A Little Bit of Soul

Everyone knows that Asheville has some sort of special “it” quality.  There’s something to the food, the music, the climate, the architecture, and the people.  There’s just a soul present that many other cities simply cannot contend with.  Asheville has held onto a quality many cities have lost in sky-scrapers, public transportation systems, and technology.  It’s funny really, because this apparition, this spirit, draws artists, celebrities, and intellectuals as strongly as a magnet lures metal.  I set out to discover why.

I started researching my city a couple years ago, which prompted me to tour my own city through La Zoom Tours. After the research and the tours, I chocked up the town’s charisma to a couple different things: it’s birth, and it’s death. In the late 1700s Asheville was nothing but a convenient patch of dirt, sitting in a valley at the crossroads of a Cherokee trading route.  They say real estate is all about location, location, location.  This meeting place of sorts just happened to have a nice river running through it, and some trails elevated low enough for the horses to hoof it without falling sideways off a cliff.  The white settlers came in, realized its potential, and noticed it wasn’t hard to look at either.  We all know how the rest of that story went…luckily the hills kept their secrets and preserved a lot of that early heritage with folk art, and a respect for nature unparalleled in much of our country.

The death of Asheville was as important as the birth.  What death?  Some may be wondering how they missed the memo.  Asheville became a huge part of the jazz age, and one of the major hubs of the 20s scene.  It’s this flashy era that Asheville can trace some it’s progressive roots.  The city became a regular stomping ground for the Fitzgeralds and their cronies (I think Hemingway actually made it Beer City U.S.A. back then).  That on top of Thomas Wolfe hailing from here, the city was a literary hot spot.  Intellectuals and writers had now entered the scene.  The ingredients that make Asheville were in the pot and boiling.  People were building new buildings next to the old, rubbing elbows with Vanderbilts, and mixing deep southern culture with new ideas, causing ignition.  It was a city of steam, and it was smoldering from the inside out.

Sadly, Asheville couldn’t hide from the stock market crash in ’29.  Asheville had the most debt per capita of any city in America.  There was no money left, and the charming streets once filled with trolleys, bootlegged liquor, and new money had no more hustle and bustle.  Blood stains from self-inflicted wounds sadly decorated the walls of too many banks, and too many bedroom walls in the upscale Montford neighborhood.  For the next 50 years much of the city looked like a ghost town, a shell of what once was.  The city had died.

Now for the triumphant part.  Here in Asheville, we believe in ghosts.  We believe that the soul of the city that hosted so much life would not go gently into the night.  A city that produced singers like Roberta Flack, war heroes like Kiffin Rockwell,and awe inspiring evangelists like Billy Graham would not simply succumb to becoming a “once upon a time”.  This was a city with too much presence.  People started pouring in, enamored with what was left behind. The city was like a beautiful, intricate bees nest preserved by time, built in a season that thrived.  However, those bees work was done, and they had laid down their duties.  They became Zelda Fitzgeralds dying in fires on a knoll in Montford, or artists knowing moonshine all to well, or angels knowing they could never go home again.  They didn’t thrive, but instead left legacies in the form of art deco buildings, great literary works, soulful music, and museums.  We were left untouched French gothic buildings, art deco masterpieces (one of the greatest collections in the nation), and the largest privately owned home in America; ours to tour.  Why?  We couldn’t afford anything else, so we held onto that abandoned space and filled it with art, breathing sweet honeysuckle scented life back into its spirit, and gave birth to this town once again.  If you ask me, this Mecca of art and humanity should be one any bucket list in the world.

I got more acquainted with this when I toured my own city on a La Zoom tour, and feel I’ve truly tasted it now.  La Zoom is a comedic tour featuring all the hot spots I mentioned.  Tours run daily, and meet on Biltmore Avenue right outside the French Broad Food Co-op (which is a great place to buy your local beer to take on the tour)!  After this tour you’ll have a lengthy list of places to visit time and time again.  Bring a change of pants though, in case your pee yourself laughing! 


My husband and I having a great time!


ph2          ph1


Post by:  Lorna Hollifield

http://www.lornahollifield.com Click here for more on aspiring author, Lorna Hollifield!



Asheville offers unique musical heritage

A couple weeks ago I happened across one of Asheville’s little treasures. After twenty years this town continues to impress me. I attended a meet and greet hosted at the Biltmore Estates newest attraction called Antler Hill. While roaming around to see the features of the Hill I heard the distinctive ringing of a Blacksmiths Anvil, but there was clearly a musical quality to what I was hearing. the. The Biltmore Estate still maintains an full time Blacksmith by the name of Doc Cudd. Doc is a very personable man who loves to tell the rich history and proud heritage of the Anvil. Much more than just a blacksmiths tool, but also a communication devise used by the tradesmen and is classified as an instrument that has been featured in Symphony, Opera, movie scores and more. Doc, as I discovered is one of only 5 anvil masters in the United States. Below is a video recorded during my visit of Doc explaining a little about the history of the anvil and doing his thing.

Love this town! Don’t you?

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Antiquing Gone South

They call it “The Barn” optimistically. A real barn would be more inviting.

