Asheville City Hall is about to emerge, renewed from a 6 million dollar renovation project that began in November 2012. The scaffolding and netting has begun to come down and by the end of the year we will again be able to fully appreciate one of Asheville’s architectural jewels. Several Art Deco buildings of rich variety can be found in Asheville and we count ourselves very lucky to enjoy the ornamental detailing they reveal.
The Architecture of downtown Asheville is incredibly varied and spans several styles popularized between the 1880, when the railroad arrived and doubled Asheville’s population, and the early 1930s, when the Depression hit Asheville hard. At that time construction ground to a halt due to Asheville’s decision to pay off it’s debt rather than go bankrupt. In the 50 years that it took to accomplish that feat many historic buildings were spared from the destruction wrought in the name of urban renewal.
In 1928 both the conservative neoclassical Buncombe County Courthouse and the glorious Art Deco Asheville City Hall were built side by side, offering a striking and delightful contrast in styles. Architect Douglas Ellington designed City Hall as well as several other important Art Deco buildings in the area. The First Baptist Church is an Ellington design. A lovely tiled dome topped with a copper cupola sits above the octagonal main auditorium.
Art Deco decorative patterns adorn a more neoclassical design here, as it does on the Federal Court House built in 1929 and designed by James Wetmore and the Grove Arcade. The Asheville High school by Ellington has many similarities in style to City Hall. Ellington’s S&W Cafeteria in the heart of downtown drips with rich Art Deco detailing as well. The Wick and Green Building, housing Wick and Green Jewelers is a lovely Art Deco design that originated as a gas station!
When visiting Asheville be sure to take advantage of one of the Historic Asheville tours.
- The Asheville Urban Trail is a self guided tour designed by volunteers and created by the City of Asheville to improve Asheville through public art. Symbols representing five historical eras are carved into pink granite along the trail and each of the 30 stations along the walk includes a piece of art or a bronze plaque that describes it. Urban Trail maps are available at Pack Place, The Visitors Center, many downtown stores and most B&Bs, including A Bed of Roses.
- History at Hand offers guided tours of Downtown, the Montford Historic District and the Historic Riverside Cemetery, located right here in Montford.
- Asheville Tours also offers a 90 minute guided Downtown Architectural History Walking Tour.
- Asheville Mountain Magic offers a self-guided walking tour on their website that is informative and covers all of the architectural styles displayed downtown.