If you were to go to Asheville right now, you wouldn’t believe that it didn’t almost get on the map. Asheville was once deemed inaccessible. Come to think of it; if not for the railroad construction throughout North Carolina, it would not be the city it is today. To put it in better words, let me quote an Asheville resident, “Whose heart would not beat with quickened vibration,’ declared a resident of Asheville, ‘at the idea of meeting his brethren from all parts of the State at Raleigh in 12, in 14 hours! What poor man could not then visit his friends and relatives, and make life more social and endurable?” (Hillsborough Recorder dated June 9, 1855).
Being isolated from other communities is a hard task to face. It does not just impact the community’s way of living but also their lives as social people. I believe connectivity is one of the most taken for granted gifts in the world today and learning from the humble beginnings of Asheville may just help us to appreciate what we have even more.
Asheville was once named as Morristown and Buncombe Courthouse by John Burton. He founded the once isolated city in the year 1794. Not long after John Burton, came Colonel Samuel Davidson. He had a land grant and went to journey to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Eventually, he settled in Asheville in honor of Samuel Ashe, the Governor of North Carolina.
Since people no longer had to journey through a river and dense forests just to get there, it wasn’t long before three crucial people were able to lay the groundwork for the town. First, we have Colonel Frank Coxe. In 1181, he bought around five hundred thousand acres of land in Asheville. A considerable part of it is called the Battery Park Hotel. The hotel attracted many wealthy capitalists and leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, William Henry Harrison, and George Vanderbilt.
George Vanderbilt was from an elite American family and fell in love with Asheville. So, when he received ten million dollars in inheritance, it wasn’t a surprise that he bought land in Asheville. However, the surprise was that he purchased over one hundred thousand acres of land! This was how the historic Biltmore Mansion was born. It is known to be the largest American home. It had a grand staircase, a library, decorated with beautiful ceiling work and has many gardens you can enjoy. Around the Biltmore estate, they also built a hospital, school, and shops. It was built to resemble an English village. Up until today, thousands of tourists come to visit the estate, and they enjoy their time going through the mansion, the winery, and even the picnic grounds.
The next great contributor to Asheville was Edwin Wiley Grove (E.W. Grove. He was a known developer, and in 1912-1913, he would build Grove Park Inn. Grove used mules, pulleys, shovels and the super strength and dedication of his workers, rising terraces we built, and the rest is history. The hotel is famous for having one of the best views of Asheville that is why tourists flock to the hotel to gaze at the beautiful view.
Asheville was becoming a great summer resort for people from all over. However, the city of Asheville had a problem; no one was going to the downtown area. It was like a ghost town. I mean, even the locals don’t go downtown which was just a mile away from the other tourist attractions. Citizens and town leadership formulated a plan to make downtown interesting, and since Asheville was a haven for artists, they developed an urban trail.
This project ensured that the ownership of the art they featured belonged to the community, not just the city. The funds came from the citizens, but the city put up all the structures making the downtown of Asheville the most extensive public art collection in the South. Local officials state that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears were the foundation of the success of the urban trail. There literally had to work day and night. This is to make sure that they meet the deadlines of announced dedications for the artworks. In some instances, they even had to hire security to make sure everything goes according to schedule.
The different pieces served not only as simple artworks but a history-telling and fun tourist attraction for many. According to Kenn Kotara, an Artist, and UNCA Professor, the unique collection of artwork is a success because of its stories. People are getting narratives of deeply touching stories because every piece seems to have a connection not only with a historical person but also with local people in the community. A lot of the street art is open for the public to enjoy. Kids can ride the animal structures, and they can take funny pictures and enjoy the creation of famous artists in an interactive way.
The beautiful city of Asheville nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a lot of art, music, food and outdoor adventures. In fact, it is known as the Paris of the South and a museum without walls. The town’s history is well-preserved in the magnificent buildings and great sculptures around town. The food scene is also as exciting. There is a tour where you get to pick out all the edible leaves, mushrooms, berries, etc. outdoors. After choosing your pick, you can take your basket to a local restaurant downtown, and they will cook everything you hand-picked and turn it into a tasty meal. Isn’t that a one of a kind experience? This farm to fork meal is just a whole other level!
Then, for the more outdoorsy and active souls, you have the French broad river that flows right through town. It is perfect for stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, tubing, and other water fun activities. You can also slide on a natural rock water slide or go on scenic road trips along Blue Ridge Parkway. If music is your thing, you can check out Shindig on the Green where you can just fall in love with all the poetry that comes with a beat. The artists all over town are also just as free-spirited. You can find them playing just about anywhere and having a good time. Your ears will surely love all the things it will feed on for sure. That is why a lot of musicians are living in Asheville, NC.
I believe that the people of Asheville are just plain genius. They did not pattern themselves after another city or town, but they embraced what made them different. I think they played to their strength and saw the opportunity to use what set them apart as an edge against other tourist attractions. Some people may have branded Asheville as a weird city, but I think they missed the point. What makes you stand out is actually a beautiful thing.