Asheville, NC Visitor Center 2013
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
History Timeline of Asheville

250 and 450 million years ago the Appalachian Mountains were formed.

1540 - Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto visits Western North Carolina.

1643 - Early colonial trade, while under British rule, was established with the Cherokees following existing trading paths, paths which crossed at the present location of Asheville.

1730 - African Americans traveling through East Flat Rock with the Cherokee as both slaves and free men.

1776 - William Bartram travels through Western North Carolina and records his encounters with Native Americans.

1781 - Samuel Davidson along with his wife, child, and a female African American slave crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into Cherokee territory and settled east of Gudger’s Ford of the Swannanoa River. Davidson was killed by the Cherokee. His wife, child and slave returned through the wilderness to Old Fort.

1792 - January 14, the creation of Buncombe County from Burke and Rutherford Counties. Created by William Davidson and David Vance. The county was named after Colonel Edward Buncombe’s fatal Revolutionary battle at Germantown in 1777.

1793 - First School was opened on Union Hill by Robert Henry, a surveyor and lawyer who ran the school through a subscription system of tuition. Many students paid with farm goods and livestock.

1793 - John Burton laid out 42 lots of 1/2 acre each along ’main street’ in Asheville, now called Biltmore and Broadway.

1795 - Asheville, originally named Morristown, was changed to Asheville in honor of Governor Samuel Ashe of New Hannover. Asheville was named Buncombe County seat.

1827 - Work progresses on the Buncombe Turnpike between Greeneville, Tennessee and Greenville, South Carolina.

1828 - The Buncombe Turnpike was completed after four years of labor. Primarily used for cattle drives throughout the 1800’s, the Turnpike helped to shift the economy to corn and livestock. The construction of the Turnpike marks the first large African American migration to Western North Carolina as labor for road construction.

1837 - Central Methodist Church built in Asheville.

1840 - Joshua Roberts a local lawyer in Asheville founded The Highland Messenger, one of the first local newspapers.

1840 - According to the census Asheville’s total population was 600 and of those, 240 were slaves.

1840 - In October prominent white families such as the Patton, Chunn, More, Hawkin, and Whiteside families donated land for the creation of the First Presbyterian Church, which became the dominant church in Asheville.

1848 - Smith-McDowell House is built, possibly the first large family dwelling constructed of brick in Buncombe County.

1848 - Trescott House is built in Greek-Revival style, one mile east of Biltmore Avenue.

1850 - Sometime just before 1850 Sherrill's Inn, at Hickory Nut Gap is built. The Inn is the earliest lodging for traveler's into Buncombe County and western North Carolina.

1857 - Dr. Elisha Mitchell, naturalist and scholar fell to his death while climbing Mt. Mitchell. The mountain was subsequently named in his honor.

1861 - Civil War erupts with strong secessionist feelings in both Asheville and Buncombe County.

1862 - Asheville becomes a training center for Confederate soldiers.

1865 - April 6, the Battle of Asheville, a Civil War battle is fought. The local Silver Greys along with other confederate sympathizers forced Union General Kirby into retreat.

1865 - George T. Spear House is built on Orange Street, Asheville.

1865 - April 26. Civil War. Asheville was sacked by three regiments of Union forces despite her surrender to Union General Gillem on April 24.

1865 - Upon Emancipation many African Americans moved further west towards Tennessee while others moved to Henderson County to establish their own community, ’The Kingdom of the Happy Land.’

1867 - Nazareth First Baptist Church created for African Americans.

1868 - Asheville had a population of less than 1200 and was still recovering from the Civil War.

1868 - Hopkins Chapel created due to discrimination in the Central Methodist Church. The congregation was led by W.J. Walls the ’Boy Minister.’ Walls founded Camp Dorothy Walls in Black Mountain.

1870 - A time of general isolation as bad roads and Civil War destruction cut Western North Carolina off from the rest of the state.

1876 - Christian Reid published Land of the Sky

1879 - Bank of Asheville is established

1880-1920 - The African American population of Asheville grew rapidly with all of the service industry jobs available as Coxe, Grove, and Vanderbilt opened tourist resorts and made Asheville the premiere health resort for the Victorian wealthy.

1880 - October 2, completion of the Western North Carolina Rail Road. The vast majority of the labor for this project came from African American chain-gangs and free laborers.

1880 - Swannanoa Hotel opens on S. Main Street (now College).

1880 - Telegraph line established across Swannanoa Gap to Old Fort.

