Asheville
Urban Trail

Join the fun at Pack Square Park’s Celebration in AshevilleFollowing the Urban Trail

A walking tour of the city's history.

In a casual two-hour amble about town, a person interested in exploring the city's quirky and magical past, along with getting to know many of its larger-than-life historical characters, can follow a string of 30 sculptural trail stations directly into Asheville lore.  

On the Urban Trail, every station calls to mind a historical moment and, for the most part, the achievements of remarkable individuals connected to our small city.  

Figuratively speaking, you will stumble headlong into George Vanderbilt, E.W. Grove, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Douglas Ellington, and a short story writer calling himself O. Henry ~ just to name a few.  

A good place to start is in front of Pack Place on Asheville's Pack Square where you can step up to Plaque #1, called "Walk Into History."  But any starting point is fine.  And you're not breaking any mountain laws if you veer off into a tavern, restaurant, store or conversation ~ or pause to hear the riffs of a street busker at full busk.  The trail is urban, and so are the many bracing delights of the city.  Take your time and follow the nose of your curiosity.

You can click through to descriptions of each of the trail's thirty stations on this site (beginning with Station #1, here), and/or view an interactive map of all locations.  A printable map of the Urban Trail is also available.  Check out the Urban Trail video or listen to an audio tour of each station.  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.

Urban Trail Stations

This "jump off" station recognizes, via plaque, the original unfolding of Pack Square where the first log courthouse of…

Here you'll stand on the bed of a road (the Buncombe Turnpike) that was once traveled by Native Americans

A top hat, cane and gloves, cast in bronze, recall the theaters and the Grand Opera House that once flourished along…

Former resident Sydney Porter is celebrated with visual cues from his short masterpiece The Gift of the Magi.

The plaque at Station #5 draws attention to the Victorian frieze work along the front of the Drhumor Building (1895).

A bench with a bower of medicinal herbs (created by Joe Miller) honors Asheville resident Elizabeth Blackwell, the first…

This stop pays homage to the 1929 S&W Building.

Turn the corner and you'll discover a fabulously large iron, a replica of one used by a local laundry (artist: Reed…

Bronze cats mark the site of an original retaining wall for a hill later removed by E.W. Grove to develop that part of…

A glass etching shows the original plans for the Grove Arcade, including a full-fledged tower that was never built.

This "signature" station celebrates both “old” and “new” Battery Park Hotels, the first destroyed by fire, but both…

The Basilica of St. Lawrence features North America's largest self-supporting elliptical dome.

Five bronze figures seemingly float to the rhythms of Appalachian music, a tribute to the songs of the mountains.

This forged-metal representation of three well-heeled and hatted ladies with a small dog in tow commemorates an era when…

A basket of apples balanced over wagon wheels recalls a time when produce markets and livery stables lined Lexington…

The unbridled imagination of a boy on stilts captures the spirit of architect Richard Sharp Smith who left a lasting…

A ceramic replica of the Woodfin House honors Nicholas Woodfin, prominent lawyer and farmer.

You can vault time zones by standing in the indicated footsteps, large enough for Thomas Wolfe's large shoes.

A bronze version of Wolfe’s shoes draws attention to his mother’s boarding house, Old Kentucky Home.

Abstract metal sculptures wrangle to earth the myriad of emotions portrayed on stage in the long history of Asheville…

A silvery, art-in-motion sculpture, detailed with Art Deco stampings, honors the evolution of transportation in…

A bell very close in shape to this one once rung out at important times in Asheville's original City Hall.

A bronze plaque pays homage to the mountains with a nod towards Beaucatcher Road.

This grass-surrounded marker reveals that there’s a time capsule buried underneath.

This granite etching renders Douglas Ellington’s original working concept of two art deco buildings of government.

A girl in bronze drinks at a fountain.

Carving tools and a work in progress represent W.O. Wolfe’s tombstone shop.

A plaque honors James Vester Miller, a son of slaves and master brick mason and artisan for the Municipal Building.

Artist Winston Wingo's bronze relief celebrates the spirit of Asheville's African-American community.

A bronze eagle overlooks a storied hotel district of old Asheville

Please be sure to check out the city's fascinating 14-minute film "Walk into History" with its drawing room discussion of how the trail originated ~ pulling out the experiences of founders, planners and artists.  Unique in its bright weaving of art and history, the project dates from 1989 when city staff and residents came together to rejuvenate a faded, tumble weed downtown.  Once planned, the trail took ten years to complete, with its final station nested into place in May, 2002.

A lot has changed in Asheville over the past quarter century.  The Urban Trail helped catalyze today's world-class renaissance with its artful presentation of an evocative past.

Asheville's Urban Trail

Asheville's Urban Trail

Walk Into History, by Erin Derham

Urban Trail Interactive Map

 

 

 

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