Letter: Echoes of ‘Boom Town’

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The new hotel oppressively, blatantly blocking the wondrous view we used to have emerging from and submerging into Asheville’s tunnel is proof that our raging development has now reached a supremely destructive and irresponsible phase.

Or as Thomas Wolfe said of a similar 1920s Asheville construction crescendo in his short story Boom Town:

“A spirit of drunken waste and wild destructiveness was everywhere apparent: the fairest places in town were mutilated at a cost of millions of dollars. … It was mad, infuriate, ruinous; they had flung away the earnings of a lifetime and mortgaged those of a generation to come; they had ruined themselves, their children and their city and nothing could be done to stop them. … The place looked like a battlefield; it was cratered and shell torn with savage explosions of brick and concrete all over town. …

“It was the month of July 1929 — that fatal year which brought ruin to millions of people all over the country. They were now drunk with an imagined victory, pressing and shouting in the dusty tumult of the battle, most beaten where they thought their triumph was greatest, so that the desolate and barren panorama of their ruin would not be known for years to come.”

It became known in 1931 to be exact, when suicides included Asheville’s mayor, Gallatin Roberts, using a .38-caliber revolver in his law office, and a vice president of the most prominent bank, the Central Bank and Trust Co. Eight Asheville banks closed (there was no FDIC then) and only Wachovia Bank survived (only to close in the 2008 Great Recession). A teller slit his own throat and lived, while 27 of the city’s most prominent citizens were indicted for fraud. All the city counselors resigned in 1931 after the mayor killed himself.

Shouldn’t Asheville catalog and zone protections for all our beautiful views now that we know City Council could care less about them? Otherwise developers will stomp out as much beauty as they can. Soon we might have to travel a good distance to see the majesty of Mount Pisgah, or pay tourist prices for a mint julep from a rooftop bar or have to add blocky, rectangular hotels to every in-town, sinuous mountain silhouette.

— Bill Branyon


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Echoes of ‘Boom Town’

  1. luther blissett

    “the wondrous view we used to have emerging from and submerging into Asheville’s tunnel”

    Was it? You’ll be amazed when you find out what the view was like before 1976. The space between the tunnel, I-240 and Charlotte Street was and remains mostly low rise office parks and their sprawling parking lots. There’s no better place near downtown to start building upwards and more densely.

  2. Lulz

    LOL you voted for them. What, they run on one thing but do another? LOL the fact that “progressives” turn the other cheek when presented with the fact that Brownie Newman was much poorer before being elected says it all. It’s OK if left leaners do it though. They have a huge voting pool of fools that support them. And always turn to their bread and butter labels of racism, sexism, poverty, blah, blah, blah when confronted with opposing points of view or criticism. How’s that working out for you? At least those pesky mountains ain’t in the way. And the icing on the cake is property owners get stuck with the bill lulz.

  3. jason

    I’m all for urban infill as opposed to urban sprawl. People in Asheville need to get a grip.

    • M. Meadows

      HaHa. Lots of anger in this country. HaHa. The fuse has been lit for awhile now. Personally thought the festivities on the 4th in DC would have gone bang. It is only a matter of when….not if. The American experiment has almost reached its crescendo. Red vs. Blue, White vs. Everyone not White, Poor vs. Rich, Christians vs. Sane folk….. The list goes on and on and on.

      Maybe after the culling normal folks might have more of a say?

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