1881 - Calvary Presbyterian Church created and led by Charles B. Dusenbury for the African American community.

1881 - Western North Carolina Rail Road is completed to Best (now Biltmore Village).

1881 - Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church created and led by Robert Rumley for the African American community.

1882 - Asheville Board of Trade established

1883 - First telephone exchange in Asheville.

1883 - Asheville to Spartanburg railroad is opened.

1883 - First City Directory is printed for Asheville and population of Asheville is recorded as 3,874 (2,408 white and 1,466 colored). In three years the population increased by 48% (since the 1880 census).

1883 - Asheville established the first public hospital.

1884 - Calvary Presbyterian Church opens a small private school in the basement to accommodate the overflow of children from the Beaumont School and stayed in existence until 1927.

1884 - Reservoir is completed just north of the end of the current Beaucatcher Tunnel, for Asheville's first public water system

1884 - Land for the establishment of Public Square (later Pack Square) given by newcomer and wealthy lumberman, G.W. Pack, and additional land is donated by him for construction of Aston Park and Montford Park.

1885 - First Sanborne Fire Map is drawn for Asheville and first public phone lines are begun to be hung in city.

1886 - July 12, Col. Frank Coxe (1839-1903) opened the Old Battery Park Hotel.

1886 - The first recorded comprehensive map is created for downtown Asheville and the water-pumping station is built for the reservoir on the opposite side of Beaucatcher Mountain.

1887 - Isaac Dickson was the first African American appointed to the school board demanding public education for African American children.

1887 - George Vanderbilt relocates and makes Asheville his new home. Creates Biltmore Estate.

1887 - Allen School opens. Created by the Women’s Home Missionary Society for the Methodist Church. By 1924 the school had become a High School for African American Women with a classical and vocational orientation.

1887 - First electric street car line is laid in Asheville. It ran from Public Square (Pack Square) via South Main and then Southside to the passenger depot near the French Broad river.

1888 - January 16. The first public schools open for grades 1- 5 with 450 white students and 380 African American students.

1888 - Beaumont Street School opens for African American children but too small to accommodate all the children.

1888 - Second set of Sanborne Maps (73 &77 - Bailey) are drawn. Asheville's sewer system is laid.

1889 - Board of Trade formed to promote Asheville’s modernization. Western North Carolina Bank is established in Asheville.

1889 - Asheville improves streets with electric rail cars. Becomes the first city in North Carolina to with an electric street car public transportation system.

1889 - After his visit to Asheville in 1897-98, George W. Vanderbilt returns to Asheville and begins to purchase vast tracts of land on which to build an estate.

1890 - Asheville’s population now stands at 10,240 people. The number of students enrolled in school is counted at 580 white students and 520 African American students.

1890-1895 - Construction begins on the Biltmore Estate of George W. Vanderbilt under to direction of Richard Morris Hunt and with assistance of Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect, Richard Sharp Smith, and Rafael Guastavino. Smith and Guastavino remained in the area and established homes.

1890 - Rapid development in Asheville results in the establishment of suburbs and the rapid segregation of residential and commercial areas.

1891 - The Catholic Hill School opens for African American children.

1892 - The Young Men’s Institute (YMI) was created by George Vanderbilt as a recreation center for his African American workers. The original idea for the YMI was the brainchild of Edward Stephens who influenced Vanderbilt and who realized that there were no public places for African Americans to gather in Asheville.

1894 - Thomas Walton Patton re-elected Mayor of Asheville for a year and carried with him Henry Redwood, Wm. A. Blair and Fred A. Hull, the Aldermen on the Reform ticket

1894 - W.D. Hall elected Mayor of West Asheville. The Democratic ticket in West Asheville was elected by a small majority.

1895 - George Vanderbilt donated the land for the creation of Saint Matthias Episcopal Church because African Americans were not allowed in All Souls Cathedral.

1902 - The first city auditorium called the Asheville Auditorium, opens its doors at the intersection of Haywood and Flint streets. A privately owned facility, it was built by popular subscription.

1903 - The Asheville Auditorium burns following a performance of Sergeant Kitty.

1904 - The first Gymnasium for African American schools was built by John H. Michael.

1904 - The Asheville Auditorium is rebuilt.

1906 - The African American community purchased the YMI from Vanderbilt.

1906 - Compulsory schooling made law for children ages 8- 14.

1906 - YWCA founded in "Henrietta House," a Patton Family home on Biltmore Ave Later sites: Cherokee Inn on Woodfin and Oak and the Platt home on Merrimon Avenue.

