William Waldo Dodge II (1895-1971) was one of the premier silversmiths of the twentieth century, yet less has been written about him than any of the other major silversmiths of this century. Few people outside of Asheville, North Carolina, where Dodge lived and worked, realize that in addition to being an accomplished and innovative silversmith, he was also an inventor, a painter, a woodcarver, and a successful architect. When World War I erupted, William Waldo Dodge was a young architectural student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One year later, in 1917, he was crouched in a trench in central France when the Germans exploded a chlorine bomb over his division. Dodge was critically wounded in the ensuing battle and eventually was shipped to the Oteen Military Hospital outside Asheville, North Carolina to recuperate.
While recovering, Dodge learned the craft of silversmithing from Miss Margaret Wheeler Robinson, one of the occupational therapists stationed at Oteen. On January 1, 1921, William Waldo Dodge and Margaret Wheeler Robinson were married. Like so many visitors to western North Carolina, Dodge found the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains too alluring to leave. In 1924 he opened a small silversmith shop at the foot of Sunset Mountain, adjacent to the Grove Park Inn in North Asheville. Working alone, he began creating sterling silver bowls, platters, buckles, and flatware bearing his first shopmark, ASHEVILLE SILVERCRAFT.
The following year the thirty-year-old Dodge received his first architectural commission. The two-story residence designed to sit atop Kimberly Knoll overlooking the Asheville Country Club golf course revealed a great deal about the architect’s adherence to the principles of the Arts & Crafts movement. Evidence of hand-craftsmanship abounds, from the hand-carved corbels to the hand-wrought hardware. The success of his first commission combined with the growing popularity of his handcrafted silver enabled Dodge to move his shop and his architectural office to Biltmore Forest, a newly developed residential village south of Asheville, adjacent to the famous Biltmore Estate. Dodge developed a number of different styles of hammering techniques, each of which was intended to produce a specific effect. In 1931 he was granted a United States design patent on a hammering technique now known to collectors as his waterfall effect.