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Tucked among the Blue Ridge Mountains and the banks of the French Broad River is one of Asheville's most breathtaking man-made collections. Asheville is home to the Southeast's largest collection of art deco architecture outside of Miami, a designation that came out of hardship but has left the city with an impressive architectural legacy.
After the stock market and international economic crash of 1929, the residents of Asheville shouldered a per capita debt burden that was greater than any other city in America. As a result, the municipality was so poor for so long that older, supposedly outdated, buildings never faced the bulldozers of urban renewal.
Asheville today is a city where architecture stood still for several generations. It is distinctive because in the year time stopped, 1929, it was a boom town-a home for the Vanderbilts, a resort for Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and other historic luminaries, and a mecca for rising young architects following in the footsteps of one of the masters, Richard Morris Hunt, who built the lavish Biltmore.
A great way to experience much of Asheville's design history is by walking the Urban Trail.
Downtown Asheville is home to the mountain city's own structural odd couple-a flashy Art Deco-style city hall, its peaking mountain silhouette veiled with a pink and green tiled octagonal roof, and, next to it, in sharply masculine, conventional juxtaposition, the Buncombe County Courthouse.
The two structures were completed in the same year, 1928, and were both to have been designed by the same man, Douglas Ellington, who popularized the Art Deco style he had come to admire as a student in Paris. As work started on the city hall building, however, local county officials decided its design was too extravagant and had someone else take over the courthouse building project.
Ellington was responsible for the design and building of several other iconic structures around town, including:
There's much more to Asheville's structural design collections than Art Deco. Numerous other styles have stood the test of time and are on display for visitors to see today.