1907 - Rafael Guastavino builds the Saint Lawrence Cathedral [now St. Lawrence Basilica].

1907 - William Sidney Porter (O. Henry) in Asheville (1907-08) . Eventually buried in Riverside Cemetery. Wrote Let Me Feel Your Pulse while here.

1907 - Articles of Incorporation written for the YWCA.

1907 - The American Library Association holds annual conference in Asheville, May 24-26 - only the second conference by the Association held in the South. Approximately 450 members were in attendance, including Melville Dewey.

1909 - Kenilworth Hotel is destroyed by fire but later re-built.

1909 - The city assumes ownership of the Asheville Auditorium and the venue welcomes major entertainers over the next twenty year, including Sarah Bernhardt, Lionel and John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson and Will Rogers.

1912 - The Langren Hotel on what is today Broadway was completed in 1912.

1915 - Hill Street Baptist Church opened for an African American congregation.

1915 - Second Annual Convention of the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina Held at Battery Park Hotel Asheville, N. C. October, 29th,

1915 - Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina [Proceedings printed 1916, by Henderson, N. C., Jones-Stone Printing Co.

1916 - The Great Flood destroyed much of the property along the French Broad River. The railroad Depot and Biltmore Village were particularly hard hit. Twenty-nine people died as a result of the flood.

1917 - Catholic Hill School, the first public school for Black children burned, killing seven children. The school was replaced in 1922 and was known as Stephens-Lee, the first four-year high school in Asheville. Named after W.S. Lee who promoted vocational training, self- help, and Shakespeare.

1917 - West Asheville annexed into Asheville.

1919 - 'Overlook', the home of Fred Seely is completed on Sunset Mountain. Also known as 'Seely's Castle,' it later became the home for Asheville-Biltmore College, a precursor of UNC Asheville.

1920 - Lillian Exum Clement, a Buncombe County native, was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly by a landslide victory. Called "Brother Exum" by her colleagues, she was the first woman elected to the legislature in the South. Her election came just prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

1920 - Asheville's population is 28,000. In the 1920's Buncombe County grew from 64,000 to almost 98,000. (From 1920 to 1930)

1923 - Ronald Greene, architect, designs and builds the Jackson Building on the site of W.O. Wolfe's Monument shop. William Stoddart, architect, designs and builds the Battery Park Hotel for E.W. Grove.

1923 - Lindley Training School for Girls (Lindley Home) bought by the city in 1923, later became part of Asheville's first junior college.

1925 - The Great Gatsby, is published by F. Scott Fitzgerald in April of 1925

1925 - McCormick Field, Thirty-five acres of land cornering at the intersection of Valley Street and Biltmore Avenue, were purchased for development as a park and athletic field. The cost of this land and the modern baseball stands and diamond built on it amounted to $250,000. [Four Years in Review]

1925 - PACK LIBRARY A-new Pack Memorial Library building was erected on South Pack Square at a cost of $125,000. The third floor of this building was set aside as the home of the O. Henry Memorial Library.

1925 - PINK BEDS. SURVEY The sum of $35,000 was expended in a survey or the rink Beds or Pisgah National Forest, to determine the capacity and utility of this area for use as a watershed.

1926 - BEAUCATCHER TUNNEL A Joint Project between the City of Asheville and the County of Buncombe /, to drive a tunnel highway through Beaucatcher Mountain was entered into, the entire cost being estimated at $390,000, and the purpose of this tunnel being to form a connection with an extension of Woodfin Street to College Street and thence by county highway to State Highway No. 10

1927 - Douglas Ellington, architect, designs and builds the First Baptist Church

1927 - FINANCIAL SUMMARY The gross bonded debt of the city, including $2,000,000 of bonds sold on April 9th, amounted to $16,983,975 at the close of the administration. Deducting sinking fund, water bond debt, electric light and power bonds and un-. collected street assessments, these items being proper deductions as defined by State law, the net debt of the City of Asheville was $10,350,718.69. The gross bonded debt brought forward from the previous administration was $4,175,000.00. The 1923 valuation of property subject to taxation in Asheville was $85,093,203.42. The re-valuation of real estate required by law for the year 1927 is expected to bring the total assessment of the City of Asheville to $100,000,000.00 or more. As of May 16th, 1927, uncollected taxes due the city amounted to $504,957.67. On the same date cash balances in banks to the city's credit totaled $3,727,787.51

1927 - Buncombe County Jr. College created. In 1963 this would become a 4 year institution.

