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Overview > History of Asheville

History of Asheville

see also: Biltmore Estate | Bele Chere Festival | The Buncombe County Name
Asheville Facts & Statistics | Art in Asheville | Things to Do in Asheville
City of Asheville Tours
Asheville City Hall

Taking a short evening stroll through modern downtown Asheville North Carolina, it is impossible not to get a sense of the city's history. Soaring buildings in Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Art Deco, and many other styles attest to the depth and diversity of Asheville's past. These surroundings coupled of the city's extensive nightlife have granted Asheville the title "Paris of the Southeast". Next to such a description, it is difficult to imagine that this great city was settled by a lone family just a little over 200 years ago.

In 1784, at the end of an arduous journey over the Blue Ridge Mountains, William Davidson and family, undoubtedly infatuated with the beauty they encountered, decided to settle on what would become modern Asheville. Less than a year latter a permanent settlement was created, and as of Dec. 5, 1791, Davidson, with the aid of Colonel David Vance, was able to establish the surrounding area as Buncombe county. As more settlers discovered the beauty and ample resources of the region, it was a matter of time before a proper city was founded; accordingly in 1797 it was officially named Asheville after then Governor Samuel Ashe.

Biltmore Estate Winery Gardens

Although destined to become a luxurious resort town, Asheville had a ways to go from its pioneering roots. As often happens with young towns, the economy grew with the roads that connected it to the surrounding areas. With the completion, in 1828, of a road tracing the French Broad River into Tennessee, Asheville's economy, already a hub for Western North Carolina, was opened to the markets and resources of the west. As more roads were finished, Asheville began to earn its reputation as a resort destination for the elegant and affluent of the South. In 1880, the railroad breached the Eastern Continental Divide, opening entirely new markets to an Asheville already famous to the South and West. With its breathtaking scenery and its reputation as an opulent resort destination, it was only a matter of time before Asheville acquired the admiration of one of the world's wealthiest families.

Perhaps one of the biggest attractions in Asheville to date, is the home built by George W. Vanderbilt. The Biltmore Estate, America's largest private residence, was the brainchild of the famous architect Richard Morris Hunt. Building enormous French Renaissance chateaus surrounded by acres of luxurious gardens was no small feat, however. The construction lasted 5 years, requiring the additional erection of Biltmore Village simply to house the the hundreds of workers required for the task. The end result is no less stunning than the great rolling mountains surrounding it. This grand estate, however, was only the beginning of many great architectural endeavors.

In and around the turn of the century, Asheville became an epicenter of new construction: the Asheville Board of Trade, an opera house, City Hall, the Jackson Building, and others began to sculpt the face of Asheville into the facades familiar to today's travelers. With the addition of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, built under Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, Asheville had sealed its place in history as a city of sumptuous resorts, soaring architecture, diverse nightlife, and of course of the majestic, natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains that once convinced William Davidson and family to end their journey and call it home.