Asheville Archives: Community objects to renaming Haywood Road, 1922

NOT SO FAST: A petition signed in December 1922 put forth a proposal to rename Haywood Road as Main Street. The idea did not sit well with some outspoken residents. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, Pack Memorial Library

The notice was brief, but the reaction was strong. On Dec. 28, 1922, The Asheville Citizen informed readers that 200 property owners and residents in West Asheville had signed a petition that was presented to the Board of City Commissioners calling to change the name of Haywood Road to Main Street.

The lone paragraph on the matter concluded, “Commissioner Fitzpatrick though not pledging himself, indicated that he would support the measure in view of the fact one of the main thoroughfares of Asheville is known as Haywood Street.”

In the following day’s paper, a C.R. Sumner offered a scathing rebuke of the petition in a letter to the editor, writing:

“While I do not propose to speak for the whole of West Asheville, I know that in two hours’ time I could double the size of that miserable little petition with the names of property owners of West Asheville who would denounce the proposed change as the most fat-witted vaporing that ever emanated from the cranium of some beetle-headed busybody.

“Main Street, indeed: Have we so far retrogressed as to let a few pin-heads place one of the most attractive sections of a tourist city in the same category as ‘Punkin Center’ and ‘Hickville.’ What should the beautiful asphalt thoroughfare that leads to Haywood County be called but Haywood Road. The name Haywood Road was known half a century ago when the present Haywood Street was a pine thicket and broom-sedge stubble.” 

The Asheville Citizen appeared to agree with Sumner. In its Dec. 30, 1922, edition, the paper ran an editorial objecting to the petition. “The origin of the request for changing the name of Haywood Road to Main Street is said to be the fear of a Haywood Road resident that his friends in other cities would think he lives in the country,” the article read. “Whatever the reason for the petition asking the Commissioners to do violence to a name which preserves local history, it is insufficient.”

Furthermore, the piece argued, “Main Street would be a reversion to small town cognomens that will be laughed out of the City Hall.”

But by and large, the editorial focused on and reemphasized the perceived affront to local history. “So far as possible, names rich in the history of the people of and of the region should be preserved,” the editorial argued.

Ironically, The Asheville Citizen jumbled the key historic fact, asserting Haywood County was named after the late state treasurer William Haywood (his actual name was John). It also failed to appreciate the greater irony that John Haywood had no ties to the region.

Nevertheless, the article concluded, “Let Asheville continue to demonstrate that in its present progress, and as it goes forward to still greater achievements, its people are not forgetting the debt they owe to those who have gone before them and prepared the way.”

Subsequent mention of the petition does not appear to have made its way into print. Of course, you need not be a historian to know Haywood Road still exists in West Asheville today.

Editor’s note: Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation are preserved from the original documents.


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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2 thoughts on “Asheville Archives: Community objects to renaming Haywood Road, 1922

  1. Voirdire

    I believe Hayseed Road would have been an appropriate change back in the day …. now I believe something along the lines of Clusterf..k Way might be something we should seriously consider ;)

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