Asheville was a primitive outpost in 1797. Frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett traveled through in the early days. Asheville was little more than a crossroads of Indian trails on a plateau surrounded by mountains and rivers on all sides.
The railroad transformed Asheville and Buncombe County into a resort and therapeutic health center when it arrived in 1880. Asheville became a Mecca for visitors searching for a mountain escape, its population climbing to nearly 30,000 seasonal residents in 1890.
Asheville had no money to invest in urban renewal projects that were so popular in other cities following Black Monday. The magnificent buildings built during the boom years were spared the bulldozer as a result of Asheville commitment to repay its debt.
This is why Asheville is a snap shot of what an American boomtown looked like during the turn of the century. It isn't unusual to find quaint mom and pop shops in elegant surroundings.
Asheville has always drawn visionaries, poets and explorers.
George W. Vanderbilt came to Asheville in the late 1880s and quickly purchased 120,000 acres to build his grand estate. The endeavor took six years and Vanderbilt commissioned renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds and gardens, and celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to help him plan the house. Biltmore Estate has withstood the test of time and modern mansions are dwarfed by the regal home.
Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville and grew up in his mother's rambling boardinghouse, known as "Dixieland." Wolfe is one of the giants of American literature, and Asheville is the backdrop for his autobiographical novel, "Look Homeward, Angel."