Monday, May 01, 2006

A History of Asheville: Parts II & III of X.

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Part I and explanation here.

II: Asheville - 1800-1850
A road parallel to the French Broad River made a path into east Tennessee in 1828. This passage opened the gateway from the west, bringing settlers driving herds of hogs, sheep and cattle from Kentucky and Tennessee. The Cherokee had cherished the healing waters of what is now Hot Springs, which this trail and later the railroads would bring the world to visit; in 1837 James Patton established what became a fashionable resort there. The "Asheville and Greenville Plank Road," completed in 1851, expanded commerce. At this point, more affluent community members recognized Asheville as a health resort. This designation attracted the wealthy from all over the South, arriving on four- and six-horse stages.

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III: Asheville - 1850-1900
"Asheville was not always known as peaceful, elegant or especially inviting. This mountain city became a vital Confederate military center during the Civil War. The first company of soldiers west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Buncombe Rifles, carried a flag made from the silk dresses of town belles when it marched on April 18, 1861. Seven of the 10 companies comprising the 60th North Carolina Regiment were Buncombe men. "Approximately one-half of Buncombe County's 5,350 male residents served in the military during the Civil War. At least 551 of these men died in the war, or more than 10% of the County's male population."

Francis Tiernan established another popular landmark description for Asheville in 1878. Writing under the name Christian Reid, Salisbury, N.C.'s Tiernan used the phrase "The Land of the Sky" to describe Asheville. Thousands of people in and throughout the area recognized the phrase immediately and spread Asheville's name.

The late 1800s brought the new railroad industry and an entirely fresh and hopeful future to Asheville. The railroad made it across the Eastern Continental Divide and into Western North Carolina in 1880. Trains brought money, power and a taste of affluence to Buncombe County.

A young aristocrat from New York visited Asheville in the 1880s with his mother to see what he described later as the most beautiful place in the world. George W. Vanderbilt purchased 125,000 acres, and eventually constructed what is now America's largest private residence—Biltmore. The name is derived from "Bildt", the Dutch town home to Vanderbilt ancestors, and "moore," an old English word for rolling, mountainous country.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHe commissioned renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds and gardens, and celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to help him plan the house. It took hundreds of workers from 1890-1895 to complete the 255-room, French Renaissance chateau and surrounding grounds.

Vanderbilt's dream to replicate the great estates of Europe through Biltmore brought romance and a distinctive elegance to Asheville, achieving a celebrity status never experienced before in Western North Carolina. Family members and friends invited from all over the United States and beyond came to experience the opulent estate with the splendor of Olmsted's sweet-smelling gardens, rich foods at the 64-seat banquet table, and the utter beauty of Vanderbilt's glorious mountains.

Visitors were amazed at the indoor pool, bowling alley, exercise equipment, library, and other rooms filled with art works, furniture and novelties from all over the world. Lavish hotels and inns were constructed, such as the Battery Park in 1889.

The Asheville Moonshines, a member of the Southeastern League, played the first professional baseball game in Asheville in 1897."

1 comment:

Brainshrub said...

A great post Screwy!

Asheville history never ceases to interest me. Every square inch of our city is dripping with interesting stories.