Asheville North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains
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Located in the central Blue Ridge Mountains is
the historical city of Asheville…Buncombe County North
Carolina. Asheville is a mountain city of beauty and character,
a city of culture, atmosphere, and style with a vast array of
culinary delights. This city of Art-Deco architecture seems
lost in time, preserved as a statement of big dreams and progress
in a laid-back mountain setting. An ideal location for
those who wish to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains yet want the
conveniences of a large metropolitan.
In a valley surrounded by mountains Asheville
was a small crossroads town when pioneer planner and real estate
broker John Burton founded it in 1793. Known as Morristown during
its earlier years, the city was also called Buncombe until 1797,
when it was incorporated and officially named Asheville in honor
of North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe of New Hanover County.
At the time, Battle Square, present site of Battery Park Hotel,
stood more then 100 feet above its present height and was called
The city of Asheville is located on a plateau
divided by the French Broad River with and average elevation
of 2165 feet. Many of the surrounding mountains are above 5000-feet
with Mount Mitchell towering at nearly 7,000 feet.
Buncombe attained county status on January 14,
1792 and was named for Revolutionary War hero Colonel Edward
Buncombe. After the construction of the Buncombe Turnpike in
1827, Asheville soon became a focal point for speculators and
In 1882 the town of Asheville was expanded and
made the city of Asheville. More and more visitors started to
arrive in the Asheville area as soon as additional roads were
built. They were drawn by the crisp mountain air, incredible
vistas, and an abundance of sulfur springs along with the invigorating
mountain climate and natural resources. When the railroad finally
reached Asheville in 1880 it brought power and affluence with
it, including a young aristocrat from New York named George Washington
Vanderbilt in 1888.
George Washington Vanderbilt began construction
on his now-famous mansion at the 100,000 - 125,00 acre Biltmore
Estate, just south of the city completing the castle style
mansion in 1895. George Vanderbilt vision was instrumental in
the founding of one of the first forestry schools in America
in 1898, the Biltmore Forest School.
Along with those great accomplishments George
Vanderbilt is credited for the purchase and reconstruction of
a town that was necessary to support the day-to-day operations
Estate. In 1889, George Vanderbilt purchased the neighboring
town of Best and renamed it Biltmore Village creating a community
for his estate employees. Today Biltmore Village is a quaint
town of a distinctive mixture of shops, galleries and restaurants.
The brick sidewalks and 19th century cottages are reminiscent
of an old English village.
Since the 1930’s Biltmore
Estate has been opened to the public for daily tours of
the Biltmore House and self guided tours of the present day
Estate’s 7,000-acres. As per George Vanderbilt’s
wishes, Edith Vanderbilt sold 87,000 acres to the federal government
in 1915 establishing the core of the Pisgah Nation Forest.
greatest boom was in the 1920’s with developments that
included the Jackson Building, City Building, Buncombe County
Courthouse, Grove Arcade, Battery Park Hotel, Flat Iron Building,
and the Bon Marche Building. More Art Deco architecture was constructed
in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s in downtown Asheville
than in any other city in the southeast with the exception of
Miami Beach, Florida.
Asheville soon became a popular health resort
and vacation retreat, attracting the wealthy, dignitaries and
many celebrities. Grand hotels such as the Battery Park and Grove
Park Inn were built to accommodate the many guest, Asheville
quickly became a swirling social center for such urban and sophisticated
travelers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald who frequented the Grove
Park Inn’s room 44. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt
took many vacations at the Grove Park Inn along with inventor
Thomas Edison to name a few.
Asheville was flying high and it was a time
when outsiders had come to appreciate the handicrafts
and folk art of the native mountain people. The popular Southern
Highland Craft Guild was formed here in 1928 to preserve those
traditions. The Southern Highland Craft Guild is located in the
Folk Art Center, you can find directional signs on the Blue
Asheville is North Carolina’s most architecturally
diverse city. Queen Anne, Romanesque, Revival, and Art Deco.
