The Story: Early 1900's Asheville

"By 1900, nearly fifteen thousand people lived in Asheville, with almost fifty thousand more (plus the many tuberculosis patients in the sanitariums) visiting each year"


In the late 1800's, thanks to the arrival of the Western North Carolina Railroad (1880) and the efforts of Asheville's mayors and prominent citizens to promote Asheville as a healthful tourist destination, the city had a strong foundation for growth. From 1500 citizens in 1870, Asheville had grown to more than 10,000 by 1890. (Whisnant 2006)

For many decades before the railroad came, Asheville had attracted visitors, but the new accessibility afforded by train service brought an unprecedented surge in tourism that lasted well into the 1920s (Whisnant 2006). Asheville's first tuberculosis sanitarium opened in 1871 and was followed by all manner of hospitals, health resorts and boarding houses for visitors looking for clean, mild air and an agreeable climate to relieve their suffering from tuberculosis, dyspepsia and malaria (Chase 2007). In addition to these health-related establishments, several hotels for wealthy tourists were constructed during this time period, including the first Battery Park hotel (1886) and the Manor Hotel (1889), and quickly became the social center of the city. Shortly before the turn of the century, George Vanderbilt funded the construction of his now-famous Biltmore Estate, which was completed in 1895. As these became hugely popular attractions, there was an explosion of tourism-related construction and hotel openings, such as the Grove Park Inn (1913), the second Battery Park Hotel (1924), the Grove Arcade (1929), and the second Kenilworth Inn (1923).

Over the period of just a few decades, Asheville went from a sleepy mountain town to a bustling destination for tourists. The 1880s-1920s, indeed, were, Anne Whisnant writes, "something of a golden age for the city, which was transformed by bold and grandiose construction projects, the building of luxurious hotels and city facilities, and the attraction of an impressive array of prominent and wealthy tourists and new residents." (72).