The Story: Asheville Awaiting the Blue Ridge Parkway

""Fourteen years, or even eleven years with four years out for the war, is a long time to wait for the delivery of a promise freely given". "

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It was with great relief and enthusiasm that North Carolina was granted the entire routing of the southern half of the Blue Ridge Parkway on November 13, 1934. Senator Robert Reynolds was quoted in the Asheville Citizen-Times as saying "it is one of the things that will contribute largely to the continued development and to the eternal prosperity of Western North Carolina." The point of view held by Senator Reynolds - that the Blue Ridge Parkway would save Asheville's floundering economy- was widely held, and had been one of the key arguments in the battle for the Parkway being routed entirely through North Carolina. As can be seen on Driving Through Time's Parkway Construction Timeline, however, construction on the Asheville sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway didn't begin until April of 1949 and wasn't completed until 1967.

Of course, "the Depression didn't last forever, even in Asheville" (Chase 219) and, despite the delay in construction on Asheville's great hope, the economy began to rebound. A Facts for Industry pamphlet published by the Asheville Industrial Council in 1957 indicates that while the area certainly suffered from the national economic crash in 1929, it also had a strong history of industrially-oriented economic development reaching back to the early 1900s (Asheville Industrial Council). In March of 1930, the Biltmore House, formerly a private estate, opened its doors as a tourist destination. The Carolina Tobacco House opened in 1931, allowing area farmers opportunities to sell the significant of amount of tobacco grown in the area. American Enka, which opened in 1929, was a major employer in western North Carolina (Colbond History) when the routing negotiations began in 1933, with 2,500 employees working a 40-hour week to produce rayon. In the mid-1930's, as part of the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration invested money into initiatives such as the demolition and rebuilding of the city's municipal auditorium and the management of sewing rooms where local women were paid to make clothes for welfare recipients, which aided in Asheville's recovery (Chase 2007).

Asheville also benefited greatly from the economic lift of America's involvement in World War II. Due to their tremendous real estate crash, Asheville had an unusually large amount of unused real estate available for wartime use, for which the United States government paid good money. The Grove Arcade, Battery Park Hotel, and Asheville-Hendersonville airport were among the many Asheville properties put to use for the purposes of the armed forces. This not only supported the community by introducing money into the economy for the use of facilities, but also led to improved infrastructure, which allowed for further industrial development after the war had ended (Chase 2007).

As Nan K. Chase, author of Asheville: A History, states, "Enka, the New Deal, and World War II pulled Asheville's economy closer to the mainstream of American life, and eventually the bank crash and the Great Depression were just memories" (135).