Dodge standing in his studio. Photo from private collection of Bruce Johnson.
by Dasha Morgan- On Thursday, January 26, Bruce Johnson gave an enlightening lecture on William Waldo Dodge, Jr., one of this region’s most versatile and accomplished Arts & Crafts talents. This was held at 5:30 PM at Zabriskie Parish Hall in All Souls Cathedral in Biltmore Village.
Many in the area are already somewhat aware of Dodge (1895-1971) and his amazing talents. This talk by Johnson will broaden their understanding of him and was one of the first events for the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County for 2017.
A collection of Dodge’s silver pieces. His sterling silver is recognized for its heavy gauge and the unique hammering techniques which he developed, which is continued today by his great grandson in Black Mountain at Grace Jewelers. Many of Dodge’s silver pieces were given as athletic awards by local country clubs. Photo courtesy of the Pack Library North Carolina room archives.
Following a somewhat privileged youth which abruptly ended in a World War I trench, Dodge landed at the veteran’s hospital in Oteen, where he recovered physically.
This Dodge Silver Shop near the Town Hall in Biltmore Forest was designed by Dodge himself. Due to the Depression and WW II, demand for luxury items dropped considerably, and he closed Asheville Sivercraft in 1942. He joined forces with other local architects and engineers to form the Six Associates. Photo from private collection of Bruce Johnson.
An architect by profession with Asheville commissions that still stand (such as The Spinning Wheel of Asheville), Dodge became a craftsman by avocation.
Inspired by the rustic, romantic themes of the Arts & Crafts movement, he was a woodcarver, a painter, and best of all, a silversmith, developing a unique hammering technique for a “waterfall” effect. Most of his pieces are recognizable and signed.
Today, Dodge’s silver creations are showcased in museums and private collections. His work is on display at the Asheville Art Museum, as well as in the NC History Museum in Raleigh and the Dallas, Texas Museum of Art.
In 2005, the Asheville Art Museum mounted an exhibit “Hand Wrought: The Artistry of William Waldo Dodge, Silver and Architecture.”
Many silver pieces are in the Asheville Art Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition catalog was put together by Bruce Johnson and was made available for purchase at this lecture.
Over the course of just 18 years, William Waldo Dodge designed and produced some of the finest known examples of American Arts and Crafts silver, building a following that enabled him to hire and train three assistant silversmiths.
In addition, he is recognized today as a respected architect whose work, like his silver, reflected the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement: hand craftsmanship, the use of honest materials, and simple, yet elegant designs. His sterling silver is recognized for its heavy gauge and the unique hammering techniques which he developed.
William Waldo Dodge carefully examines a piece of his hand crafted silverwork in his studio. Photo courtesy of the private collection of historian and lecturer Bruce Johnson.
Had he not had to spend the prime years of his career as both a silversmith and an architect working beneath the dark clouds of the Great Depression, his work would have been even better known outside the confines of Asheville.
William Waldo Dodge’s silver legacy lives on. His son, William Waldo Dodge III, practiced architecture in Raleigh. He was widely acclaimed for his work in historical preservation.
He died in 2014 at Givens Estates Retirement Community in Asheville.
Dodge’s granddaughter, Kirby Ruland along with her husband own Grace Jewelers in Black Mountain. At Grace Jewelers found at 106 Broadway Avenue Dodge’s great grandson, Nathaniel Ruland, continues in the Arts and Crafts tradition of the family with his bold hammered work in sterling silver. Grace Jewelers is generously sponsoring this program.
This lecture presented by the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, a 501c3 non-profit organization, took place on Thursday, January 26th, 5:30 pm, at Zabriske Parish Hall.
The Cathedral of All Souls at 9 Swan Street in Biltmore Village in fact won a Griffin Award for its restoration work on the Cathedral by the PSABC last year. While admission was free to this lecture, a suggested $10 donation supports local preservation and includes a half-price ticket to the 30th Annual National Arts & Crafts Conference at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
(Editor’s Note: This article was published in the Tribune Papers prior to the event in January of 2017.)