Edwin Wiley Grove’s Arcade, is a lavishly ornamented Gothic
structure dominating an entire city block and recently reopened
as a public market. Asheville City Hall was designed by noted
architect Douglas Ellington and completed in 1928. The Basilica
of St. Lawrence, completed in 1909, is a stunning example of
the Spanish Baroque Revival style. In the stately residential
neighborhoods many of the Greek Revival, Queen Anne Victorian,
and English Tudors are now operated as Bed and Breakfasts. In
2002, The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Asheville
one of “America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations” and
described the city as, “ offering diverse natural, historic,
cultural experiences that preserve generations of Appalachian
Trail,” tells a tale in works of art in a gallery set under
the open sky. This unique expression of historical achievements
tells the story of the city of Asheville along with its renowned
citizens through an intriguing array of public artworks created
by area artists. It covers nearly a 2-mile loop in downtown Asheville
with marked art stations and information about its historic architecture.
You can take a guided tour or use a map available at the Chamber
of Commerce. It’s a pleasant stroll, highlighted
by the city's natural beauty. Audiotapes guides are available
at the Asheville Art Museum and Thomas Wolfe Museum.
After the American Revolutionary War, mainly
Scotch-Irish immigrants from Northern Ireland settled Asheville.
Bele Chere is North Carolina's largest street festival. This
popular Asheville festival lasts for 3 days and is held in the
cities downtown area, with a celebration of music, food, crafts
and more. Each August, Asheville celebrates its Appalachian
Heritage at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival – the
oldest festival of it’s kind in the nation.
Author Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home, at
48 Spruce Street, is one of the most important landmarks in American
literature. The ramshackle boardinghouse, owned and operated
by Wolfe’s mother at the turn of the century, provided
the setting for the author’s autobiographical masterpiece, “Look
The Asheville literary tradition continues with
authors O. Henry and Carl Sandburg, as well as Fred Chappell,
North Carolina poet laureate, Gail Godwin novelist who wrote
Father Melancholy’s Daughter. A few other literary works
originating from Asheville are Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain,
Robert Morgan's The Rock, Wilma Dykeman's The Tall Woman and
John Ehle's Trail of Tears. USA Today named Asheville one
of America’s “Top 10 Literary Destinations” and
Book Magazine raked it 3rd in it’s “Top 10 Great
Another Asheville attraction is the North Carolina
Arboretum, boasting more than 100 Bonsai plants in their collection.
Mr. and Mrs. George Staples of Butner donated the arboretum’s
original bonsai in 1992 from their private collection. The collection
now includes many plants native to western North Carolina. All
of the trees are either donated or grown at the arboretum. Plans
are underway for a 1.8 million permanent Bonsai garden at the
arboretum. The ground was broken in late 2003 and expected to
be open by early 2005.
If it's outdoor adventure your looking for,
the Asheville region has what you are looking for. Local outdoor
activities such as hiking on the Appalachian Trail, rock hunting
for precious gems, fishing for trout in the clear mountain streams, white
water rafting, or a cruise along the Blue
Ridge Parkway. In 2002 Bike Magazine named Asheville
in the Top 5 mountain biking towns.
Canoe and Kayak magazine named Asheville one of the top 10 paddle
towns in the United States in 2001. In 2001 Whitewater Paddling
magazine made Asheville a Top 10 White
Water Town. You can choose a gentle float down the French
Broad River, or a rollicking white
water raft ride down the French Broad.
Another site of interest is the Black Mountain
region just east of Asheville. First settled in the 1780’s
the community was originally known as Gray Eagle. The name was
changed in 1870 in reference to the lofty range five miles to
the north. Stroll down Main Street through the town’s lively
center for crafts and shopping, and you’ll be surprised
how little things have changed. You may catch a craftsman strumming
a handmade dulcimer or observe artisans working right out of
their stores. You can also explore the old hardware store and
the 1890’s depot.
The Asheville area of Buncombe County is in
the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains; from lavish accommodations
to the rugged backpacking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville
has exactly what you’re looking for when planning your
next fun filled vacation or a new way of life.
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