Asheville North Carolina Walking Tour
This tour starts in the center of Asheville with the Vance Obelisk and includes a variety of museums, historic buildings, and historic sites related to the civil rights movement in Asheville.
Dedicated in 1897, this monument honored Zebulon Vance, the Governor of North Carolina during the Civil War. Prior to his election to the governorship in 1862, Vance was an attorney in Asheville and a junior officer in the Confederate army. As governor, Vance opposed Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress, believing that they were retreating from the doctrine of small government and state's rights by enacting higher taxes, enlistment quotas, and other restrictions upon the freedoms of Southerners. Like other white Southerners of the era, Vance was a slave owner and an opponent of equal political and civil rights for African Americans. At the same time, he was outspoken against the persecution of Jews. Following a decision by Asheville leaders against maintaining this monument as a symbol of their city, removal of the obelisk began in May 2021.
The vision of Roger McGuire, this complex was made possible by local residents with the help of community organizations such as the North Carolina Arts Council and the Junior League. From the first planing meetings in the early 1980s to the opening of the complex in 1992, community members and organizations worked to bring an art museum, science museum, and theater to Asheville's downtown. Several of these institutions grew between the opening of the Pack Center and today, and as a result, these institutions have expanded to additional locations but remain within the heart of Asheville.
Be inspired by world-class special exhibitions and the Asheville Art Museum's outstanding collection, showcasing the very best of 20th and 21st century American art and the cultural heritage and contemporary art of Western North Carolina. The collection, containing more than 3,500 works in all media, is the only such resource in the region. This award-winning Museum annually presents 12-16 exhibitions drawing from the permanent collection and borrowed works, and offers a wide variety of public programs for adults, children, and visitors of all ages. The Museum is open free to the public the first Wednesday of every month from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Standard admission for Museum Members visiting our galleries is always free. Regular Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Located on the first floor of the Museum, the Holden Community Gallery, Biltmore Gallery, Atrium art installations and Museum Shop are always open free of charge for visitors to enjoy.
As the struggle for civil rights gained momentum with 1960s youth, Black students from the segregated Stephens-Lee High School were at the forefront of the fight in Asheville. When they founded the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality (ASCORE) in 1960, they took their organizing efforts to the next level. As they built ASCORE from scratch and searched for community members to aid in their efforts, they found an unlikely ally--and unofficial headquarters--with William Roland and his W. E. Roland Jewelry Company.
Built in 1893, the Institute served as an African-American equivalent to the YMCA. Philanthropist and resident, George Vanderbilt ordered and paid for the construction of the YMI while also building a lavish home in Asheville. The institute served as a community center and a temporary church for some local congregations. It also served as a school.
Reflecting the sudden commercial growth of the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, officials decided that they needed a new county courthouse in 1923. Five years later, the new courthouse was dedicated and open to the public. City planners hoped to build the courthouse near Pack Square, creating a "civic center" around the square and locating the courthouse near Asheville's city hall. The courthouse features a neo-classical design and its planners spared few expenses. As soon as one walks into the interior lobby they are met with a mosaic tile floor, a sweeping marble staircase, and a coffered ceiling with ornate finishing details. The courthouse exceeded its original budget by 75% but became the tallest government building in the state when it opened in 1928.
Dedicated in May 2015, the Charters of Freedom monument is a replica of the displays at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The Charters of Freedom are founding documents of the United States and include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. This monument allows visitors to see what the original documents look like and additional plaques provide more information about each document. A time capsule was buried at this site and will be recovered on September 17, 2087 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
Novelist Thomas Wolfe spent a decade of his childhood here in his mother's Asheville boardinghouse. Called "Old Kentucky Home" the house was patronized by summer tourists and health seekers during the early years of the 20th century. These boarders would later inspire many of the colorful characters in Wolfe's 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel. The house itself was recast as "Dixieland" and would provide much of the setting for the story. Today, tours of the Old Kentucky Home provide a glimpse into Asheville's early rise to prominence as a resort for health and recreation as well as the stories associated with Thomas Wolfe's colorful and turbulent childhood here. An adjacent visitor's center and museum contains a self guided exhibit hall and 22 minute film presentation on Wolfe's life and writings.
The Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center was established in 1993 by Mary Holden. This museum is to honor the students and faculty of the world renowned school of the arts. The museum is located in downtown Asheville and has been able to educate the community on the renowned studies of the college and its experimental educational practices. The school closed down in 1957 after a ruling of a judge stated that the teachings of the college should end until all the debts of the school had been paid.
Located in the historic F. W. Woolworth Building, Woolworth Walk is a uniquely local Asheville experience. One hundred and sixty local artists showcase their work in this shopping area and gallery in the heart of downtown that includes a 1950s lunch counter and soda fountain. The gallery displays jewelry, decorative art, fine art, and crafts. Both casual and professional artists are welcome, giving the gallery a variety of different pieces to interest viewers of all ages.
TheaSHEville Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural history of women in North Carolina, Appalachia, and the rest of the world. It is the only museum in the United States that is specifically dedicated to women's cultural history. The museum's gallery offers a rotating display of exhibits in additional to special lectures and educational programming. For example, rotating exhibits have explored topics such as sexism in advertising and the unique experiences and perspectives of Appalachian Women. The museum offers a small café as well as gift shop with books, fair trade items from around the world, and original works by local artisans.
Built in 1929 by E.W. Grove, the Grove Arcade is a city landmark and a location for shopping, food, and apartments in Downtown Asheville. The Arcade was originally one of the most popular public markets in the country, but was re-purposed during World War II. In order to convert the Grove Arcade into a mixed-use development and return the building to its former splendor, the City of Asheville acquired this property through the Historic Surplus Property Program in 1997. Today, after undergoing numerous renovations, the Grove Arcade retains its original purpose of being a public center for Downtown Asheville.
Prior to the early 1920s, this area was known as Battery Porter Hill owing to its high elevation and use as a Confederate gun battery during the Civil War. The hill was home to a grand Victorian hotel that was completed in 1886. In the 1920s, developers leveled the ten hilly acres that composed the Battery Porter Hill neighborhood in order to expand the downtown area. At the center of the development project was the construction of an even grander hotel that was in operation from 1924 to 1972. And so while the hill met its end in 1924, the neighborhood witnessed a new beginning that paralleled the growth of Asheville. The original Battery Park Hotel, constructed in 1886, was significant for the size of the city at the time of its construction. After four decades of growth, however, developers saw an opportunity to build a modern high-rise hotel. Edwin W. Grove purchased the property and began his plan to build an urban hotel with Southern charm. After leveling the Battery Porter Hill neighborhood, he rebuilt the Battery Park Hotel using the latest building technologies and amenities. The hotel was the social center of Asheville for many years, but its fortunes declined with the rise of national hotel chains. In 1972, the Battery Park Hotel closed its doors. The city's housing authority purchased the building in the 1980s and converted the former hotel into an apartment complex for seniors.
Completed in 1909, the Basilica of St. Lawrence D.M. is one of Asheville's architectural treasures and spiritual anchors. Designed by Rafael Gustavino and Richard Sharpe Smith, renowned architects on the Biltmore House, this Catholic church has the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the country.