The Ultimate Guide To Asheville and the Western North Carolina Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North Carolina Mountains

The Online Version of the Best-selling Regional Guidebook
 

Susanna Pantas, Artist

Downtown
Historic District

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 Eliada Home   Grove Park   Montford   Oteen VA Hospital   Other Historic Sites
                                                                                  

Asheville NC, Pack Square, pen and ink drawing by Lee James Pantas
To purchase a print of this drawing by author/artist Lee Pantas, visit Cherry Orchard Studio

Historic Resources

Downtown Neighborhoods Historic Asheville Churches Historic Designations
Local History Resources Presenting Local History Urban Trail

Downtown Historic District
   
Downtown Asheville itself has four distinct neighborhoods, each with their own distinctive qualities and ambience: Battery Park, the area that includes Haywood Street, Wall Street, and Battery Park Avenue; Lexington Park, spanning Lexington Avenue and Broadway; Pack Square, encompassing Pack Square, South Pack Square, Biltmore Avenue, and Patton Avenue; and Thomas Wolfe Plaza, centered on Market Street and Spruce Street.

One of the very best ways to experience these neighborhoods and most of the downtown Asheville historic buildings presented below is to walk the Asheville Urban Trail. This self-guided walking tour visits all four of the neighborhoods discussed here, with stations and thematic markers along the way. For more information about this extraordinary way to trace the footsteps of Asheville’s historic past, go here Asheville Urban Trail. Another way to see the historic districts is to take a tour on one of two replica trolleys. See
Asheville Tours for more information.

Pack Square, Asheville NC by Lee James PantasPack Square (NRHP)
Pack Square, and the nearby South Pack Square, Biltmore Avenue, and Patton Avenue, is the heart of Asheville. Lo-ated at the intersection of Biltmore Avenue, Broadway, and College Street, it was once known as Public Square and was renamed in 1901 for city benefactor George Willis Pack when he moved the courthouse off the square and, in agreement with county commissioners, the square was designated a public park. This spacious square is surrounded by wonderful examples of Classical, Gothic, Art Deco, and Contemporary architecture.

Today, Pack Square and its surrounding streets are a vibrant and historic city center that not only boasts elegant architecture but superb museums, shops, music halls, art galleries and world class restaurants. A visit to Pack Square will show you immediately why Asheville has been called “Paris of the South.”

Vance Monument (NRHP) Pack Square
Located in the square’s center is a 75-foot tall granite obelisk, the Vance Monument, erected in 1896 and named in honor of Zebulon B. Vance, an Asheville attorney who was twice governor of North Carolina and was also a U.S. Senator.Two-thirds of the $3,000 cost was paid by philanthropist George W. Pack, and the architect R.S. Smith donated his services. The granite obelisk was cut from the Pacolet quarries in Henderson County.

Pack Memorial Library Building (NRHP, LHL) 2 South Pack Square
Located on the southern side of Pack Square is the Pack Memorial Library Building. Today this noble Second Renaissance Revival structure is home to the Asheville Art Museum, part of the Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center. Built in 1925-26 and designed by New York Library architect Edward L. Tilton, the four-story building presents symmetrically arranged elevations faced with white Georgia marble and ornamented with a low-relief classical cornice.

Jackson Building (NRHP) 22 South Pack Square
To the left of the Library Building is the wonderfully elegant Jackson Building. Built in 1923-24 by real estate developer L.B. Jackson and it was the first skyscraper in Western North Carolina. The architect was Ronald Greene and the building he designed rises 13 stories on a small 27 x 60 foot lot. Neo-Gothic in style, the building originally had a searchlight on top that illuminated the surrounding mountains.

Asheville City Hall, Asheville NC by Lee James PantasAsheville City Hall (NRHP, LHL) 70 Court Plaza
To the east of Pack Square is the Art Deco masterpiece designed by Douglas D. Ellington, and built in 1926-28. One of the crown jewels of Asheville it is set on a marble base and topped with a pink and green tiled octagonal ziggurat roof. A wonderful unity of appearance is achieved through the luxurious use of color and form. The main entrance is through a loggia of pink marble with multicolored groin vaults. One of the most striking and beautiful buildings in all of North Carolina, City Hall is a show stopper in a city graced by many unusual and beautiful buildings.

