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The Jackson Building in Asheville, NC: a history

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The Jackson Building under construction | Photo courtesy of @theurbangastronome

Picture it: Asheville, 1924. Western North Carolina’s first skyscraper towers in the sky at 140 ft. at 22 S. Pack Square. Chosen by Lynwood B. Jackson, a local construction + development giant, the lot it sits on is only 27 x 60 ft. In fact, the Jackson Building holds the record for tallest building on the smallest lot.

Jackson saw this skyscraper as proof of his investment in the future of Asheville’s real estate market + hired architect Ronald Greene to complete the ambitious Neo-Gothic style project. When it opened in 1924, it was fully occupied + Jackson made sure the building had an observation tower with a telescope to attract tourists.

The top of the building also features grotesques at each corner that are commonly mistaken for gargoyles. The difference? Gargoyles have waterspouts designed to get rid of rain water from the outside walls of the building, grotesques do not. The grotesques on the Jackson Building are ornamental, but they do contain holes so that water does not freeze in the terracotta. Grotesques and gargoyles are also known to ward off evil spirits + protect those inside. (More on that later.)

photofern.wnc

The Jackson Building | @photofern.wnc

Early on, it was also used as a clean-air lookout. Each morning the city inspector would stand at the top of the building to watch for excessive smoke as the furnaces started up + if heavy smoke went on for more than five minutes, a citation to clean their furnace was issued.

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The Jackson Building circa 1926 | Ewart McKinley Ball, Buncombe County

Okay, remember the gargoyles + grotesques warding off evil spirits?

Well, after the stock market crashed in 1929, several people reportedly jumped from the top of this building. Since then, many have reported seeing a man’s face in one of the higher windows of the building + it is believed that he is one of the suicides from that time. Some also believe that the bullseye out front is where the man landed. And while the 1920’s + 1930’s were an era of depression, the City of Asheville was not only able to erect 65+ major buildings, but also to preserve many of them because of the debt our city faced. Our debt meant investments in new buildings came to a halt, which is why we have so many of the buildings of yesteryear.

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