Taking a short evening stroll through modern downtown Asheville North Carolina, it is impossible not to get a sense of the city’s history. Soaring buildings in Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Art Deco, and many other styles attest to the depth and diversity of Asheville’s past. These surroundings coupled of the city’s extensive nightlife have granted Asheville the title “Paris of the Southeast”. Next to such a description, it is difficult to imagine that this great city was settled by a lone family just a little over 200 years ago.
In 1784, at the end of an arduous journey over the Blue Ridge Mountains, William Davidson and family, undoubtedly infatuated with the beauty they encountered, decided to settle on what would become modern Asheville. Less than a year latter a permanent settlement was created, and as of Dec. 5, 1791, Davidson, with the aid of Colonel David Vance, was able to establish the surrounding area as Buncombe county. As more settlers discovered the beauty and ample resources of the region, it was a matter of time before a proper city was founded; accordingly in 1797 it was officially named Asheville after then Governor Samuel Ashe.
Although destined to become a luxurious resort town, Asheville had a ways to go from its pioneering roots. As often happens with young towns, the economy grew with the roads that connected it to the surrounding areas. With the completion, in 1828, of a road tracing the French Broad River into Tennessee, Asheville’s economy, already a hub for Western North Carolina, was opened to the markets and resources of the west. As more roads were finished, Asheville began to earn its reputation as a resort destination for the elegant and affluent of the South. In 1880, the railroad breached the Eastern Continental Divide, opening entirely new markets to an Asheville already famous to the South and West. With its breathtaking scenery and its reputation as an opulent resort destination, it was only a matter of time before Asheville acquired the admiration of one of the world’s wealthiest families.
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions in Asheville to date, is the home built by George W. Vanderbilt. The Biltmore Estate, America’s largest private residence, was the brainchild of the famous architect Richard Morris Hunt. Building enormous French Renaissance chateaus surrounded by acres of luxurious gardens was no small feat, however. The construction lasted 5 years, requiring the additional erection of Biltmore Village simply to house the hundreds of workers required for the task. The end result is no less stunning than the great rolling mountains surrounding it. This grand estate, however, was only the beginning of many great architectural endeavors.
In and around the turn of the century, Asheville became an epicenter of new construction: the Asheville Board of Trade, an opera house, City Hall, the Jackson Building, and others began to sculpt the face of Asheville into the facades familiar to today’s travelers. With the addition of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, built under Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, Asheville had sealed its place in history as a city of sumptuous resorts, soaring architecture, diverse nightlife, and of course of the majestic, natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains that once convinced William Davidson and family to end their journey and call it home.
Officially established in 1883, Asheville, North Carolina has grown from a small pioneering town into a flourishing metropolis known for its love of the arts and passion for the great outdoors. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Buncombe County, Asheville enjoys a mild climate year-round, which, coupled with its beautiful natural surroundings, has made it one of the Southeast’s most popular destinations.
Asheville Climate & Geography
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Asheville [City] Area
Buncombe County Area
35° 34’48” North, 82° 33’21” West
Average House Costs
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Higher Education in Asheville
University of North Carolina Asheville
Asheville, NC Accolades
- Ranked #2 as One of the Nation’s Top Arts Destinations – AmericanStyle Magazine
- Ranked #6 Best Metro Places for Business & Careers – Forbes.com, March 2009
- Included in 21 Best U.S. Towns for Baby Boomers’ Active Retirement – bestboomertowns.com
- 11 of 20 Best Places to Retire – Black Enterprise magazine, October 2008
- 7 of Top 10 Best Midsize Cities for Doing Business – Inc.com, July 2008
- 46 of 200 Best Performing Large Cities, 2nd Biggest Single-Year Gainer – Milken Institute, September 2008
- 2 of the Top 25 Small-City Art Destinations for 2008 – American Style magazine, June Issue 2008
- 26 of 200 Large Metros Best Places for Business & Careers – Forbes, March 2008
- 41 of 100 Best Places to Live and Launch – CNN Money.com, March 2008
- 5-Star Business Opportunity – Metro Expansion Management, August 2007
- Best Southern Town – Outside magazine’s August edition 2007
- 7 of Top U.S. Cities to live – Frommer’s Cities Ranked & Rated 2nd Edition, May 2007
- 23 of 200 Large Metros Best Places for Business & Careers – Forbes, April 2007
- 1 of the top 100 places to live in 2007 Relocate – America, April 2007
- 2 of Top 10 easy spring weekend getaways – MSNBC, April 2007
- 3 of the Top 10 up-and-coming travel destinations – VirtualTourist, Spring 2007
- 1 of 10 America’s Best Eco-Neighborhoods – Natural Home, January/February 2007
Attractions in & around Asheville, NC
Attraction-rich is perhaps the most apt, certainly the most succinct, way to describe this mountain town. Asheville lies at a unique crossroads that has borne witness to some of the most stunning events of human and geological history. Its unparalleled beauty and temperate climate captured the hearts of such powerful men as George Washington Vanderbilt II and E.W. Grove, ultimately leading to the construction of era-defining architectural attractions such as the Biltmore Estate, the Grove Arcade, and the iconic city hall made famous for its unique art deco design. Although the city of Asheville has only been around for a relatively brief time, it has garnered a remarkable reputation as a cultural epicenter for its museums, historic monuments, science centers and more!