Buncombe County Courthouse, Asheville NC by Lee James PantasBuncombe County Courthouse (NRHP) 60 Court Plaza
To the left of the City Hall is the Buncombe County Courthouse. Designed by Milburn and Heister of Washington, DC, and built in 1927-28, this steel frame seventeen-story courthouse has a brick and limestone classical surface. It has an opulent lobby ornamented with polychrome classical plaster work and marble balustrades. Polished granite columns at the entrance are echoed by similar columns above at the jail section. The large superior court room has a coffered plaster ceiling and elegant woodwork.

Young Men’s Institute Building (NRHP, LHL) Market and Eagle St.
Located behind the Pack Place Education, Arts, & Science Center on the corner of South Market and Eagle streets is the Young Men’s Institute (YMI) Building, built by George Vanderbilt in 1892 to serve as a recreational and cultural center for black men and boys. It was sold to the Young Men’s Institute in 1906 and became a center for social activity in the black community and contained professional offices and a black public library. Designed by R.S. Smith in a simplified English Cottage style with a pebbledash and brick surface, today it houses the YMI Cultural Center, part of Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center.

Eagle and Market Streets (NRHP)
This district was the heart of the black community in Asheville in the early days and today contains many fine buildings of historic importance, including the YMI Building mentioned earlier. Of interest are the Campbell Building at 38 South Market Street, originally an office building, and the former Black Masonic Temple Building at 44 South Market Street.

Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church (NRHP) 47 Eagle St.
Also in this historic area is the large and handsome Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. A three-tower red brick Late Victorian Gothic structure built in 1919, it has a tin-shingled roof that has ornamental sheet-metal finials. The large number of Art Glass windows that grace the church are another unusual feature. It was home to one of Asheville’s largest black congregations, organized in 1880 by the noted Reverend Rumley.

Kress Building (NRHP, LHL) 21 Patton Ave.
Just down from Pack Square on Patton Avenue, you will encounter one of Asheville’s finest commercial buildings, the Kress building. Housing today an antique and crafts emporium, this four-story building was built in 1926-27. Distinctive features are the cream colored glazed terra-cotta with orange and blue rosette borders that face the front three bays of the building. In addition the side elevations above the first level are tan brick with terra-cotta inserts. This classical design preceded the many Art Deco Kress stores built around the country in the late 1930s and is unique in that sense.

Bas Relief, Drhumor Building, Asheville NC by Lee James PantasDrhumor Building (NRHP) 48 Patton Ave.
Farther west is the splendid Romanesque Revival Drhumor Building. Built in 1895, this structure is an imposing four stories of brick trimmed with rock-faced limestone and graced by a marvelous first floor frieze by sculptor Fred Miles. One of the bearded visages is supposedly of local merchant E.C. Deake, who watched Miles sculpt. Miles was also the sculptor who did the figures atop the Basilica of St. Lawrence. A complementary limestone frontispiece was added to the north side of the building in the 1920s and the original corner entrance was filled in. The building was de-signed by A.L. Melton for Will J. Cocke and his relatives, Mrs. Marie Johnson and Miss Mattie. The name Drhumor comes from the Johnson family’s ancestral home in Ireland.

S&W Cafeteria Building, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasS&W Cafeteria Building (NRHP, LHL) 56 Patton Ave.
A little farther down Patton Avenue is another of the crown jewels of Asheville, and one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in North Carolina, the S&W Cafeteria Building. It was built in 1929 for the cafeteria chain which occupied the building until 1973. The building was designed by Douglas D. Ellington, and is two stories with a polychrome cream, green, blue, black and gilt glazed terra cotta facade that employs geometrically-stylized Indian and classical mo-tifs. The interior is divided into dining rooms and lobbies with Art Deco decorations of superb quality. The building today is used for catering of meetings, receptions and banquets.

