ARCHITECTUREAsheville has the second-largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the southeast USA. Architectural Digest rates Asheville as number four!!!!, in the world due to it’s superb examples of that style of buildings. For a small town of 23,000 residents in 1920, speaks volumes of the cultural interests and sensibilities of the City. The sophisticated deco architecture and craftsmanship were partly due to George Vanderbilt bringing European craftsmen and artisans to Asheville to build the Biltmore Estate and Biltmore Village. When Gilded Age tycoon George Vanderbilt first glimpsed the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina, in the late 1800s, he deemed it the most beautiful place on earth. Easily accessible due to the recent train travel to the area, the City attracted wealthy folks looking for pristine mountain air, along with professionals of the time, including several renowned architects and world-class landscaper designers who wanted to establish their own legacy in the building of a sophisticated small retreat town in the “Land of the Sky.

Listed below are just a hint of what awaits those who appreciate well-built and beautiful buildings.  There are over 100  preserved examples of unique design and workmanship, well-built and standing the test of time, in and around downtown Asheville.

 

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All Souls Episcopal

All Souls Episcopal Cathedral

The magnificent All Souls Church in Biltmore Village stands as one of architect Richard Morris Hunt’s final masterpieces before his death in 1895. Designed for George Vanderbilt as a family chapel, the church exemplifies Hunt’s ideals for church architecture, with its Greek cross layout maximizing sight lines and acoustics. Now the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, All Souls remains one of Hunt’s least appreciated yet most beautiful late works. Its powerful composition and exquisite details attest to the architect’s skill right up until the end of his storied career. Though built as a private chapel, All Souls Church has long served the wider community, a fitting legacy for Hunt’s talent and vision.

Avl City Hall

Asheville City Hall

Art Deco meets “romantic antecedents.”  In 1926, architect Douglas Ellington dreamed of two complementary civic structures gracing downtown Asheville – a City Hall and County Courthouse connected by a grand stone arcade. Fresh off designing the avant-garde First Baptist Church, Ellington conceived equally bold Art Deco-inspired buildings to reflect Asheville’s cosmopolitan spirit

Avl High School

Asheville High School  

In 1927, Asheville looked to rising star Douglas Ellington to design the city’s new high school and proposed a junior college campus. The sprawling site boasted two hilltops divided by a ravine – perfect for separating the schools while linking them through shared athletic fields below.
Though the Depression delayed plans for the junior college, its hilltop would eventually host Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, a fitting successor.

Basilica

Basilica of St. Lawrence

Rafael Guastavino Sr., renowned for his collaboration on the Biltmore House, passed away in 1908 at age 65 while completing the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville. This church remains the only building Guastavino fully designed and oversaw, reflecting his Spanish heritage through its baroque style.

Modeled after a 17th-century basilica in Guastavino’s native Valencia, the church features an immense elliptical dome and extensive tile vaulting throughout.

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Biltmore Estate

Railroads workers began blasting through the ancient granite mountains in 1869,  by 1879, the workers had made it to Swannanoa and Asheville in 1880. It took another eleven years to extend the line to Murphy, which is near the  North Carolina-Tennessee state line. C’ntd

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Alleghany County, NC was built in 1935 during the Great Depression to create job opportunities. Influential politician Robert Lee Dalton played a key role in bringing the parkway to North Carolina.  The parkway was designed with simplicity in mind, focusing on natural elements.  C’ntd

Bungalow

Bungalow Heaven East

The Craftsman style emerged in the early 1900s as a response to Victorian-era ornamentation. It emphasized natural materials like wood, stone, and metal. The American Craftsman movement drew from British ideals of returning to handmade goods and craftsmanship amid industrialization. Influenced by rustic cottages, log cabins, and exotic cultures, C’ntd

Citizen Times Building (1)

Citizen Times Building

Built in 1938, the structure is a monument to Asheville’s storied media heritage.  The building remains the city’s shining exemplar of Art Moderne style. Architect Anthony Lord crafted this bold edifice to house the newspapers and radio station WWNC. Granite, limestone, and concrete soar upward, accented by 20,000 light-filled glass blocks.  C’ntd

First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church

Douglas Ellington, architect of First Baptist Church, blended Beaux-Arts training with modern innovation. The church exemplifies classical architectural principles adapted to contemporary needs, as described by Thomas Gordon Smith.

