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But first some history.
E. W. Grove built the new Bon Marche department store for Solomon Lipinsky; architect/designer was W. L. Stoddart, an architect from New York City. Lipinsky had founded the store in Asheville in 1889. The Bon Marche later moved into a new building across the street at 33 Haywood in 1936 (now the Earth Guild building) designed for them by Asheville architect Ronald Greene. Bon Marche then moved to the Asheville Mall in 1979. The store was purchased in 1979 by the Meyers-Arnold Company.
Ivey’s Department store took over the former Bon Marche building in 1937.
Ivey’s moved to the Asheville Mall in 1974 “for the convenience of suburban customers.” A-C 3/14/1974. The building sat mostly empty until purchased by Robert D. Armstrong as developer. Plans for a conversion to a luxury hotel, with John Rogers of Asheville as architect were announced in March 1985. The building was on the National Register of Historic Places, so tax credits were utilized but the historic criteria meant turning the building into a hotel put reins on the imagination of Rogers as he designed it. The new hotel opened a year later in March 1986, with many people calling it the “cornerstone of Asheville’s renaissance.” The hotel project had actually involved what were formerly three buildings: Bon Marche, The Starns Building and The Haywood Building, as seen in the postcard above of Bon Marche. After the hotel was opened, renovation was extended through the Haywood Building creating shops and restaurants. By extending the roof of the central building Rogers was able to incorporate a three story atrium.
John Rogers gave a talk for Asheville’s Pen and Plate Club in July of 1985, during the renovation of the building. His talk was called “The Shape of Content.” Rogers admitted to the club members, that at the time he was “so immersed in the revival of Asheville as a city–on an hour to hour basis even–I simply can’t resist pressing every audience that comes my way on that score.”
After chewing over his thoughts about the shape of content he says of Asheville: “Downtown is certainly the shape of its content. It’s been pretty sad down there and that’s the shape it’s been in. But many of you are a part of what’s happening now. In my view this is not so much the revitalization of a city as it is the revitalization of us as a people in a whole way–as a community of people. It is the same force which has been putting new life in the Ashevlle Symphony, invigorating the Art Museum–all the old groups and a bevy of new ones. It is this drive which shaped the new Arts Council and gave impetus to its United Arts Fund Drive for three successful years now. It is this urge to be sociable that has filled the new restaurants and called for more. . . That force becomes the new content and spaces are reshaped–adapted, restored, refurbished, renewed in response.”
While designing the hotel, Rogers said that every time he looked at the building, he saw that the cornice was the central feature. “In a virtual sea of buffs, tans and greys it was clear that the “shape” of new life had to be a color. Noting that the glazed terra cotta had small flecks of red, a kind of raspberry, and that old photos showed the building skirted with awnings at street level, he said it “was a short jump then to dark burgundy awnings sweeping around the corner and marching up Haywood and Battery Park and to a bright red cornice at the top–raspberry red, if you will.”
During this time, Roger’s daughter Chrisite ran into Woolworth’s to pick up something. “As she checked out at the cashier she said, “How do you like the red?” After all the building had sat empty for two years and nearly empty for twelve. The lady said, “w-h-a-a-a-t?” and Christie pointed out the window and said, “The new red on the cornice.” The lady bent over, looked out the window and with a look of disbelief said, “Lord! Those folks must be crazy!”
A few weeks later Roger’s overheard an old gentleman sipping his coffee. “Folks,” he said, “It’s different and it’s about time!”
John Rogers ended his talk saying to the club members, “Now folks, that’s the point, finally, it is different. It’s a new shape for a new content and ” . . . it’s about time!”
The Pen an Plate Club began in Asheville in 1904. A description of the club as given by Dr. Charles L. Minor is: “The club is just what its title implies–a social body with gastronomic tastes, tinctured with literary aspirations; a monthly gathering of congenial and friendly spirits to discuss a good dinner and listen to the reading of a paper equally good.” The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library maintains the Pen and Plate Club Collection of papers.
Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.
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