Public Service Building (NRHP, LHL) 89-93 Patton Ave.
Farther west is the Public Service Building built in 1929. This imposing eight-story Neo-Spanish Romanesque steel frame office building is one of North Carolina’s most attractive 1920s skyscrapers. Built of red brick and glazed terra cotta, its first two and upper floors are lavishly ornamented with polychrome terra cotta including such whimsical details as Leda-and-the-Swan spring blocks on the second-floor windows.

Flatiron Building, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasFlatiron Building (NRHP, LHL) 10-20 Battery Park Ave.
The Flatiron Building is an eight-story tan brick building that has classical detailing and a “flatiron” plan. Built in 1925-26, and designed by Albert C. Wirth, this elegant and unique building is faced with limestone ashlar and is perched at the entrance to the historic Wall Street district. A large metal sculpture of a household iron sits outside on the Wall Street side of the building.
 



Wall Street (NRHP)
This charming one-block street of small shops was named Wall Street after the retaining wall built behind the structures that face Pritchard Park. In 1926 Tench Coxe and Ed Ray remodeled and repainted the rear entrances to these building to create a boutique district, which they called “Greenwich Village.” That name never caught on, and the district was simply called Wall Street. Today it is a one of Asheville’s most interesting shopping districts, with many top-¬quality gift and specialty shops. When there, notice the unusual gingko trees planted along the street.

Grove Arcade Entrance Griffin, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasGrove Arcade (NRHP, LHL) 10-20 Battery Park Ave.
Located just north of Wall Street, the grand Grove Arcade building occupies a full city block. This imposing building was begun in 1926 by E.W. Grove to be a commercial mall topped with an office skyscraper. Completed after Grove’s death minus the skyscraper, the building is surfaced with cream glazed terra-cotta in a Neo-Tudor Gothic style. It is one of several major buildings for which the millionaire was responsible, with the most noteworthy among them being the Grove Park Inn. The arcade was designed by Charles N. Parker. Among the most interesting details are a pair of winged Griffin statues guarding the Battle Square entrance of the building. After years of service as offices for the federal government, the Grove Arcade is now home to commercial shops and venues.

Battery Park Hotel (NRHP, LHL) 1 Battle Square
The hotel is a huge 14-story T-plan Neo-Georgian hotel erected by E.W. Grove in 1923-24. This extraordinary building was designed by hotel architect W.L. Stoddart of New York and replaced a previous Queen Anne style hotel of the same name. It is surfaced in brick with limestone and terra-cotta trim. The hotel building today houses apartments and is located just north of the Grove Arcade.

United States Post Office and Courthouse (NRHP) 100 Otis St.
Located just west of the Grove Arcade is the former post office and courthouse building, one of the state’s finest Depression-era Federal buildings. This Art-Deco influenced building was designed by the Federal Architect’s Office under James A. Wetmore. The building has a majestically massed central entrance in which the Art Deco influence can be seen.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasFirst Church of Christ Scientist (NRHP) 64 North French Broad Ave.
The First Church of Christ Scientist is of a refined Jeffersonian, Neo-Classical Revival style, constructed of orange brick. Built between 1909 and 1912, it was designed by S.S. Beaman of Chicago.


Basilica of St. Lawrence, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasBasilica of Saint Lawrence, D.M. (NRHP) 97 Haywood St.
To the north of the Grove Arcade area is the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, built in 1909. A Spanish Baroque Revival Roman Catholic Church built of red brick with polychrome glazed terra-cotta inserts and limestone trim, it was designed by world-famous architect/engineer Raphael Guastavino. The church employs his “cohesive construction” techniques in its large oval tile dome and Catalan-style vaulting in its two towers. The massive stone foundations and the solid brick superstructure give silent testimony to the architect’s desire to build an edifice that would endure for generations. There are no beams of wood or steel in the entire structure; all walls, floors, ceilings and pillars are of tile or other masonry materials. The dome is entirely self supporting, has a clear span of 58 x 82 feet and is reputed to be the largest unsupported dome in North America. The Crucifixion tableaux of the Basilica altar features a rare example of seventeenth century Spanish woodcarving. The windows are of German origin, and the Basilica has two chapels. Attached by an arcade is the 1929 Neo-Tuscan Renaissance brick rectory designed by Father Michael of Belmont Abbey. Self-guided tour brochures are available at the church, and guided tours are given after Sunday masses.

