Take a fascinating, free guided tour of the former Biltmore Industries Dye House at Grovewood Village. You'll time warp back to 1981 when the looms suddenly stopped. The factory appears much as it did on closing day, complete with wool on the looms. It's a photographer's dream. Before or after the tour, check out the fabulous Grovewood Gallery, tour the Antique Car Museum and watch artists at work.
Biltmore Industries was established in 1901 by George and Edith Vanderbilt, builders of the Biltmore Estate. It began in Biltmore Village to teach youth how to create handmade crafts. They teamed up with Charlotte Yale and Eleanor Vance to provide classes in wood carving and weaving. In 1917, four years after his completion of Grove Park Inn, Fred Seely bought Biltmore Industries and moved them to a collection of buildings adjacent to the inn, naming the complex Biltmore Homespun Shops. They expanded into an internationally known craft enterprise, with 40 looms weaving 700 yards per day in 1919 with 100 employees. By the 1940s, production dropped to 200 years per day.
Biltmore Industries' reputation for quality wool fabric caught the attention to American presidents. Coolidge Red was designed specifically for Mrs. Calvin Coolidge. Hoover Gray was created for President Herbert Hoover. President Franklin Roosevelt particularly liked their white wool fabric. A massive weaving loom was presented as a gift to the Roosevelts, and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the shops in 1934. Harry Blomberg purchased Grovewood in 1953 and was successful with growing the business some. However, it closed in 1981. The building housing the washing & drying room (photo above) and the upstairs long mule spinner was never renovated and rarely open for tours before April 2017.
Today, the campus of historic buildings are also home to Grovewood Gallery, the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum (above) and the Antique Car Museum (read more).
For the first time, you can now take a guided tour on Wednesday-Saturday at 1 PM. The 45-minute tour is offered for free (donations accepted) in April-November. See the Dye House with the original looms, carding machines, mule spinners, and dye vats used to make Biltmore Handwoven Homespun. Walls are peeling and floors are uneven. There is no heat or air conditioning. It's best for adults. The tour starts at the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum & Visitors Center (adjacent to Grovewood Gallery and Antique Car Museum). Go to their Web site for more history and tour info.