Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dinner and a Show: the Grove Park Inn Dining and Guests (Part 1 of 2)

Today's blog post is by Anna Peitzman, a Special Collections intern enrolled in the Library and Information Studies Master's program at UNC Greensboro. Anna has been processing the Bloomberg, Patton, and Grimes Biltmore Industries Collection, which contains records from the early years of the Grove Park Inn.  She writes about entertainment and dining at Grove Park Inn in this first of two installments. 

The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913, just under twelve months after construction on the inn began. A massive undertaking, it was reported that up to 400 men participated in the building of the inn. Recently, UNC Asheville Special Collections and University Archives acquired a three part collection from Biltmore Industries. One of the series contains records and materials from the Grove Park Inn, including food, billing, and entertainment records from the twentieth century. Some of the pictures in this two part blog are from this series, and some are taken from Grove Park’s virtual collection, available at UNC Asheville.  

Men lay tile in the dining room during the inn construction, just shy of two months before the inn’s grand opening: 

A picture of the completed, pristine and inviting dining room can be found in the lower left hand corner of this promotional brochure:

When Grove Park Inn opened, many famous men (and later both men and women) stayed at the hotel, including American presidents and industry titans. For example, the description with this photograph reads, A few famous guests who stayed at Grove Park posed for this photograph in 1918. From left to right are Harvey Firestone, Sr., Thomas A. Edison, Harvey Firestone, Jr., E.W. Grove, Henry Ford, and Fred Seely.

Most of the same men appear again in the photo on the right, along with Mr. Burroughs and Professor DeLoach. 

In order to maintain the inn’s reputation and uphold the high quality of food, Fred Seely and the management were stringent with their vendors, and if a delivery did not meet expectations, had no qualms with handling the situation as they saw appropriate. For the butter order referenced below, they decided to adjust the price to that of cooking butter as they refused to serve it in the condition it arrived in for guests to spread. 

Quite a bit of Grove Park Inn’s food in the late 1910s and early 1920s came from well-perceived, high-brow vendors in places like New York City and Washington, D.C. However, the inn did also receive and use local goods throughout the years.  

The records regarding food in the Grove Park Inn collection at UNC Asheville are largely comprised of vendor correspondence between the inn and their food suppliers. The correspondence is an interesting look into where Grove Park got their food from predominantly in the late 1910s and early 1920s. An encompassing statement may not be made regarding the “where” Grove Park Inn got their food. However, a partial response can be made to the recent cultural push toward using more or all local businesses or farmers. One implicit supposition sometimes made is that generally in earlier times food was largely or all locally sourced. In reviewing the Grove Park Inn records from approximately one hundred years ago, one conclusion can be surmised: As early as the early 20th century, this particular establishment on the eastern coast of the United States was buying food from all across the country. These records may help to inform knowledge of local and non-local food trends from the early twentieth century.

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