Swannanoa’s Grovemont Neighborhood
A Vibrant Community with a Fascinating History
This oral history is the recollection of Bill Alexander, whose family was one of the first to settle in this Valley. Written by Valerie Taylor.
Grovemont’s rich history begins with a desire by an entrepreneur who wanted to build one last project: a neighborhood as close to his grandparents town in England as he could recreate.
Tennessee-born Edwin Wiley Grove, started out in his uncle’s business, grinding compounds. Although not a pharmacist, he struck out on his own and developed the now-legendary Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic, a quinine remedy that made him a multi-millionaire.
According to Alexander oral history, Grove needed a tax write-off, so he went into real estate. He was also told by doctors to seek clean air for his health. He was involved with real estate investment in Florida, but the city of Asheville had just developed a slogan, “Land of the Sky,” and this caught Grove’s eye.
He bought, razed and rebuilt the Battery Park Hotel, built the Grove Arcade, and of course, the Grove Park Inn, in addition to some other smaller projects. He built a house for himself and his wife on Sunset Mountain (where Grove Park Inn now stands), but his wife preferred to stay in St. Louis for the most part.
Wanting to do one last property, he traveled to England to get plans to the town in which his grandparents lived. Towns in England are often named after nearby tributaries (such as Stratford on Avon). Supposedly, that led to his search for property on a river near Asheville.
Grove heard of a widow who ran the Alexander Inn in Swannanoa, wanted to send her children to college, and might be persuaded to part with some land. Small in stature, Carrie D. Alexander was sharp with finances and loaded with common sense. Grove was not accustomed to a woman who stood up to him, and after months of hassling about the price of the 275 acres he wanted, she sold him the land in 1919, stipulating that she could take the timber until building began. She also stipulated that the southeastern part stay Alexander property, now bordered by Alexander Street and Old US Hwy. 70. That piece remains in the Alexander family, with some of the original Inn intact.
Now, with the property he wanted, Grove set about developing plans for a community-oriented neighborhood to be known as Grovemont on Swannanoa.
In Part II: Grovemont’s
unique design; lot prices set.