Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is a city in and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 68,889 at the 2000 census. It is the largest city in western North Carolina, and continues to grow. As of 2006, the Census Bureau estimates that Asheville's population is 72,789 . Asheville is a part of the four-county Asheville metropolitan statistical area, the population of which was estimated by the Census Bureau in 2006 to be 398,009.


Before the arrival of Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of Cherokee country. In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto came to the area, bringing the first European visitors in addition to European diseases which seriously depleted the native population. As the Cherokee were eventually dominated by European settlers, the area was used as an open hunting ground until the middle of the 19th century.

The history of Asheville, as a town, begins in 1784. In that year Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family settled in the Swannanoa Valley, redeeming a soldier's land grant from the state of North Carolina. Soon after building a log cabin at the bank of Christian Creek, Davidson was lured into the woods by a band of Cherokee hunters and killed. Davidson's wife, child and female slave fled on foot to Davidson's Fort (named after Davidson's father General John Davidson) 16 miles away.

In response to the killing, Davidson's twin brother Major William Davidson and brother-in-law Colonel Daniel Smith formed an expedition to retrieve Samuel Davidson's body and avenge his murder. Months after the expedition, Major Davidson and other members of his extended family returned to the area and settled at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek.

The United States Census of 1790 counted 1,000 residents of the area, excluding the Cherokee. The county of Buncombe was officially formed in 1792. The county seat, named “Morristown” in 1793, was established on a plateau where two old Indian trails crossed. In 1797 Morristown was incorporated and renamed “Asheville” after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe.

The Civil War

Asheville, with a population of approximately 2,500 by 1861, remained relatively untouched by the Civil War, but contributed a number of companies to the Confederate States Army, and a substantially smaller number of soldiers to the Union. For a time an Enfield rifle manufacturing facility was located in the town. The war came to Asheville almost as an afterthought, when the "Battle of Asheville" was fought in early April 1865 at the present-day site of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, with Union forces withdrawing to Tennessee after encountering resistance from a small group of Confederate senior and junior reserves and recuperating Confederate soldiers in prepared trench lines across the Buncombe Turnpike; orders had been given to the Union force to take Asheville only if this could be accomplished without significant losses.

An engagement was also fought later that month at Swannanoa Gap as part of the larger Stoneman's Raid, with Union forces retreating in the face of resistance from Brig. Gen. Martin, commander of Confederate troops in Western North Carolina, but returning to the area via Howard's Gap and Henderson County. In late April 1865 troops under the overall command of Union Gen. Stoneman captured Asheville. After a negotiated departure, the troops nevertheless subsequently returned and plundered and burned a number of Confederate supporters' homes in the town. The years following the War were a time of economic and social hardship in Buncombe County, as throughout most of the defeated South.

1900s to present

While Asheville prospered in the 1910s and 1920s, the Great Depression hit Asheville quite hard. Most of Asheville's banks closed. The 'per capita' debt held by the city (through municipal bonds) was the highest of any city in the nation. Rather than default, the city paid those debts over a period of 50 years. From the start of the Depression through the 1980s, economic growth in Asheville was slow. During this time of financial stagnation, most of the buildings in the downtown district remained unaltered. This resulted in one of the most impressive, comprehensive collections of Art Deco architecture in the United States.

The Asheville area was subject to severe flooding from the remnants of a tropical storm on July 15-16, 1916, causing over $3 million in damage. Heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Ivan caused major flooding in Asheville in September 2004, particularly at Biltmore Village.

In 2003, Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Robert Rudolph was transported to Asheville from Murphy, North Carolina for arraignment in federal court.

Asheville has adopted at least two nicknames over its history:

General information

Asheville pops up on national rankings for a variety of things: Modern Maturity named it one of "The 50 Most Alive Places To Be, AmericanStyle magazine called it one of "America's Top 25 Arts Destinations, Self magazine labeled it the "Happiest City for Women, it is one of AARP Magazine's "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life, and was proclaimed the "New Freak Capital of the U.S." by Rolling Stone. Asheville has also been called "a New Age Mecca" by CBS News' Eye On America, and named the "most vegetarian-friendly" small city in America by PETA. In the 2008 book The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, Asheville was cited by the author to be one of the happiest places in the United States.