1927 - American ENKA Corporation comes to Hominy Valley. A Dutch company, that specialized in the production of the new fiber rayon, ENKA became the largest employer in Buncombe county.

1927 - Asheville's ad valorem tax rate of 1.24% is the lowest among two hundred and sixty-four American cities of nearly equal or larger size.

1928 - Work on Beaucatcher Tunnel is completed.

1930 - Asheville's population is over 50,000.

1930 - November 1930 saw the collapse of the Central Bank and Trust Company and the crash of Asheville's economy. Over-extension in the real-estate market through unwise loans and investments were unable to be recovered. City government went bankrupt and city officials were faced with enormous debt not fully repaid for some thirty years.

1930 - In the early years of the Great Depression, the music and dance events once part of the Rhododendron Festival had eclipsed the parent festival and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was launched as an independent event.

1930 - Asheville's economy begins a long and slow decline that would remain for some thirty years. Buncombe county saw a boom in tobacco production which gave the local rural economy some support. Creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration programs provided some relief for individuals following the 1930's crash, but urban dwellers fared far worse than the rural population.

1930-1931 - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created. North Carolina purchased some 150,000 acres as their contribution to the park and turned the land over to the US government. Construction on the park began in 1931. Lumber companies and some local residents who were removed from the park boundaries strongly resisted the creation of the park.

1931 - June, the Asheville City Council issues a report calling the Asheville Auditorium a "serious menace" and a "dangerous trap" because of fire hazards. The Council votes to condemn the building.

1932 - William Dudley Pelley relocates to Asheville, North Carolina where he establishes Galahad College and offers courses from economics to astrology. Capitalizing on the poor economic climate of the Depression, Galahad College offers correspondence courses that become very popular.

1933 - William Dudley Pelley founds the Silver Rangers of America on 31 January 1933. The organization soon becomes known as the "Silver Shirts". and engages in racist and anti-Semitic activity'. He rails against Roosevelt's New Deal, which he calls the "Jew Deal.".

1933 - Asheville Central Bank and Trust Company falters and finally fails.

1933 - Black Mountain College founded.

1933 - Western North Carolina "A State Within A State" 1933 (?) An Economic and Social Survey of the Eighteen Counties Comprising This Rich Empire of Industry, Resorts, Agriculture and Mining

1934 - Albert E. Manley the Principal of Stephens - Lee High School receives his PhD at Stanford. He will go on to become President of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

1935 - September 11, 1935, construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway is begun.

1936 - The Negro Welfare Council was organized in 1936 and was charged with the representation of Asheville's black community. In 1936 African- Americans comprised nearly one-third of the total population of Asheville. The Negro Welfare Council, which was comprised of seven black citizens, was the forerunner of the Human Relations Council.

1936 - Silvershirt Chief William Dudley Pelley promotes his candidacy for President of the United States, with the call, "For Christ and Constitution!"

1937 - Wilma Dykeman enters Biltmore College at the age of 17.

1937 - The Negro Welfare Council was in full operation and had served 72,453 people in the African American community since its inception.

1937 - Thomas Wolfe returns to Asheville and finds that the once hostile reception following publication of Look Homeward Angel in 1929, has diminished. He is recognized as one of America's outstanding authors.

1938 - Eugene Smith created The Southern News, the only African American newspaper to circulate through 6 states until 1966.

1939 - World War II (September 1, 1939- August 15,1945) begins

1940 - Impact of WWII on Asheville is seen in the conversion of the Grove Arcade to a Weather and Communication center for the Army Air Corps. The Grove Park Inn became a retention center for enemy nationals and later a rest and recuperation center for US navel officers.

1940 - January 1940, the new Municipal Auditorium opens. The structure is funded in part by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration and gives a boost to the city during poor economic times. The new design is poor, at best, as the acoustics pick up the noise of wooden chairs on wooden floors and the loud steam radiators and the large flat floor makes viewing the performers difficult.

1940 - William Dudley Pelley comes under government scrutiny for his seditious remarks and he leaves Asheville for Noblesville, Indiana. .

1941 - Street car lines are u pulled up and used for scrap metal in the war effort. Rationing is in full effect.

1942 - USS Asheville under fire from Japanese Task Force, March 3, 1942.

1941 - Pelley is arrested for sedition and is imprisoned.