The first entry for our blog Don’t Even Go There (www.dont-even-go-there.blogspot.com) is a tale from our town: Asheville, NC (aka “The Happiest Place on Earth”). Judge for yourself. —Mark Bloom & Jason Scholder

Before we begin this story, remember that times change, as do memories. What was once true may no longer be and visa versa. Keep that in mind as you read . . . all our stories.


To find antique bargains, people travel to out-of-the-way places with historic pasts—places like Marblehead, Massachusetts, or Solvang, California. Asheville, North Carolina, is another choice spot. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a haven for outdoors enthusiasts. Home to the Biltmore Estate and the Grove Park Inn and Spa, the city also boasts a thriving arts scene, the South’s most impressive art deco architecture, and colorful local characters, such as “trustafarians” (trust-funded street people).

If you’re antiquing, you can do quite well there. Many stores offer authentic artifacts from the past, everything from candlesticks to claw-foot tubs. You can also find some kitschy fun, like plastic plates from the ’60s and a complete collection of Dale Earnhardt cups. Downtown has so many antique and second-hand shops, you can’t whip out a credit card wit hout hitting one.

Despite the plethora of choices, though, one place gets voted “Best of” more often than the rest. This place also has, in our opinion—from one ill-fated, wrong-turn visit a number of years ago—the most oppressive shopping experience of them all. The infamous Antique Tobacco Barn is a musty metal garage-like structure, larger than bowling alley but with less charm. Its aluminum facade inhibits breezes, thieves, and apparently, good taste. The environment is uncomfortably humid in the summer and seasonably uninhabitable the rest of the year.

During our visit, the items for sale inside were arranged chronologically, from oldest to ugliest. Some of the wares seemed too new to be considered antique. The rest were slowly disintegrating. The Tobacco Barn might be more accurately named “Garage Sale Outle t Center.” The merchants evidently believed that any old, dilapidated, or aesthetically irrelevant item must be an antique. Was there a really market for an original oil painting of plastic tulips on a Formica kitchen table? Perhaps it didn’t sell during the artist’s lifetime for good reason.

Like an Ikea store’s winding layout, the Barn’s entrance was easier to find than its exit. Once you wandered inside—through the narrow rows of “what was I thinking?”—you might feel compelled to keep going, believing that the night table you’ve always wanted waited for you just around the next bend. Don’t get us wrong; you might find a treasure there, especially if you’re looking for something … unusual, but the chances will seem to decrease with every turn you take.

Eventually, you’ll admit that the pounding in your chest is not love for the perfect affectation to place on your mantel. The quickening of your pulse, you’ll suddenly realize, isn’t joy at all. It’s fear! Fear that some of this bad taste will rub off on you. Fear that something heavy will fall on you, preventing your escape. Fear that asking for directions from the toothless “connoisseur” a pproaching you will lead to an unwanted conversation involving spare change. (He doesn’t need coins for the restrooms—they are free and worth every penny.)

When you emerge from the Barn at last, having wasted countless hours (but hopefully nothing more expensive than that), you will find yourself asking your partner questions that thousands of others have asked before you:

“Do you need a drink as much as I do?”

“When did I become someone who likes antiques?”

“Why do I feel like I should take a shower?”

Lessons Learned: Like cigarettes, the Tobacco Barn left a bad taste in our mouths. In the past, our government fought the tobacco companies and won. Someone should tackle the Antique Tobacco Barn next. Only then will the country be safe from the perils of antiquing gone south.

How We Saw It:
Blight-Seeing: 4
Communication Breakdown: 2
Customer Dis-service: 3
Discomfort Level: 3
Grunge Factor: 3
Inactivity Guide: 4
Rent-Attainment: 2
Spontaneous Consumption: 5
Fun Fraction: 2/5
Vibe-Rating: 1

If You Won’t Listen to Us:
Nearest Airport: Asheville Regional Airport
Native Population: 75,000
Normal Attractions: The Biltmore Estate, the=2 0Grove Park Inn & Resort, downtown, the thriving arts scene, the outdoor activities, and antiquing (unfortunately).
Final Point of Interest: Bele Chere, a huge outdoor arts/music festival that happens every July, draws 300,000 people including some billies from the surrounding hills.

Mark Bloom & Jason Scholder (Asheville North Carolina)
writers / editors / bloggers
“You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll stay home more often.”

Second Bloom! Flowers on the Move… in Asheville

The flowers in this arrangement will not always be here at the Grand Stairs at Biltmore Estate. The ones that still look good once this is taken apart will have a new home. A new program started by two women wanting to brighten the day in nursing homes for lonely people. They came to us at Biltmore Estate and asked us to donate our old flowers which still look pretty good. It is a form of recycling and a very cool concept. Instead of us taking the flowers home, we jumped at the opportunity to give them to someone who would get more joy out of them. These two women have great hearts and I am so grateful to God for putting this on their hearts. To many it may seem such a small gesture, but to the 88 year old woman who can’t get out of bed it means everything to her. I applaud these women.
If you know anyone who has old flowers and would like to donate or help these women in some way, I urge you to contact them and find out what you can do. Today, we sent them with six buckets of flowers and greenery. What an amazing way to serve the Lord. Make His children smile in their loneliness, their pain, their suffering.
Have a most blessed evening!