Architecture Trail

Westall Building - 1920s Architecture in AshevilleArchitecture of the Twenties

A street guide to exquisite 1920's buildings saved by the Depression.

Many of the city's bright light architectural achievements took place in the 1920's when Asheville danced to the tune of flocking tourists and new growth, when the city vectored towards becoming a mountain version of Miami, and when a heritage of splendid work already existed thanks to Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Richard Sharp Smith and Raphael Guastavino, grand masters associated with development of the Biltmore House.  Moreover, all the elegant charms of Art Nouveau, Beaux-Art and Deco movements filled the air like a spice garden, when taking risks generally won the day, and the post-war twenties soared with creativity.

By the time the Depression went off like a bomb, in addition to a fresh outpouring of wonderful buildings, the city also inherited the highest per capita debt burden in the nation.  Such terrible news offered a corollary that turned into a godsend.  Since Asheville determined it would pay back every cent, it literally couldn't afford to tear down any of its jewel-like building inventory.  The twenties were sealed, as if captured in a snow globe.  

The city officially erased its debt in 1976.  Now, forty years later, the dozen buildings you are about to encounter on this walking tour are as fresh-looking and as conceptually brilliant as they were when their doors opened for the first time ~ when glasses of champagne (hidden from view or not) were raised to toast each one as a testament to practical use and timeless beauty.  By witnessing and enjoying these exceptional masterpieces, you will automatically become a part of their ongoing stories.

You can click through to descriptions of each of the 1920s Architecture stations on this site (beginning with Station #1, here), and/or view the interactive map here. A printable map of the Architecture Trail is also available. Teachers and students should download the scavenger hunt and teacher's guide or visit the teacher resources page to learn more about the history of Asheville.

Architecture Trail Locations

First Baptist Church - 1920s Architecture

The first of a series of Beaux Arts influenced buildings in Asheville beautifully conjured by Douglas Ellington, a North…

Buncombe County Courthouse  - 1920s Architecture

When completed in 1928, the 17-story courthouse building became the tallest local government building in the state.

Asheville City Hall  - 1920s Architecture

An Art Deco masterpiece, the City Building sprung from Douglas Ellington's imagination and desire to reflect the…

Jackson Building - 1920s Architecture

North Carolina's tallest skyscraper when finished in 1924, the Jackson Building rises 13 stories, standing in the…

Westall Building - 1920s Architecture

Designed for prominent builder William H. Westall, this narrow Spanish Romanesque, eight-story office tower shared an…

Pack Memorial Library Building - 1920s Architecture

Edward Tilton, an advisor to the Carnegie Foundation, designed more than a hundred libraries in his lifetime, including…

The Kress Building - 1920s Architecture

Built in 1928, this building rings true to Samuel Kress' vision that his stores would stand as works of public art.

The S&W Building - 1920s Architecture

Douglas Ellington's bright and joyous detailing of the facade and interior of the S&W Cafeteria struck what he called at…

The Bon Marché Building- 1920s Architecture

E.W. Grove stepped forward and built the Bon Marché building in 1923 for the store's owner, Solomon Lipinsky, a…

The Flatiron Building - 1920s Architecture

Named for its triangular wedge shape, the Flatiron welcomes walkers to the entrance of Wall Street, a tree-lined lane of…

The Miles Building - 1920s Architecture

Across the street from the Flatiron's thinner end, the fanciful Miles Building clamors for attention as a unique and…

The Public Service Building - 1920s Architecture

With its rear entrance on Wall Street and front on Patton, the Public Service Building fairly bristles with…

Grove Arcade

One of Asheville's (and arguably one of America's) most beautiful buildings, the Grove Arcade covers an entire city…

The Battery Park Hotel - 1920s Architecture

Today's Battery Park Hotel building replaced the original Battery Park Hotel owned by railroad mogul Frank Coxe, an…

Architecture Trail Interactive Map





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