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The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History. Last reply by Scott Dockery Feb 16.

The history of Oakley

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History May 13, 2016.

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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 10, 2017 from 12pm to 2:30pm
Author Vicki Lane, who is working on her seventh novel, will be the guest speaker at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in Gaither Fellowship Hall.  Reservations: 669-8012 Ext. 3502Open to the Public.See More
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Rose Senehi will read from her new novel: CAROLINA BELLE at MALAPROPS BOOKS & CAFE

May 3, 2017 from 7pm to 8:30pm
Belle McKenzie is obsessed with finding the best apple anyone ever bit into and determined to rekindle the love this obsession has nearly destroyed.        Woven throughout Carolina Belle is the fascinating history of Henderson County, North Carolina’s, apple orchards that endlessly unfold on the county’s horizons and still bear the same names as the early settlers to the area. Senehi, known for her historically accurate novels, sprinkles the book with stories of the development of the Southern…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Becky Stone Presents Maya Angelou

Chautauqua Alive! Becky Stone Presents Maya AngelouWednesday, May 24 at 6:30pmPack Memorial Library67 Haywood Street250-4700The Buncombe Chautauqua Committee and Pack Memorial Library will present a pre-Chautauqua special event in Lord Auditorium at Pack Memorial Library at 6:30 Pm on May 24.  Renowned storyteller Becky Stone will present “Becoming Maya Angelou.”   Ms. Stone will be appearing as Maya Angelou in the opening program of the annual Chautauqua series that begins June 19.  On May 24,…See More
Apr 19
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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Prize-winning YA author Sedgwick at Literacy fundraiser

Fundraiser for Literacy Council & Book Launch Marcus Sedgwick Tuesday April 25th 5:30-7:30 p.m., Twisted Laurel, downtown Asheville, 130 College Street COST: $45 per person (ticket includes hardcover book, food, and non-alcoholic beverage) All proceeds go to Literacy Council from press release Marcus Sedgwick, author of Saint Death Spellbound Children's Bookshop, Asheville's locally owned independent bookstore for kids and teens, presents a special event with one of the most critically…See More
Apr 17
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Dellinger Mill--sacred place east of Bakersville

A Mitchell County gristmill sifts through 150 yearsby Rob Neufeld PHOTO CAPTION: Book cover, “Dellinger Grist Mill on Cane Creek” by Jack Dellinger.             In 1861, when Bakersville got a post office, locals changed the town name from Bakersville to Davis, after Jefferson Davis, President of the…See More
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Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Al Young at Table Rock Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

April 6, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by past California Poet Laureate Al Young in Appalachian State's Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series. The reading will be preceded by a craft talk titled "No Poem, No Home" from 2-3:15 the same day.Both are in ASU's Plemmons Student Union. Free admission; books will be available for sale and signing. See More
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Citizen science author in Asheville April 6

Eco author in Asheville April 6 Citizen science can foster earth-saving policies Journalist Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction, speaks at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 7 p.m., Thursday, April 6 in conversation with Mallory McDuff, Warren Wilson…See More
Mar 23
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Appalachian Authors Book Signing and Reading at Historic Carson House

April 8, 2017 from 10am to 3pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author and reader at the Appalachian Authors  Book Signing and Reading to be held at the Historic Carson House on Saturday, April 8 from 10-3. She will debut her new poetry collection A Part of Me. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.See More
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2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
Mar 22
Gary Carden updated their profile
Mar 22

Tourism’s booming and looming presence over time

by Rob Neufeld

 

PHOTO CAPTION: Bus tours were a focus of tourism funding in Asheville.  From 1950-1968, White Transportation, whose vehicle and driver are pictured here, provided the city its transportation services.  Citizen-Times file photo.

            July 21, 1983 is a historic date.  That’s when the N.C. General Assembly first allowed Buncombe County to collect a hotel occupancy tax, create a tourism development authority and use the money to advertise regional tourism.

            Pigeon Forge was cited as the shining example of municipal self-promotion.

            The page in the Citizen-Times that reported the legislative go-ahead also featured an article about the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild’s 36th annual fair in the Civic Center; and a column by Bob Terrell that conveyed the dismay of Vanderbilt Apartments residents over the cigarette butts, smashed paper cups and crumpled bags that littered the sidewalk in front of the vacant Ivey's store, formerly the 1920s Bon Marche building.

            The Vanderbilt Apartments for the elderly—a government-funded project—had once been the George Vanderbilt Hotel, a 1920s showpiece built by Citizens Hotel Corporation to match Edwin Wiley's Grove's nearby Battery Park Hotel.  The Vanderbilt had been stripped of its façade in 1969 to meet federal standards for un-showiness.  Then, in 1999, Public Interest Projects restored some of the decoration while engaged in also stabilizing the crumbling exterior.

