As if Asheville's Art Deco collection of buildings were not enough, the city has its share of beautiful old churches as well. Conveniently located on Church Street they are easy enough to find! Central United Methodist Church was built in 1902 from limestone in the Romanesque style with a good dose of Gothic detail. Nearby the equally impressive First Presbyterian Church dates back to 1884.
The Great Depression seems to have done Asheville good in the long run. Hit incredibly at the time, the city had more foreclosures than any city in the United States. Rather than fold and knock it all down they took their time to pay off the banks and thus lay in a time warp of sorts compared to other cities around the country. Now, they look like visionaries with a nearly intact downtown that oozes a 1940s feel with the greatest collection of Art Deco buildings in America.
When you are in Asheville, the Sedonda of the East, make certain that you indulge in the expert wisdom provided by the local psychics. Many can be found at Mystic Journeys. You would be wise to book ahead and ask for "The Auracle of Asheville", Nina Anin.
This elaborate, 3-floor Tudoresque building occupies a full city block in downtown. After undergoing extensive renovations, the Grove Arcade reopened in 2002 as a public market with fresh and prepared food vendors, several restaurants, and mountain craft shops. But they didn't attract me as much as architecture of the building both outside (glazed terra cotta covering) and inside (a series of ramps to the roof terraces, Tudor Gothic Revival style details).
The Arcade Building was built between 1926 and 1929 as a massive commercial mall. It thrived until World War II as one of the country's leading public markets. The vision of its architect named Grove survived till now as numerous modern shopping malls follow Grove's ideas: covered pedestrian thoroughfares and rooftop terraces surmounted by a skyscraper tower. Well, due to the Great Depression, the tower was never built. There is octagonal empty space on this site.
The Grove Arcade is open Monday - Saturday 10 am - 6 pm with optional hours on Sundays designated at each individual business. Restaurants are open earlier and/or later depending on the establishment.
The Historic Horse Barn designed in 1900 by architect Richard Howland Hunt and completed in 1902 served as the center of Biltmore's farming community. It was restored a few months before my visit in 2004. For those interested in learning about Biltmore's agricultural heritage, old, original farm equipment is displayed. Spike-tooth and rotary harrows, sowers, wooden cart with wooden cartwheels and other farm equipment was boring for me.
However, I liked the green, original Oliver 60 Row Crop tractor with characteristic double front wheels. It was produced from 1940 to 1948. The company no longer exists, and its patents are now owned by AGCO Corporation.
Pack Square is the most central point of the Downtown Asheville Historic District with a few interesting buildings and structures including the Vance Monument erected in 1896. It's a tall stone column in my picture.
Vance was North Carolina's governor during the Civil War (the War Between the States). I was surprised to find Polish connection to this monument. At the end of Civil War Union cavalry surrounded the governor's home and arrested him. The Union officer in charge was trying to force Vance to ride or walk, in full public view, the 35 miles to the nearest rail line to Washington. But Samuel Wittkowsky (1835 - 1911), a local Polish immigrant and Jewish hatmaker who admired Vance, intervened, persuading the officer to let the governor drive in his carriage. The Southerner and the Jewish immigrant from Poland became lifelong friends.
If you ever come to Charlotte (120 miles east of Asheville) you may see unusual Italianate-style house of Wittkowsky at 1700 Queens Road.
I strolled around the Bush Gardens following the Shrub Garden path and I liked especially Japanese in style bush or tree in my picture. I liked also the covered passage made of climbing plants south of the Bush Gardens
(see picture 5). Add some others, unknown to me, bushes in bloom in late October.
I got to know that Biltmore's gardens were designed by America's foremost landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 - 1903). He was a founder of American landscape architecture, creator of the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building in Wahington, DC and many urban parks including the famous Central Park in New York City.
The main entrance to the House is guarded by two cute stone lions. The first hall with pretty wooden ceiling was full of flowers and Halloween decorations as well as warnings and information signs. I got to know a lot.
There are 250 rooms (!) including 35 bedrooms for guests (!), 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, bowling alley, priceless art and antiques in the House. The total area of the house is 175,000 square feet that is 16,260 square meters - almost 250 times more than the appartment I live now, poor me :-). On the main floor I saw:
- Library: wow! I loved it! imagine large, longitudinal, two-floor walnut-paneled room with thousands of books on wooden shelves from the floor to impressive, decorative ceiling, add huge fireplace and two small spiral stairs leading to narrow, fenced floor hang around in the half of room height!