In 2007, Asheville was named one of the top seven places to live in the U.S. by Frommer's Cities Ranked and Rated, #23 of 200 metro areas for business and careers by Forbes, and the best place to live in the country by Relocate-America. It was also named one of the world's top 12 must-see destinations for 2007 by Frommer's travel guides.

Asheville and the surrounding mountains are also popular in the autumn when fall foliage peaks in October. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the Asheville area and near the Biltmore Estate.

Mayor Terry Bellamy (the city's first African-American female mayor) is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2005, Mayor Charles Worley signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and in 2006 the City Council created the Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment. In 2007 Council became the first city on the East Coast to commit to building all municipal buildings to Gold Leed Standards and to achieve 80% energy reduction of 2001 standards by 2040. In 2007 signed an agreement with Warren Wilson College stating the intent of the city and college to work together toward climate partnership goals.


Asheville is served by Asheville Regional Airport in nearby Fletcher, North Carolina, and by Interstate 40, Interstate 240, and Interstate 26. A milestone was achieved in 2003 when Interstate 26 was extended from Mars Hill (north of Asheville) to Johnson City, Tennessee completing a 20-year half-billion dollar construction project through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Work continues to improve Interstate 26 from Mars Hill to Interstate 40 by improving U.S. Route 19 and U.S. Route 23 and the western part of Interstate 240. This construction will include a multi-million dollar bridge to cross the French Broad River and is not slated to start until after 2008.

The city operates the Asheville Transit System, which consists of several bus lines connecting parts of the city and surrounding areas.

The Norfolk Southern Railroad passes through the city, though passenger service is currently not available in the area.


Asheville is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Swannanoa River and the French Broad River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 41.3 square miles (107.0 km²), of which, 40.9 square miles (106.0 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km²) of it is water. The total area is 0.94% water.


Asheville's weather resembles the weather of the rest of the southeastern U.S., but with somewhat cooler temperatures due to the higher altitude. The highest recorded temperature in Asheville was 100°F (37°C) in 1983, and the lowest recorded temperature was -16°F (-27°C) in 1985 . In winter, low temperatures regularly fall below freezing, and Asheville almost always receives snow and freezing rain a few times each year.


  • North - includes the neighborhoods of Albemarle Park, Beaverdam, Beaver Lake, Chestnut Hills, Grove Park, Kimberly, Montford, Norwood Park, and Reynolds Mountain. The Montford Area Historic District, Chestnut Hill Historic District, and Grove Park Historic District are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Montford and Albemarle Park have been named local historic districts by the Asheville City Council.
  • East - includes the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Chunn's Cove, Haw Creek, Oakley, Oteen, Reynolds, and Town Mountain.
  • West - includes the neighborhoods of Bear Creek, Deaverview Park, Emma, Hi-Alta Park, Lucerne Park, Malvern Hills, Sulphur Springs, and West Asheville.
  • South - includes the neighborhoods of Ballantree, Biltmore Village, Biltmore Park, Kenilworth, Royal Pines, Shiloh and Skyland. Biltmore Village has been named a local historic district by the Asheville City Council.


The city is known for the lavish Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in America, which attracts over a million visitors each year. Other notable architecture in Asheville includes its Art Deco city hall and other unique buildings in the downtown area such as the Battery Park Hotel, the Neo-Gothic Jackson Building, Grove Arcade and the Basilica of St. Lawrence. The S&W Cafeteria Building is also a fine example of Art Deco architecture in Asheville.The Grove Park Inn is an important example of architecture and design of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Montford neighborhood and other central areas are considered historic districts and include Victorian houses. On the other hand, Biltmore Village, located at the entrance to the famous estate, showcases unique architectural features that are only found in the Asheville area. It was here that workers stayed during the construction of George Vanderbilt's estate. Today, however, as with many of Asheville's historical districts, it has been transformed into a district home to quaint, trendy shops and interesting boutiques. The YMI Cultural Center, founded in 1892 by George Vanderbilt in the heart of downtown, is one of the nation's oldest African-American cultural centers.


Asheville is the larger principal city of the Asheville-Brevard CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Asheville metropolitan area (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties) and the Brevard micropolitan area (Transylvania County), which had a combined population of 398,505 at the 2000 census.

