As the year comes to an end, Xpress asked a handful of local historians to reflect on who from Asheville’s past would have been best suited to manage the many challenges and tragedies our community faced in 2020.
This week’s Archives examines a pair of paranormal encounters described by local residents in the 1910s.
Where the Jackson Building stands today, on the southeast corner of Pack Square, a monuments and tombstones business once stood. The business owner, W.O. Wolfe, died in 1922, but his life and personality were immortalized in his son Thomas’ 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel.
On Monday, Dec. 7, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will decide whether to accept the recommendation of the Vance Monument Task Force, a body jointly appointed by the county and city of Asheville, to take down the downtown obelisk that memorializes Confederate Gov. Zebulon Vance.
Starting in the summer of 1942, residents across Western North Carolina participated in a series of emergency blackout drills to prepare for potential air raids from the Axis Power.
Throughout 1955, local and national newspapers praised Wilma Dykeman’s debut book, The French Broad. A work of nonfiction, it earned the inaugural Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literature Award in October of that year.
In 1923, business leaders in Asheville and surrounding counties were eager to promote the region to a larger audience of tourists and businesses alike. To achieve this goal, the group formed the nonprofit Western North Carolina Inc. The community was slow to buy in to the group’s mission until the organization brought in a well-known window as its vice president.
On Jan. 19, 1863, Confederate soldiers executed 13 men and boys in Madison County accused of raiding properties in the town of Marshall. The action elicited condemnation both in North Carolina and other regions of a war torn nation.
The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center celebrates National Native American Heritage Month with a pair of webinars examining the region’s early history as experienced by its indigenous peoples.
In October 1918, in the midst of a worldwide influenza pandemic, Asheville residents opted to wear medical masks as opposed to Halloween costumes.
In the 1920s, license fees, congested sidewalks and opposition from brick-and-mortar businesses threatened the continued existence of Asheville’s Flower Women — a group of female entrepreneurs who had been selling wildflowers in the city’s downtown since the latter half of the 19th century. “[T]he first flower stands stood up along the way when Haywood street was only a muddy road,” The Asheville Citizen reminded its readers on Dec. 13, 1926.
The Blue Ridge Hospital opened in September 1922. At the time, it was Asheville’s only medical facility for Black residents. In addition to treating the injured and sick, the site also operated a nurse training program for African American women.
During the onset of the Great Depression, the city of Asheville authorized the formation of the Unemployment Council. The committee’s first project was the community wood yard, which employed 140 workers. Instead of a paycheck, all participants received groceries, clothing and wood.
In September, the Buncombe County Remembrance Project opened a charitable fund at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina with the goal of raising $80,000 over the next six months. Among other things, the money will support online educational programs about racial justice and the region’s history of racial terror.
In the winter of 1967, over 30 residents joined in a rent strike at Hillcrest Apartments. The movement lasted far longer than expected and soon spread across the city’s two other public housing projects.
The Rev. Brent La Prince Edwards says that with gatherings now happening virtually, the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for his church to embark on a $571,000 renovation project without displacing worship services and other events.
Local historians have teamed up to commemorate the hundreds of lives lost during the construction of the Western North Carolina Railroad in the late 1870s.
In 1951, during segregation, the Asheville Housing Authority launched Lee-Walker Heights, the city’s first low-rent housing project built for African American residents. The city’s second, all-white housing project, Pisgah View Apartments, opened in West Asheville the following year.
On March 15, 1930, the Biltmore Estate opened to visitors. Despite the nation’s economic hardships, the new tourist attraction registered 39,052 guests between its launch and June 30, 1931.
“In Pisgah [National Forest] or the Smokies, it’s very difficult to know exactly who owned the land before it became public. With DuPont, it’s not,” explains author Danny Bernstein. “You can trace all of the land to somebody who sold it or gave it away to the state.”
On April 3, 1942, Axis diplomats were interned at Grove Park Inn. The 221 prisoners of war were the first in a series of detainees confined to the resort that year.