The church’s most notable feature is its central tiled dome, inspired by Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence

Flat Iron

Flat Iron Building

Like its iconic Manhattan namesake, Asheville’s Flatiron Building draws the eye with its distinct wedge shape. Tucked away on charming Wall Street, this 8-story structure makes a graceful Beaux Arts entrance to the tree-lined lane of shops and eateries. Designed by Albert Wirth, the limestone-faced Flatiron evokes a bygone era of conviviality in downtown Asheville.

Self Help Building

Self Help Building

The Self-Help Building, formerly known as the Public Services Building, is a notable yet often overlooked structure in Asheville, located at 89-93 Patton Avenue. Built during the 1920s boom, it exemplifies Neo-Spanish architecture with mythological decorations

Grove Arcade

Grove Arcade

The Grove Arcade, envisioned by millionaire E.W. Grove, was designed to revitalize downtown Asheville in the 1920s. Architect Charles N. Parker planned it as a grand 5-story base with a 14-story tower, intended to house shops, offices, and residences.

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The Omni Grove Park Inn

The Omni Grove Park is a historic resort hotel on the western-facing slope of Sunset Mountain in Asheville, North Carolina. Built in 1913 with its distinctive undulating red clay tile roof and 5-foot thick, locally sourced granite walls. Four hundred men worked 10-hour shifts six days a week. With only the use of mules, wagons, and ropes, granite boulders, some weighing as much as 10,000 pounds, were hauled from Sunset Mountain to build the hotel.  

S & W

S & W Cafeteria

With its striking art deco design, the S&W Building has long been a distinct example of Asheville’s historic architecture. Architect Douglas Ellington crafted this elegant monument for the S&W Cafeteria chain’s new Asheville location in 1929. Company president Frank Sherrill declared that only the finest building would suit such a cosmopolitan city and a constant stream of visitors.

Jackson Building

Jackson Building

The L.B. Jackson Building, completed in 1924, was once Western North Carolina’s tallest structure. Located near Pack Square Park, it was commissioned by L.B. Jackson, a prolific real estate developer who also built the Flatiron Building and contributed to the Grove Arcade.

Smith McDowell House

The Smith-McDowell House

The Smith-McDowell House, the oldest standing residence in Asheville, is also the preeminent specimen of brick antebellum construction still present in Western North Carolina. Having undergone restoration, it now serves as a museum, its interior replete with genuine furnishings from the era.

The time events that saved the Art Deco and other significantly styled buildings was due to the high debt accrued in the booming 1920s. The 1929 stock market crash reveals how precarious Asheville’s financial debt was. The revelations led to suicides and 50 years of stagnation while the city paid off bond debts. This stagnation saved downtown Asheville from being developed into “modernity” of “urban renewal” that demolished the significant buildings in other cities and inadvertently left us with this collection of architectural masterpieces of Art Deco, Beaux Arts, Spanish Renaissance, Gothic, French, and more.
There are no fast food restaurants, big box stores, or imposing fake facades in this tour of Asheville’s finest architecture examples.

Asheville won a place in the top 10 “Most Beautiful Places” in a viewer tally on Good Morning America. Within 15 minutes of nearly everywhere in Ashville is an entry to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The perfect way to escape into a pristine natural wonderland that goes on for miles and miles. Known as “America’s favorite drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway, a two-lane blacktop hiway built during the great depression, ambles along the ridgeline in Western North Carolina, offering stunning views of the mountain landscape.

The tour directs you through some of the significant architectural treasures of Asheville.

Biltmore line drawing