2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are spending some time in Asheville, North Carolina and it has been reported that they are staying at the Grove Park Inn. This is the hotel that Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell stayed during her honeymoon with her first husband, Berrien Upshaw.
Now called the Grove Park Inn and Spa, the hotel and conference center is one of the most famous hotels of the South. Berrien “Red” Upshaw’s parents lived in Raleigh, North Carolina and on their month-long honeymoon they spent time in Asheville at the Grove Park Inn and then made it out to visit his parents who they had just seen at the wedding in Atlanta.
The hotel looks much the same today as it did back then, although there is a new part added. The original hotel was built in 1913. The Mitchell-Upshaw wedding took place September 2, 1922 and the hotel was already famous by then. The massive stone lobby boasts two large fireplaces at each end. It was receiving much publicity back then for the famous people who had visited it, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.
Maybe the Obamas will have their picture taken and it will join the many celebrities who have stayed there and have photos on the wall. Margaret Mitchell is one of them. The President would not be the first U.S. President to stay at the Grove Park Inn, as Woodrow Wilson and nine others are among those who enjoyed the grand inn. Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller also stayed there.
President Obama and his wife Michelle will be able to sit on the exact balcony that Mitchell and Upshaw sat on. It overlooks a beautiful green valley with gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains all around.
If they are curious like Mitchell, they might request to visit room 545 in hopes of seeing the famous “Pink Lady,” a ghost that many people including employees have reported seeing. (It’s one of several ghosts that supposedly inhabit the Grove Park Inn) Two years before the Upshaws stayed there, an elegant woman dressed in a pink evening gown fell to her death at the hotel’s Palm Court Atrium. Ever since that night there have been unexplained episodes of severe chills and cold to people who have entered the room. Pink smoke has also been seen in the hotel and if you ask some of the waiters they will tell you a woman in a pink ball gown is occasionally seen even today.
The Grove Park Inn has St. Louis roots as it was the vision of St. Louis, Missouri businessman E.W. Grove who owned Grove’s Pharmacy in St. Louis in the late 1800’s. He had become a millionaire by selling a special elixir called “Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic.” Grove had visited Asheville for several summers in a row in hopes that the clean mountain air would help clear his bronchitis. He felt the area was comforting, restful, and healthy so he decided to build the hotel. Inspired by the rustic stone lodge at Yellowstone Park he enlisted his son-in-law to help build it. William Jennings Bryan, who was Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, delivered the opening day address.
“When Berrien and Margaret went on their honeymoon they spent some time at the Grove Park Inn,” said Nancy Upshaw Egerton, Upshaw’s half-sister. She said that afterwards they spent the night with the Upshaw parents and then continued with the honeymoon, which is described in The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel Gone With The Wind (www.GWTWbook.com)
Nancy Egerton, who grew up in the Upshaw home in Raleigh, now lives in Asheville, North Carolina. While I was doing research for the book, she took me to the Grove Park Inn and showed me the places Mitchell and Upshaw saw. They were very active and probably hiked the same trails the Obamas hiked on Friday.
The Upshaw honeymoon was as grand as Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler’s honeymoon in New Orleans and lasted a month. Just as Scarlett enjoyed wining and dining and spending a lot of Rhett Butler’s money, Mitchell and Upshaw celebrated in royal style. No doubt the Obamas will enjoy themselves at this breathtaking secluded mountain inn.
One of the updates to the hotel that the President and First Lady have the chance to enjoy is the magnificent spa. It was ranked number 13 worldwide by Travel & Leisure “World’s Best Hotel Spas” in 2008. There are also indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a racquetball court, and indoor and outdoor pools. The President might enjoy shooting some hoops on the basketball court or both might exercise in the work-out rooms.
This is not the first time Obama has visited the North Carolina town which is also home to the world-famous Biltmore Estate. He made a stop during his campaign before a debate. As for Margaret Mitchell that was the only time she went to Asheville, NC with Upshaw.
By Sally Tippett Rains, author of The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind (www.GWTWbook.com) Follow us on Facebook at GWTWbook. April 23, 2010