St. Genevieve of the Pines and Gibbons Hall alumnae, as well as The Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County, are seeking to save the historic Lourdes Grotto replica now found on the A-B Tech campus. It is currently slated to be torn down within six weeks by A-B Tech. A great deal of interest has been stirred up in the community in the hopes of moving the Grotto elsewhere. Informal meetings have been held to determine a way to save this historic and sacred place. This has resulted in a number of suggestions from schools, churches and private individuals, might allow the Grotto to rest on their property. Calls and emails have been coming in daily with possibilities, suggestions, and even contributions.
This replica of the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in France was once a place of prayer and meditation for the students, nuns, and teachers of St. Genevieve of the Pines and Gibbons Hall. The history of the original Lourdes Grotto dates back to 1858. Mother Margaret Potts, Academy principal and Mother Superior at St. Genevieve’s for many years, described the site in her memoir, St. Genevieve’s Remembered. “On the right of the Grotto was a little circle of benches and chairs with a tree right in the middle,” she wrote. “The sisters would come there in the summer for prayer and recreation. It was private and cool. In front of the Grotto was a rose garden. In fine weather the sisters could walk up and down saying vespers.” Every May at St. Genevieve’s there was a May Day Procession down to the Grotto.
Fortunately William Flynn Wescott, Historic Preservation Consultant, has determined that the Grotto is stable enough to move, but sufficient funds must be raised to allow this to happen. Hopefully the alumnae and friends will be able to do this in time, which will not be an easy task. St. Genevieve’s was established in 1908 on a 28 acre Victoria Road campus. The Grotto and the Ivy Building, which housed the gymnasium and auditorium, are the only two remaining structures left from the school, which was founded by Belgian and French nuns of Religious of Christian Education. The Sisters gave their lives to education without salary and without hope of earthly reward.
A-B Tech president, Dr. Hank Dunn, and the Board of Trustees, removed the Ivy Building from the demolition schedule last year when made aware of its historic significance and the impact of the school on the city. AB Tech will incorporate the building into their academic planning, and it will be restored.
Students attended the academy from all over the United States and other countries, including Cuba, England, Italy and France. Some were day students; some, boarded. Many alumnae have vivid memories of the classical, principled education they received there, and many live in and around western North Carolina area. In 1988 Asheville Country Day School and St. Genevieve/Gibbons Hall merged to become Carolina Day School.
Because of the urgent nature of this situation, Jack Thomson, executive director of the Preservation Society, is holding a meeting of the Save the Ivy Task Force today, this Thursday, February 28th at 3:00 P.M. at the Grove Office of the Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County. For information, suggestions, or contributions call Kieta Osteen-Cochrane 321 243-4593.