The Biltmore Estate – The Biltmore Estate is the realization of George Washington Vanderbilt’s bold and enduring vision to create an estate both sustainable and beneficial to its surrounding community. As America’s largest private home, the estate now encompasses acres of gardens, park lands, and managed forests… read more about the Biltmore Estate & House.
Pack Place – The Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre, The Health Adventure, and the YMI Cultural Center all call Pack Place home. Only in Asheville can one find such a diverse mix of culture. Arts, theater, dance, African American heritage, and Geology are all things that define our world… read more about Pack Place.
Discover Cherokee – Few places in this world demonstrate the richness of culture, depth of history, and natural beauty of Cherokee, North Carolina. Part of the Qualla Reservation, Cherokee is home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and has become an epicenter of cultural activity as the tribe works to… read more about Cherokee, NC
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville – In its mission to study and preserve local ecology, The Botanical Gardens at Asheville have, after many years of patience and hard work, cultivated a lasting testament to the beauty and diversity of plant life in Western North Carolina. Since its establishment in 1961, the Botanical Gardens have … read more about Asheville’s Botanical Gardens
The North Carolina Arboretum – The Conservation of the the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains was given a great boon in 1986 with the establishment of The North Carolina Arboretum. A long time in the making, this refuge for the thousands of plant species… read more about The NC Arboretum
Of course, man’s tenure in these Blue Ridge Mountains has been brief indeed, compared to that of the region’s majestic natural attractions that took the forces of eruption and erosion billions of years to sculpt. After all, it took the miraculous Chimney Rock formation to capture the mind of Lucius B. Morse (the mastermind behind Chimney Rock Park and Lake Lure). It took the gracefully rolling beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains to capture the imagination of G.W. Vanderbilt. It might well be said that Asheville’s many cultural attractions would never have existed, were it not for the inspiration of the resplendent natural beauty that surrounds the city on every side.
Fortunately for all of us, Western North Carolina’s natural beauty has been preserved in the form of national parks, state forests, and wildlife sanctuaries; creating limitless possibilities for experiencing the geological and organic wonders around Asheville. The mammoth Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the waterfall-laden Pisgah National Forest, and the tranquil Lake Lure are just a few of Western North Carolina’s praiseworthy natural attractions.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Easily the biggest natural attraction in the Southeast, or for that matter the United States, The Great Smoky Mountains national park is known to all of us. Because of the Park’s sheer size, its incredible variety of terrain, and its devastating beauty, this national treasure plays host to over 9 million… read more about the Great Smoky Mountains Park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway – The enduring dream of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a tribute both to the immeasurable beauty of nature and the great perseverance of the American people. Over 52 years in the making, the Parkway attracts over 18 million visitors annually who come for the stunning natural attractions, diverse cultural centers, and the pristine, unhurried drives. Stretching 469 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountain Chain, land on both sides is protected and maintained by the United States Forestry Service… find out more about the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The French Broad River – In modern times the French Broad River is fondly known as a premiere recreation spot with thriving wildlife and unforgettable scenery. The free-flowing river has delighted many outdoors lovers for generations, providing the perfect location for rafting, canoing… find out more about the French Broad River.
Lake Lure – A mountain lake is one of our world’s most idyllic settings. Lake Lure’s crystal clear waters rest almost 1000 above sea level, almost always under stunning blue skies, and in between the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. Breathtaking vistas are to be had in every direction and yet Lake Lure offers so much more… read more about Lake Lure, NC.
WNC Swimming Holes – WNC’s landscape is dotted with a multitude of beautiful swimming holes were you can beat the summer heat. There’s so many to choose from that we’ve created this guide so you can easily find the swimming holes that suit you best… see our Swimming Hole Guide
WNC Waterfalls – Western North Carolina’s abundant waterfalls are part of what makes this one of the most beautiful regions in the world. From the subtle beauty of a 20 foot waterfall and its quiet pool to the majesty of the 411 foot Whitewater Falls, these natural formations of rock and water have captured the imaginations of visitors for generations. Read on to explore WNC’s Waterfalls
The Cradle of Forestry in America – Nestled in the beautiful Pisgah National Forest, the 6,500 acre Cradle of Forestry is a National Historic Site charged with preserving the history of forest management. Through classes, movies, and interactive exhibits at the Forestry Discovery Center as well as a variety of trails… read more about The Cradle of Forestry