1944 - YMI renovated by Dr. Robert M. Hendrick.

1947 - Asheville and western North Carolina, like much of the country experienced a downturn in the economy and industrial growth began to put pressure on the environment. Pollution is evident and discussed in the news. Tourism continues, but includes middle-income families who look for convenience motels and short stays.

1953 - Dave Steel Co. celebrates 25th Anniversary at Battery Park Hotel

1957 - Asheville-Hendersonville Airport is constructed through a bond initiative approved by the voters on May 4, 1957. Air transportation gives rise to new and greater number of visitors to area.

1957 - Black Mountain College is dissolved.

1959 - AB Tech created as a vocational center for adults.

1959 - The Mountain Street School was renamed the Lucy Herring School in honor of Lucy Herring a devoted African American teacher and community leader.

1959-1972 - These were years of controversy in Asheville as integration was forced throughout the south. Stephens - Lee school had functioned as a community center for African American citizens for years and represented black accomplishments. Stephens- Lee finally closed because of integration issues.

1963 - YWCA holds a series of workshops on "The Challenge of Integration" (11-12-63). Report recommends adult education and job training for both Negro and white First integrated swimming classes held in Grove Street pool.

1963 - Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute (now A-B Tech College) was opened to provide industrial education and training for local area students.

1964 - Frank E. Ratzell, pastor of the First Congregationalist Church, Asheville, North Carolina (1951-1964), and active desegrationist, dies.

1964 - National Civil Rights Act is passed.

1967 - Voters pass a $5.3 million bond issue to fund construction of a scaled-back version of a proposed Civic Center and convention center.

1968 - Full integration of the Asheville YWCA occurs.

1968 - Blue Ridge Parkeway was decicated. The planning and construction of the Parkway over a twenty-two year history, was originally called the "Appalachian Highway." During this same period the I-240 extension was completed and provided rapid access to Asheville and with I-26 and I-40 helped to relieve the growing congestion in the downtown area.

1969 - Buncombe County Jr. College became the University of North Carolina at Asheville

1969 - City Council decides that the Civic Center plan is too expensive and vote to renovate the existing building and create an arena.

1970 - May 27, Voters narrowly reject a $2 million supplementary bond issue designed to cover the increased costs of a new Civic Center, but on May 30, 1970 Mayor Wayne Montgomery vows that a sparse Civic Center will be built (no seats and no air conditioning).

1970 - Fall, George Coggins files a lawsuit to block the construction of the the Civic Center, when his hopes to relocate the Center to the Westgate Shopping Center, which he owned, fell through. The North Carolina Supreme Court rules against Coggins.

1971 - Dec. 14, Voters pass a $3 million dollar Civic Center bond by a margin of four to one following a promise by the Rev. Billy Graham to hold a crusade in Asheville. Graham had not held a crusade in Asheville in some 20 years due to the lack of a large facility.

1971 - The contractor for the Civic Center project, Ranger Construction Co., files a $300,000 claim against the city.

1971 - Mayor Richard Wood signs an official policy statement for the City Council, that states: "The Civic Center has had a long and troubled history. The debate over its contents and location has been extensive. Unfortunately, this delay and debate has been a very negative influence on the civic pride and cooperative spirit of our community."

1974 - The auditorium is redesigned and named the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

1974 - June 23, The new Civic Center opens its doors.

1975 - July 22-24, Elvis Presley plays three nights at the Asheville Civic Center. Tickets are scalped for $50.

1981 - Buildings on Pack Square were torn down and the Akzona Building was constructed. The dedication was July, 1981. A symbol of Asheville's new prominence as the financial center of western North Carolina, Akzona was a consolidation of the Dutch company, American Enka Corporation and other associated companies.

1981 - 75th Anniversary of the Asheville YWCA. Thelma Caldwell speaks at the YWCA Annual Meeting on April 14, 1981, in celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary.

2004 - Dave Steel Company celebrates 75th Anniversary on July 31st at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort.

2006-2007 - Asheville YWCA celebrates 100 years of the Asheville YWCA

2010 - Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates its 75th Anniversary. UNCA mounts an exhibit, "Not So 'Back of Beyond': Urban Echoes on the Blue Ridge Parkway," On view, June 20 - August 14, 2010

Asheville has adopted at least two nicknames over its history:

  • The Land of the Sky, based on a book of the same name written by Frances Fisher Tieran
  • The Paris of the South, also used by New Orleans, Louisiana and Charleston, South Carolina
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