- Winter Garden: glass-roofed space with rattan and bamboo furnitures; wooden-glass roof, old lamps below and exotic plants down look great
- Billiard Room: it looks like a very elegant gentelman's social club with oak paneling and plasterwork ceiling
- Banquet Hall (see next tip)
- Music Room: well, not that pretty room as the previous ones.
Relatively small but pretty preserved and probably the most interesting part of the House is open for self-guided tours. If you want to see more you have to get one of a few kinds of guided tours but surely it costs more.
Keep in mind that there are no public restrooms in the House, they are in the Stable Area. Self-guided tour takes some 40 min. - 1 hour depends on your interest and crowds. There were so many new visitors coming that when I finished there was a line. All passages are enough wide but it's not funny to be packed among hundreds other visitors. Better come as early as possible, like me, to avoid lines, and to be one among tenths.
I am not a big fan of skyscrapers (except the views from their tops :-) but I like some modern ones and especially the old ones built at the beginning of the 20th century. Surprisingly a few of them were put up in Asheville downtown and still stand in original shape.
15-story Neo-Gothic style skyscraper - Jackson Building (140 ft, 43 m) - was completed in 1925 as the first skyscraper in western North Carolina. The most interesting is its top (bell tower actually used as a searchlight) and the gargoyles that protrude fom the top four corners. There is s terrace on the top but unfortunatelly closed for visitors (security?). Jackson Building and adjacent low rise (8-story) Westall Building built in Neo-Spanish Romanesque style form the one structure.
The massive building - completed in 1928 - is the Asheville City Building. It's a colorful and eclectic Art Deco masterpiece. I paid attention to the unusual octagonal roof. It is covered with bands of elongated triangular terra cotta red tiles. The building although only eight-story is as high as contemporary 18-story buildings (180 ft. 55 m).
The City Hall houses the Office of the Mayor and other city department and is open to the public during regular business hours: 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, weekdays. You may see City Council Chambers by making a request in the Mayor's Office at 828-259-5600 or through the city's website - follow the link below.
Strolling around Ashevillive downtown I saw the black, metal structure in shape of a metal bower and bench on the wall of Wachovia Bank Building. There is a plaque put on a sidewalk which explains that it commemorates Elisabeth Blackwell, the first woman awarded a medical degree in the United States (1849). She began her medical studies in Asheville in 1845 and was an 1849 graduate of Geneva Medical College in Western New York.
I think that it had to be an experience to study medicine exclusively with male students. But soon then during the War Between the States (1861-1865) still the vast majority of doctors were men. Although the first hospitals run by women for the poor were established about that time. Elisabeth Blackwell, her sister and dr Marie Zakrzewska (born in Berlin; her father was a civil servant from a noble Polish family), opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (New York Downtown Hospital now) which provided training and experience for women doctors and medical care for the poor.
From the top of Chimney Rock we discovered a 75 miles view after taking the 26 stories elevator.
When we wished to go down, they said the elevator is out of order and we were obliged to reach the parking using the trails and the stairs.
The distance between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Park was 26 miles by a twisting road. So had a one hour drive to reach the park.
The entrance was 14$ per person.
The Rock can be reached only by an elevator with a line when the park is crowdy.
The panorama from the top of the Rock is the Lake Lure (an artificial lake due to a dam) and the surrounding forest. A breathtaking view.
If you' re in the area and like thrift stores (or farm tours), visit the Animal Haven farm in East Asheville. They're a rescue for abused and neglected farm animals, but also have some dogs and cats on the farm waiting for homes. There are a gorgeous pair of Irish Wolfhounds living there who are a sight to behold :) The thrift store is housed in a pretty old farmhouse across a little stream, and has a great assortment of housewares, clothes, knickknacks, antiques, jewelry, books, toys, you name it. It just opened in July, 2005, and they love having folks stop in. It's easy to get to off of 40 or Tunnel Road (70). Give a call to find out their hours, at the moment it's 11-5, Mon-Sat.
My boyfriend and brother went on this and loved it. Asheville has (I've been told, I'm a wine gal myself!) some great microbreweries and the BrewsCruise drives you to three of the local favorites where you try samples and get a tour of the workings. The last stop (and the starting point, actually) is Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, so you can get a bite to eat there (fantastic pizza, burgers, veggie food, etc) and more beer, if you're looking to get a little more tispy. The boys came back a little buzzed but not drunk, it's more of an appreciation tour than a party bus :) The website is brewscruise.com
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