Did you know Asheville is also known as the Land of Sky?
Nah, just kidding. If you know us, you know we’re here for the deep cuts — and there’s plenty of interesting factoids to go around. As connoisseurs of the quirky and unconventional, we put together a list of Asheville’s history, oddest characteristics, and more. Maybe you’ve lived here your whole life and know some of this, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
Either way, test your local knowledge with these 22 interesting facts.
1. Asheville used to be called Morristown before its incorporation. The name was changed to Asheville to honor NCgovernor Samuel Ashe, our state’s ninth governor who served from 1795-1798.
2. When it came to Prohibition, Asheville was ahead of the curve. In 1862, North Carolina passed its first Prohibition law to conserve grain during the Civil War. It was repealed in 1866 after the war ended, but Asheville passed its own version of the law in 1907. National Prohibition would not be passed for another 13 years.
3. Pisgah National Forest is considered to be the birthplace of modern forestry in America. The Biltmore Forest School was founded in 1898 and was the first forestry school in the country.
4. In 2004, Asheville local Adam Masters invented the Bellyak, aka the world’s first prone kayak. Read more about the company and its contributions to Asheville’s outdoors industry here.
5. One of the nation’s first electric street railways opened in Asheville in 1889. A few years later, a line was built to connect Biltmore Village with the courthouse to assist with the transportation of supplies + laborers working on the Biltmore Estate.
6. Secret tunnels are rumored to lay beneath Asheville’s downtown area. Some speculate the tunnels were part of an abandoned plan for an underground subway system for Asheville elite during the first part of the 21st century, while others say they were likely part of liquor smuggling during Prohibition.
7. Five #1 box office films have been filmed at least partially in the Asheville area: Last of the Mohicans, The Fugitive, Hannibal, Patch Adams, Nell + Forrest Gump. Believe it or not, Dirty Dancing never went #1. See our roundup of nine of our favorite films made locally here.
8. The Tobacco Barn Antiques warehouse + consignment shop at 75 Swannanoa River Rd. used to be a real tobacco auction house where local farmers would bring their tobacco to be graded and sold.
9. During the 1970s when Asheville was described as “blighted,” downtown was almost converted into a giant 22+ acre mall. The Asheville Revitalization Commission dreamed up the scheme to funnel money into the local economy, but voters shot the referendum down in 1981. Read our feature about the project here.
10. Black Mountain, NC is named for (go figure) the Black Mountains, which are originally named for the region’s red spruce + Fraser fir trees. From a distance, both tree species look distinctly darker than other forests in the area due to a greater composition of deciduous trees.
11. The blue in the Blue Ridge Mountains come from a chemical called isoprene that trees release into the atmosphere. Isoprene contributes to the beautiful blue haze you often see over the peaks of the Blue Ridge on a clear day.
12. Over 3,000 species of fungi have been recorded by researchers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the Asheville Mushroom Club.
13. The Omni Grove Park Inn houses more than just guests: The Pink Lady, one of Asheville’s most famous resident phantoms, is said to have fallen to her death off of a 5th floor balcony in the 1920s. Some say she roams the halls of the resort.
14. One hundred and thirteen buildings in Asheville are on the National Registry of Historic Places, including the Grove Arcade and the S+W building downtown.
15. Carrier Park was once the former Asheville Motor Speedway. Popular from the 1960s-1990s, the track hosted many big time race car drivers such as Banjo Matthews.
16. Asheville’s ideal temperate climate helped put it on the map as the perfect place to recover from tuberculosis. The reigning theory of the time was that Asheville’s mild weather + cool night air would help clear the deadly bacteria from the lungs of the afflicted.
17. Chicken Alley, off Woodfin St. between N. Lexington Ave. and Broadway St., is said to have its own ghost.
18. During his family vacation here in 2010, President Barack Obama + First Lady Michelle Obama visited Biltmore Village’s own Corner Kitchen. If you look closely, you can find a name plate where he and Michelle sat and enjoyed a meal in presidential fashion. The former prez is also a big fan of 12 Bones.
19. The Biltmore Estate was once 125,000 acres larger than its current 8,000 acres. The estate sold a large fraction of its land to the federal government + created the beloved Pisgah National Forest. Get more Biltmore history here.
20. The Asheville Masonic Temple (80 Broadway St.) was originally built for real life Freemasons to practice their secret rituals. It was built in 1913 by architect + fellow mason Richard Sharp Smith. There are also rumors of secret tunnels beneath the Masonic Temple.
21. Asheville was the first Bee City USA. Dedicated to make a world better for our local pollinators, Bee Cities help establish sustainable habitats for bees so they can continue to pollinate the 85% of plants that depend on them.
22. The Biltmore Village McDonald’s has a self-playing grand piano + a stone fireplace inside it to keep up appearances with the Biltmore. Plus those famous McNuggets, of course.
Your turn. Think you can get one over on us? Let us know your favorite local trivia tidbit and you just might make it into the newsletter.