As of the census of 2000, there were 68,889 people,30,690 households, and 16,726 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,683.4 people per square mile (650.0/km²). There were 33,567 housing units at an average density of 820.3/sq mi (316.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.95% White, 17.61% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.92% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.53% from other races, and 1.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.76% of the population.

There were 30,690 households out of which 22.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.5% were non-families. 36.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.6% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 18.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 87.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,772, and the median income for a family was $44,029. Males had a median income of $30,463 versus $23,488 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,024. About 10.3% of families and 15.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.

Metropolitan area

Asheville is the largest city located within the Asheville MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). The MSA includes Buncombe County; Haywood County; Henderson County; and Madison County; with a combined population - as of the 2006 Census Bureau population estimate - of 398,009.

Apart from Asheville, the MSA includes Hendersonville and Waynesville, along with a number of smaller incorporated towns: Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Canton, Clyde, Flat Rock, Fletcher, Hot Springs, Laurel Park, Maggie Valley, Mars Hill, Marshall, Mills River, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

Several sizable unincorporated rural and suburban communities are also located nearby: Arden, Barnardsville (incorporated until 1970), Bent Creek, Candler, Enka, Fairview, Jupiter (incorporated until 1970), Leicester, Oteen, Skyland, and Swannanoa.

Asheville is also part of the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson-Asheville Designated Market Area (DMA), a grouping corresponding to TV and radio markets.


Public Asheville City Schools include Asheville High School, Asheville Middle School, Claxton Elementary, Hall Fletcher Elementary, Isaac Dickson Elementary, Jones Elementary, and Vance Elementary. Asheville High has been ranked by Newsweek Magazine as one of the top 100 high schools in the United States. The Buncombe County School System operates high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools both inside and outside the city of Asheville.

Asheville has one of the only Sudbury schools in the southeast, Katuah Sudbury School. It is also home to several charter schools, including Francine Delany New School for Children, one of the first charter schools in North Carolina.

Two private residential high schools are located in the Asheville area: the all-male Christ School (located in Arden) and the coeducational Asheville School. Each offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and enrolls boarding students from around the world in addition to local day students. Several other private schools, including Rainbow Mountain Children's School, Asheville Christian Academy, Hanger Hall School for Girls, The New Classical Academy and Carolina Day School, enroll local day students. In addition, New City Christian School is a private school whose stated mission is to educate low-income students.

Asheville and its surrounding area is home to several institutions of higher education:

Public services & utilities


Drinking water in Asheville is presently (2008) provided by the Asheville water department. Until recently the direction of the water agency was shared between Buncombe County and the City of Asheville. The two governments are presently seeking agreement on water that could restore the previous intergovermental agency. The public drinking water supply in most areas of Asheville is presently fluoridated by the addition of hydrofluorosilic acid, at a rate of 0.9 to 1.1 parts per million


Sewer services are provided by the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County.


Power is provided by Progress Energy Inc.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is provided by PSNC Energy.

Local culture


Live music is a significant element in the tourism-based economy of Asheville and the surrounding area. Seasonal festivals and numerous nightclubs offer opportunities for visitors and locals to attend a wide variety of live entertainment events. Asheville is host to numerous clubs and performance venues. In particular, Asheville has a very strong street performer ("busking") community. Outdoor festivals, such as Bele Chere and the Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival, known as LAAFF, feature local music. One of the most popular annual events is "Shindig on the Green," which happens Saturday nights during July and August on City/County Plaza. By tradition, the Shindig starts "along about sundown" and features local bluegrass bands and dance teams on stage, and informal jam sessions under the trees surrounding the County Courthouse. Another popular event is "Downtown After 5". This is a monthly concert series held from 5PM till 9PM that hosts popular touring musical acts as well as local acts.

DJ music, as well as a small, but active, dance community are also components of the downtown musical landscape. The town is also home to the Asheville Symphony and the Asheville Lyric Opera and there are a number of bluegrass, country, and traditional mountain musicians in the Asheville area. A residency at local music establishment The Orange Peel by Smashing Pumpkins in 2007 brought national attention to Asheville.


