It was cold out today and tiny little snowflakes flurried around as I sat next to the fire and thought about Spring in Asheville NC. So it was fun to read in our local newsletter about some of the changes and improvements coming to the neighborhood of our Montford Bed and Breakfast. After reading about them, I decided to brave the cold and go out to take a few pictures to illustrate the stories for you. The pictures show things as they are now so you will have to use your imagination to see how nice it will be in Spring and Summer.
Guests at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast who take advantage of our special relationship with the Montford Park Players, North Carolina’s oldest Outdoor Shakespearean Theater Company, may have remarked on the Pentecostal Tabernacle as they walked to the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater. It’s not very much of building with a plain, windowless siding front which masks a 1907 wooden structure. But it hides an unusual history and has recently been bought by Hans Doellgast of Jade Mountain Builders and Michael McDonough, a local architect.
We know that the building is at least 100 years old as it shows up on a Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Map of Asheville from 1907. It is not possible to find what its function was at that time but, according to the website Groceteria.com, by 1930 it was a Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store. In previous posts about the Montford Historic District I have explained how this neighborhood was residential and there were at that time many small stores to which residents were able to walk for their shopping. It became a church in 1972 and remained so until declining membership and maintenance costs lead to its recent sale. I am so excited because the new owners plan to remove the siding, restore the building and return it to it original use as a neighborhood business. Not only is this consistent with Asheville’s respect for its past but it also will help to strengthen our neighborhood.
There’s another improvement in the offing which has been a long time coming. Less than a mile from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast are the Asheville Botanical Gardens as well as the campus of the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Guests who wish to walk there begin their walk with a pleasant stroll down The Reed Creek Greenway which runs adjacent to the busy Broadway Avenue and next to the small, bubbling Reed Creek.
When we first arrived in Asheville in 2009, this Greenway was a single short block long between Cauble Street and Catawba Street. The Greenway was built on land which from 1945-1966 housed S.B. Penwick & Co. More than 3000 growers and gathers of herbs and botanicals in the Western North Carolina Mountains would bring their products to the company to be shipped throughout the world. Golden Rod leaves, Witch Hazel, Wild Southern Ginseng, Hickory Bark and Lobelia are just of few of the more than 900 plants processed here. Indeed, S. B. Penwick& Co was the world’s largest dealer of crude botanical drugs in the world. But their success lead to their downfall. According to the
company’s website, it were bought by a large multinational conglomerate and split into a number of smaller units. In Asheville, the movement of the labor force into manufacturing lead to a decrease in supply and the closing of the company. The land was sold to the City of Asheville for $10 with the intention of making it into a park. It was not until the 1990’s when Broadway Avenue was widened into a four lane Avenue that the first leg of the Greenway was created. A lone brick chimney is testament to the homes and businesses which were moved and eliminated in the process.
In September of 2012, two more sections of the Greenway were opened, linking the Cauble Street entrance to Magnolia Street. But a key segment was still in limbo. The land between Catawba and W.T. Weaver Boulevard and the entrance to the Botanical Gardens had been bought by a developer during the boom years just before the Real Estate Crash of 2007. As so often happens in these cases, the cleared land lay vacant behind a chain link fence idle and uncared-for until members of the Montford Neighborhood Association joined together with students and Administrators of the University including the UNC Asheville Foundation, the City of Asheville, and Riverlink to force the finishing of the Greenway.
At this writing, the land has been secured and permits are in place. All that remains is financing. I am proud that our neighborhood has joined with the students to raise $14,500 of the $60,000 needed for the project. In addition the student have voted to pay a $10 transportation fee during the next school year which will raise an additional $34,000. A grant request has been submitted to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation and if all goes well by this time next year you will be able to walk through a green park land from here all the way to Merrimon Avenue!