When you think of Asheville’s unique architectural design, which building comes to mind? Is it the Jackson Building, Biltmore, or the Basilica of St. Lawrence? Since the era of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1828 (a 75-mile trade route between N.C., S.C. + T.N.) a new stream of visitors arrived to WNC which changed the look and settlement of Asheville (hello, log-constructed vacation homes👋).
It wasn’t until the construction of the railroad in the 1880s when Asheville began to turn into the urban, tourist-destination it is today. Just three years after the first train rode through, the population nearly doubled. Then, Asheville changed forever in 1889 when George Washington Vanderbilt built a 250-room French Chateaux home on a plot of land that was 125,000 acres (now Biltmore Estate is about 8,000 acres) featuring gorgeous mountain views. From there, Biltmore Village made its presence.
The term “Paris of the South” began to take popularity and represent Asheville well. As WNC became a place of healing and tourism, then came the construction of the Montford neighborhood, luxury inns such as Grove Park, Basilica of St. Lawrence, and many more – oh, and the name E. W. Grove became pretty common since he was the drug manufacturer + developer who created Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic and the Grove Arcade.
Even more growth occurred during the Roaring Twenties as Asheville became an urban city of government, commerce + tourism. During this decade, more than 65 buildings were constructed downtown including the Jackson building, Flatiron, Kress Emporium, City Hall, and Asheville High. Once the 1930s hit that is when Asheville’s wonderful high of success came to a halt.
The Great Depression affected many in the U.S. and our WNC mountain town took an enormous fall during the crash. The construction of new, unique buildings slowly tampered, and all the town could do is preserve the ones already built (hence why most of the buildings haven’t changed). It took 50 years for the City of Asheville to pay its debt, and during this time more modern-looking buildings were constructed such as the BB&T building of 1964.
Now that you know the basic history, want to learn more about the buildings of Asheville, who built them and when? Here are 9 buildings with *really cool* architecture. ⬇
📍22 S Pack Square | 📅1923-24 | 🖌Ronald Green
This steel-framed Neo Gothic brick + terra-cotta structure was the first skyscraper in Western North Carolina. DYK: Those are not gargoyles near the top, but grotesques. Gargoyles have water flowing through them which create a “gargle” sound.
📍10-20 Battery Park Ave. | 📅1927 | 🖌Albert C. Wirth
Now home to over 60 businesses, this Beaux Arts styled 8-story building got its name due to its triangular shape that was built on an irregular lot between Battery Park Ave. and Wall St.
📍290 Macon Ave. | 📅1913 | 🖌Edwin Wiley Grove
Grove, along with his son-in-law Fred Seely (ever heard of Seely Castle?), designed the Grove Park Inn on top of Sunset Mountain. This Arts and Craft movement building was finished within 11 months and 27 days.
📍419 McDowell St. | 📅1929 | 🖌Douglas D. Ellington
What looks like a school straight out of a Hollywood movie, this Italian Renaissance + Art Deco style building with pink granite cost $1,362,601 when it was built back in the 1920s.
📍1 Page Ave. | 📅1926-29 | 🖌Edwin Wiley Grove + Charles N. Parker
This Tudoresque building was one of the country’s leading public markets until WWII. The Federal Government took over the building which eventually became the headquarters for the National Climatic Data Center. After being restored in 2002, the arcade since then houses shops, restaurants, offices + 42 apartments. DYK: The original blueprint included a 5-story base with a 14-story tower?
📍70 Court Plaza | 📅1928 | 🖌Douglas D. Ellington
This 8-story Art Deco building has an ornate, octagonal red + green tiled roof. It is the nation’s first Art Deco city hall building. The graduated colors, tapered shape + building contours were designed to mimic the mountains that surround the city.
📍60 Court Square | 📅1928 | 🖌Frank Milburn
Next to the City Hall building is the courthouse. This matching Art Deco structure has a 17-story Neoclassical steel frame with a brick + limestone surface. Though not as unique as City Hall, this building was still considered to be lavish since most public buildings were much more conservative.
📍1 Lodge St. | 📅1895 | 🖌Richard Morris Hunt
This French Renaissance chateau home changed Asheville entirely. What is now America’s largest home, this 250-room mansion is about 4 acres and took almost six years to build.
📍97 Haywood St. | 📅1909 | 🖌Rafael Guastavino + Rafael Guastavino, Jr.
After Guastavino completed his work at Biltmore, he noted that the city needed a bigger Catholic church. He and Richard Sharp Smith began working on the Spanish Renaissance Revival Basilica in 1905 and after Guastavino’s death in 1908 his son finished the church a year later. DYK: The church contains no beams of wood or steel in the entire building.
Between the mountains in the background and the city’s skyline, Asheville’s views are simply breathtaking (sometimes you never know which way to look).
My favorite building is either the Jackson Building or the Basilica. Stained glass always wins me over (probably because my dad used to build stained glass church windows) and those grotesques overlooking Pack Square from the Jackson Building are pretty rad.
Asheville is full of amazing architectural designs. Have a favorite building not on the list? Comment on the article below or join in the conversation on Instagram.
Happy Friday Jr., Asheville.