It was rough, it was a ghost town

I moved to Asheville in 1973. Here’s some of what I remember:

• Most of downtown was boarded up.

• Wall Street was an alley — some of it not paved.

• Downtown after dark was like a ghost town.

• There was a single store on Wall Street. I think it was a health food store (just ahead of its time).

• My neighborhood (Chicken Hill/Park Avenue) was rough. There was a murder in the street just three weeks after I moved in.

• The whole neighborhood, from the city bus garage to the river, was zoned “Heavy Industrial,” so none of the (mostly poor) residents could even get a building permit to improve their property.

• My home (a 29-room Victorian mansion) was dilapidated and condemned — but awe-inspiring with potential.

• The city let me and my band move into our home without a Certicate of Occupancy, hoping that we could save and restore it. Nothing was up to code.

• Downtown revitalization started in the early-to-mid ‘80s when Leslie Anderson was hired as director of Downtown Development.

• When Jubilee! moved into 46 Wall St. in 1989, there were only two or three other stores open. No parking deck, no street improvements. Where the parking deck now stands was an asphalt parking lot where gay men hooked up in their cars late at night. The lot got to be called “Knob Hill.”

Howard Hanger founded the music performance/recording business Jazz Fantasy, the interfaith church Jubilee! Community, a cooperative housing group at Hanger Hall and Hanger Hall School for Girls.

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