Unlock the secrets to Asheville’s storied past. Hidden among the tree-lined streets of Asheville lies a rich history waiting to be discovered.
A Brief History of Asheville, NC
Asheville: Early Beginnings at a Crossroads
Before the Europeans arrived in what is now North Carolina, the land around Asheville was a part of the Cherokee nation.
After the American Revolution, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family received a land grant from the state of North Carolina to settle in the Swannanoa Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This early settlement in 1785 paved the way for the future of what would become the city of Asheville.
In 1792, Buncombe County was established with a city called "Morristown" as its county seat. In 1797, that city was renamed Asheville after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe.
As a city in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville was an outpost in 1797. Frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett traveled through in the early days. Asheville primarily served as a crossroads of Indian trails on a plateau surrounded by mountains and rivers on all sides.
When the railroad arrived in the area in 1880, it transformed Asheville and Buncombe County into a resort and therapeutic health center. Asheville became a hub for visitors searching for a mountain escape, its population climbing to 10,000 permanent residents in 1890.
Asheville's Tradition of Attracting Pioneers, Philanthropists and Artists
As Asheville began its rise to prominence in the 1880s, it continued to draw visionaries, poets and explorers -- a tradition that lives on today.
Among the most notable, George W. Vanderbilt came to Asheville in the late 1880s and purchased 120,000 acres to build a grand estate: Biltmore. The endeavor would took six years to complete. Vanderbilt commissioned renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds and gardens, and famous architect Richard Morris Hunt to help him plan the house. Biltmore Estate has withstood the test of time and remains America's Largest Home.
Author Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900 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."
How the Depression Preserved Asheville's Rich Architecture
As Asheville rose as a hub in Western North Carolina, confidence soared. The city moved its public library into a beautiful new building and constructed a brand new courthouse.
But when the stock market crashed, Asheville was hit hard. With so much bonded debt to pay for new construction in the "Roaring Twenties," Asheville had no money to invest in urban renewal projects that were so popular in other cities following the crash. While growth slowed in Asheville, the difficult times actually helped preserve the city's historic architecture.
The magnificent buildings built during the boom years were spared as a result of Asheville's commitment to repay its debt. This is why Asheville remains a snap shot of what an American boomtown looked like during the turn of the century. As you explore the city, you'll see restaurants, galleries and independent shops housed in elegant art deco buildings.
You can explore Asheville's rich architecture and history along the Asheville Urban Trail. This self-guided walking tour of downtown Asheville features 30 sculptural trail station that help bring Asheville's history to life.
We meet our guide Joe Greene at the WRES studio next to Jack of the Wood on Patton Avenue, as the groovy sounds of R&B, soul, and funk emanate from the station’s speakers. The music brings smiles and an occasional booty shake from … read more
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Plan an escape that will bring the best-selling novel series to life In the cavernous basement of the Biltmore Estate and in the magical forests surrounding Asheville is a mythical protagonist, 12-year-old Serafina, who has captivated the attention … read more
If you’re looking for things to do in Asheville, then consider this list your primer to the many activities available in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you’re a first-time visitor, or perhaps well acquainted with the flair of this … read more
Asheville's literary heritage stretches across the 20th century and contemporary authors continue to be drawn here. These well-known novelists, poets, essayists and storytellers have ties to Asheville: F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent two summers … read more
Much of the music we hear today can trace its roots back to the legacy of music pioneer and long-time Asheville resident Dr. Bob Moog. Moog is best known for his 1960s invention of the revolutionary Moog Synthesizer, which electronically recreates … read more
From hand-tied fishing lures to moonshine lore, Appalachia embodies a colorful culture all its own The Blue Ridge Mountains, the spine of southernmost Appalachia, are gently rolling as ranges go. Some of the oldest mountains in the world, the Blue … read more
Asheville’s Ancient Connections The Asheville of today features stunning Art Deco architecture, the sounds of drums in Asheville's Pritchard Park on a Friday night and the smells of international flavors as you pass by myriad of local … read more
Locally Crafted Instruments Lend Melodies a Blue Ridge Ring Enthusiasts of Appalachian music are likely familiar with the whimsical sounds of dulcimers, instruments that have a rich legacy tied to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jerry Read Smith, a local … read more
Visiting the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, NC A European Master Comes to Asheville Described as “The Paris of the South,” Asheville can boast some keen similarities to the “City of Lights,” especially those … read more