Downtown Asheville: From the 1920s to now

Photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

By Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

Ever wonder what historic buildings in downtown Asheville looked like back in the day? 

We were curious, so we dug through the archives — shout out to the Buncombe County Special Collections — and recreated modern versions that line up side-by-side with photos that trace back to the early 1920s. 

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see the old and the new of downtown Asheville.

The Citizen-Times Building

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

Hot off the press, we dug up a postcard of the Citizen Times building when it opened in 1939. This three-story building of reinforced concrete, black granite, and limestone used to be home to the city’s two newspapers: The Asheville Citizen and The Asheville Times, plus radio station WWNC. Now, it still houses (a much leaner) Asheville Citizen-Times office, along with Citizen Vinyl, Asheville’s very first record-pressing plant.  

Pack Square Plaza

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

Pack Square has been a focal point of the city since 1797. It’s named after George W. Pack, who donated the land to create the park + funded most of the Vance Monument (which was fully removed in 2021). And this view will likely change again in the near future. The City of Asheville is currently in the process of leading a Pack Square revisioning project, which aims to create a new narrative around the past, present, and future of the plaza.

The Grove Arcade

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

Though Grove Arcade founder E.W. Grove died two years before the Arcade’s grand opening in 1929, his vision of an indoor retail center with offices and living spaces lived on for decades, until it was closed for military use in 1942. Eventually, the building became the headquarters for the National Weather Records Center from 1951-1995. Today, the building has returned to its original purpose as a shopping center — and it’s also developing a new reputation as a hot spot for restaurants

The Battery Park Hotel

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

In 1924, one year after the original Battery Park Hotel was demolished (and eventually burned to the ground), Edwin W. Grove built the new 200-room, 14-story Battery Park Hotel near Page Avenue. The hotel closed in 1972 and is now home to the Battery Park Senior Apartments, an affordable rental community for seniors. 

The S&W Cafeteria

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

The S&W Cafeteria has had a rocky history with a lot of openings and closings — but this 1929 Art Deco building still stands with open doors, now as S+W Market, Asheville’s first food hall. AVLtoday Intern Camille wonders which restaurant building architect Douglas Ellington would try first — she’d recommend Bun Intended. 

The Flatiron Building

First photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

Asheville’s own little pocket of Manhattan has sat pretty on Battery Park Avenue since 1927. While many cities have their own Flatiron Building, Asheville’s version has a unique neoclassical style approach, thanks to architect Albert C. Wirth.

The building is currently being transformed into a hotel that draws inspiration from the original “Lost Generation” of the roaring twenties. The new iteration of the Flat Iron, slated for completion in spring 2023, is expected to have a restaurant, rooftop bar, and there’s rumors of a speakeasy.

The Jackson Building

First photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, second photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez

The 140 ft tall Jackson Building, built in 1924 by architect Ronald Greene, was WNC’s first skyscraper. This Neo-Gothic style building also holds the record for the tallest building in the smallest lot of ​​only 27 x 60 ft. There’s a bit of dark history to this building as well (more on that here), but on a more delicious note: it’s also the home of Stay Glazed…Donuts.

This ever changing city keeps getting prettier and prettier as the years go by. Send us some old pictures of Asheville that you might have in the storage unit here.