Current Teams

Asheville Tourists

Asheville Grizzlies
Name Sport Founded League Venue
Baseball 1897 South Atlantic McCormick Field
Football ?? NAFL Memorial Stadium

Previous Teams

Asheville Smoke

Asheville Aces

Asheville Altitude

Name Sport Founded League Venue Years in Asheville
Ice Hockey 1991 United Hockey League Asheville Civic Center 1998 - 2002
Ice Hockey 2004 Southern Professional Hockey League Asheville Civic Center 2004
Basketball 2001 NBA Development League Asheville Civic Center 2001 - 2005

Other Sports

Area colleges and universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Asheville, compete in sports. UNCA's sports teams are known as the Bulldogs and play in the Big South Conference. The Fighting Owls of Warren Wilson College participate in mountain biking and ultimate sports teams. The College is also home of the Hooter Dome, where the Owls play their home basketball games.

Recreational Sports

Asheville is a major hub of whitewater recreation, particularly whitewater kayaking, in the eastern US. Many kayak manufacturers have their bases of operation in the Asheville area. Some of the most distinguished whitewater kayakers live in or around Asheville. In its July/August 2006 journal, the group American Whitewater named Asheville one of the top five US whitewater cities. Asheville is also home to numerous Disc Golf courses.

Performing Arts

Asheville has long held a tradition of live theatre, dance, and opera. The Asheville Community Theatre was founded in 1946, producing the first amateur production of the Appalachian drama, Dark of the Moon. Soon after, the young actors Charlton Heston and wife Lydia Clarke would take over the small theatre. The current ACT building has two performance spaces - the Mainstage Auditorium, which seats 399 patrons (and named the Heston Auditorium for its most famous alumni); and the more intimate black box performances space 35 Below, seating 40 patrons.

The North Carolina Stage Company is currently the only resident professional theatre in the downtown area. Although there are several independent professional companies, none of them have a permanent venue.

The Diana Wortham Theatre is a neoclassical theatre. It serves as the home to, among other companies, the Asheville Lyric Opera, and the Terpsicorps dance company.

In 2004, the Asheville Arts Center opened. It is a theatre, dance, and music studio designed for arts education. The Grand Hall of the Arts Center also is a regular venue for local bands as well as the Asheville Movement Collective.

The Montford Park Players, founded in 1973, is the longest running Shakespeare Festival in North Carolina. Typically presenting three plays every summer in the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, this company is the fastest growing outdoor theatre group in America.

Film & TV

Although the area has had a long history with the entertainment industry, recent developments are cementing Asheville as a potential growth area for both film and TV. The Asheville Film Festival is now in its third year, and the city is an annual participant in the 48 Hour Film Project. The city's public access cable station URTV began airing programs in the spring of 2006. Films made at least partially in the area include A Breed Apart, Searching for Angela Shelton, Last of the Mohicans, Being There, My Fellow Americans, The Fugitive, All the Real Girls, Richie Rich, Hannibal, Songcatcher, Patch Adams, Nell, Forrest Gump, Mr. Destiny, Dirty Dancing, Bull Durham, The Private Eyes, The Swan, The Clearing, and 28 Days. Locally produced films include: Vance, The Devil's Courthouse, Inbred Rednecks, The Devil of Blue Mountain, 78, Sinkhole, The Nudger, Golden Throats of the 20th Century, Talking Tall, Ether, Brother Cellophane, House Of Poets, For Catherine, and Anywhere, USA, which was a winning film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Forthcoming projects include as Moon Europa and Golden Blade III: Return of the Monkey's Uncle. Local film production groups include Bonesteel Films, Tabula Rasa Studios, B-clip Productions, 207 Pictures, A Viewpoint Productions, Blue Ridge Motion Pictures, Blue Volcano Productions, Ironwood Media Group, Harrow Beauty, Shadowbox Enterprises and Buried Pictures.


Asheville is in the "Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville-Anderson" television DMA and the "Asheville" radio ADI for the city's Asheville Radio.

The Asheville Citizen-Times is Asheville's daily newspaper which covers most of Western North Carolina. The Mountain Xpress is the largest weekly in the area, covering arts and politics in the region. Take 5, a separate weekly put out by the Citizen Times, is also focused on local arts and media in the region. However, there are numerous independent weekly and monthly newspapers in this vibrant politically active community. Several underground or alternative newspapers are produced in the city of Asheville.

Famous residents



Points of interest

Sister cities

Asheville has six sister cities:


External links

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