Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 18, 2017
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In the grove

A North Carolina landmark lets guests get into a different rhythm with some Appalachian R&R

The Grove Park Inn gazes out over Asheville from a mountainside on the eastern edge of town. Like the grand Biltmore House to the west, the imposing stone building, with its characteristic red-tile roof which curves around eaves and dormers, was the vision of one man. Edwin Grove, an ambitious pharmacist, made his money in the fading years of the 19th century with Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic, a concoction made with quinine water which was touted as a cure for malaria and most other things that might ail you.

Asheville, famous for the curative powers of its mountain air, proved a fortuitous location. Clearly a man of energy, he had the massive hotel built in a single year, 1913, much of it fashioned from stone quarried from higher up the mountain and brought to the construction site by long chains of carts towed by Packard passenger touring cars.

The first guests, including many suffering from tuberculosis, came for their health and, in a sense that remains so today. A spectacular spa, a championship golf course, a sports complex adjacent to the hotel which includes indoor tennis and squash courts, state of the art aerobic and strength training rooms, onsite trainers, everything you’d expect from a top-notch athletic club anywhere.

The facilities are excellent, but the real draw is the hotel itself. The Blue Mountains have long sheltered a host of fine furniture makers and the Grove Park Inn is decked out in full Arts & Crafts style from the stunning chairs and massive sofas of the public rooms, to the bedsteads and desks in the private suites. The furniture alone is well worth a visit.

Giant fireplaces bookend the lobby — indoor cliffs towering to the 7.5-metre ceiling. Built from huge rough-faced boulders, the guest elevator is tucked in behind the firebox, like the entrance to a bear cave and is unusual enough to have made it on Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Ride upstairs to the mezzanine and emerge in a three-storey atrium impeccably decorated with Art Nouveau stenciling.

The two guest rooms on the immediate left of the elevator were occupied by writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in the summer of 1936 while his equally famous wife, Zelda, was being treated for mental instability in a nearby hospital. In his cups, the author of The Great Gatsby and other American classics, kept a look out to the floor below, hoping to spot pretty young female guests.

Back on the main floor, wide sheltered balconies run the full length of the lobby affording splendid views of the town below. Guests and visitors take morning coffee or drinks in the afternoon and early evening here to watch the sunset over the mountains.

The hotel makes an excellent Asheville headquarters. The resort and spa facilities mean you can take in the pleasures of a first-class resort and yet be just a short ride from Asheville’s lively downtown, known for restaurants specializing in New Southern cuisine, as well as art galleries, bookstores and New Age jewellery and clothing shops, all easily accessible in hilly but compact downtown.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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