardens, and garages. With the exception of one residence, the English Tudor-style and Arts & Crafts-style homes were constructed from river rock and stucco, a distinguishing characteristic of all of Grove's properties in the Asheville area. The exception is the residence of a Beacon executive, who insisted on covering his home in brick. Grove managed to construct 19 residences. Today, 15 homes still stand.
Grove developed Lake Eden as "an amusement center for Asheville as well as Grovemont." The property, which later became the site of Black Mountain College and now serves as Camp Rockmont, still features two distinctive river rock buildings, one which served as a dance and recreation hall. Grove passed away in 1927, before Grovemont's completion.
Hike participants will meet at the museum at 10 a.m. to carpool. Pre-registration is required. Sign up at swannanoavalleymuseum.org.
Walk with history
What: Swannanoa hike
When: 10 a.m. May 9
Meet: At Swannanoa Valley Museum
Cost: $20 museum members, $30 nonmembers