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