Loughran Building (NRHP, LHL) 43 Haywood St.
The Loughran Building was in 1923 and is a six-story steel-frame commercial building that has a restrained white glazed terra cotta classical facade. It was designed by Smith and Carrier for Frank Loughran and its first occupant was Denton’s Department Store.

Central United Methodist Church (NRHP) 27 Church St.
Located on Church Street, south of Patton Avenue, this Gothic limestone-faced church was designed by R.H. Hunt of Chattanaooga, Tennessee. The church is noted for its fine stained and Art Glass windows and was built between 1902 and 1905.

First Presbyterian Church (NRHP) 40 Church St.
This Gothic Revival church is home to one of Asheville’s oldest congregations and is one of the oldest church buildings in the city. Located on the corner of Church and Aston streets, the brick nave and steeple were constructed in 1884-85 and have deep, corbelled cornices, hood-molded windows and blind arcading at the eaves. The north chapel and the south building were added in 1968.

Trinity Episcopal Church (NRHP) Church and Aston St.
Located on the opposite corner of Church and Aston Streets, the Trinity Episcopal Church is the third of the three churches in this Church Street neighborhood. Built in 1921, it is a Tudor Gothic Revival style brick with granite trim build-ing and was designed by Bertram Goodhue of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, well-known church architects. This lovely building has a simple gable roofed sanctuary with transepts and a short gable-roofed blunt tower.

Ravenscroft School Building (NRHP, LHL) 29 Ravenscroft Dr.
Built in the 1840s, this two-and-a-half story brick Greek Revival house is probably the oldest structure in the downtown area and one of the oldest in Asheville. It housed the Ravenscroft Episcopal Boys’ Classical and Theological School after 1856 until the Civil War. Thereafter it was used as a training school for the ministry. In 1886 it was used again as a boys’ school. After the turn of the century, it was a rooming house, and today it is used for professional offices. Details of the house in Academic Greek Revival are of a type not common to Western North Carolina.

Mears House (NRHP) 137 Biltmore Ave.
Located on Biltmore Avenue, the Mears House is a wonderful example of Queen Anne style architecture. Built around 1885, this brick residence has a slate-shingled mansard roof, gables and dormers. This is the most distinguished of the remaining late nineteenth century residences near downtown.

Scottish Rite Cathedral and Masonic Temple (NRHP) 80 Broadway
Built in 1913, this imposing four-story building is constructed of pressed brick and trimmed in limestone and grey brick. A two-story limestone portico with a pair of Ionic columns graces the Broadway entrance. The building was designed by Smith and Carrier.

Lexington Avenue (NRHP)
This once thriving market district was where farmers and others once came to water their horses and buy and sell local produce. Because natural springs kept it wet, Lexington Avenue was first called Water Street. Double doorways accommodating farmers’ wagons are still evident on renovated buildings. Lexington Avenue is Asheville’s premier antique district and many antique shops, specialty stores, galleries and nightclubs are found today in this interesting neighborhood.

First Baptist Church, Asheville NC, by Lee James PantasFirst Baptist Church of Asheville (NRHP) 5 Oak St.
Built in 1927, the First Baptist Church of Asheville was designed by noted architect Douglas Ellington from his sketches of a cathedral in Florence, Italy. Three major additions have been made to the building. The Children’s Wing was added in 1968, and the Sherman Family Center in 1980. This wonderfully elegant building is an unusual combination of an Early Italian Renaissance form and color scheme arranged in a beaux arts plan with Art Deco detailing. Of particular interest is the Art Deco copper lantern atop the dome and the subtle gradation of color in the roofing tiles. The walls are an effective combination of orange bricks, terra-cotta moldings and pink marble. This striking building is at the corner of Oak and Woodfin Streets.

First Christian Church (NRHP) 20 Oak St.
Right across the street is the First Christian Church, built between 1925 and 1926 in a traditional Late Gothic Style, and constructed of rock-faced grey granite masonry with smooth granite trim. Designed by the home office, it has an unusual feature in that the placement of the tower is at the intersection of the nave and transept.

 

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