            In its heyday, the hotel had been familiar to F. Scott Fitzgerald when he’d stayed downtown.

            Fitzgerald had enshrined Asheville’s Golden Age when, in his novel, “The Great Gatsby,” he had Nick Carroway, his narrator, spot Jordan Baker and remark, “I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach.”

            Fitzgerald had also acted as a prophet of the Crash when, according to Anthony Buttitta in his memoir, “After the Good Gay Times,” he’d declaimed to Buttitta, “The Boom spawned the Bust…bringing in its wake misery, economic chaos, and a plague on everything spiritual.”

            In the wake of the plunge, Asheville’s Sinking Fund Commission decided, in 1936, to pay off Asheville’s Depression debt over a period of 40 years, for that’s how long Moses had wandered in the desert.

            Thus, the promised land of fruitfulness again became available to Asheville in 1976.  Did the enthusiasm include a study of what had gone wrong in 1930?  Or should such a nagging concern be swept aside because, for investors and planners, there’s only one path to overflowing prosperity in the “Paris of the South,” and it’s not farms and it’s not factories?

            That phrase, “Paris of the South,” oft cited as Asheville’s nickname, is not one I can find in any literature before 1990.  “Land of the Sky,” a more outdoorsy moniker, was the big byword since the 1890s.

            In 1886, a pamphlet had touted the area as “Nature’s Trundle-Bed of Recuperation.”  But then, as the city cleaned up, it viewed disease—namely, tuberculosis—as a deterrent to tourism, and the sanatoria were phased out.

            Asheville’s Board of Trade tried out the slogan, “Where the Snow-Birds Nest” in 1899; and in 1924 the Chamber of Commerce broadened that to “Center of the Beautiful Blue Ridge Playground.”

Mountains were the selling point more than markets.  In 1960, the Asheville Tourist Association invented the phrase, “Gateway to the Smokies” (which, I admit, attracted me).  Even as late as 2000, the Buncombe County Tourism Authority came up with, “Altitude Affects Attitude.”

 

The golden goose

 

            Tim Reid reported in the Citizen-Times on Aug. 26, 2001 that John Winkenwerder, a third-generation Asheville hotel owner, had said that diverting the room tax revenue away from tourism would be “like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

            The tax had just been raised from 3 to 4% (it’s now 6), and City Council members wanted to use some of the money to renovate the Civic Center.   

The idea didn’t fly.  It went against the fundamental idea of the occupancy tax, which hotel owners had at first opposed because, Winkenwerder explained, they feared that “no matter how good a (tax) program you put together, in the long run the political powers will corrupt and ruin” it.

            State Rep. Martin Nesbitt, after a few years of debate, managed to pass the tax authorization by promising hotel owners control over expenditures.

            In its first year, the Tourism Development Authority garnered $59,000 and put chunks of its small pie toward ads for bus tours and conventions sites.  Since then, the revenue has increased 30-fold to $17.5 million.

            As hinted by the Vanderbilt tenants, Asheville had been in bad shape in 1983.  Convention advocates had to promote hotels located outside of downtown.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the Bon Marche building would be converted to Haywood Park Hotel.

             By the 1990s, downtown Asheville began to claim a renaissance, which by 2010 seemed to have few limits.

 

A history of stress

 

            In the 1920s, the stresses of such development were in some ways similar to those of today—escalating property values and an influx of second-home buyers, for instance—and in some ways different.  Saloons, stray dogs, and free-ranging livestock had come under attack a century ago.

            The major stress, as it turned out, had been the stretch of over-investment.  And yet, even after the crash, local visionaries were still putting their chips on tourism with faith in it as an economic savior.

            Plans for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway went forward; and the Biltmore Estate opened to tourists.

            “Any city it was thought, could host industry,” Richard Starnes writes in his 2005 book, “Creating the Land of the Sky,” “but few played host to hundreds of thousands of visitors year after year.”

            Has tourism been given a surer footing in 2017 than in 1925 (that’s when Asheville had increased property taxes to support advertising)?

            Is tourism creating stresses that could become harmful, even to tourism?

            In the 1920s, big industries often provided housing to its workers (with mixed results, admittedly).  How has the tourism industry done that for employees whose wages make it hard for them to get affordable housing?  Might the hotel room tax be put toward housing?

            The projects that the TDA now supports must demonstrate that they will increase hotel stays.  Would a stable and happy workforce, living in good homes near their places of work, benefit hoteliers and visitors?

            Tourism today has put stresses on neighborhoods, which want to maintain their charm; as well as on people wanting to tap into the tourist economy by renting homes and apartments to vacationers.  Are those concerns mutually exclusive?

            Do vacation rentals provide desirable alternatives to hotels, and do they compete with them?

            In the spring of 1937, Asheville native Max Whitson, living in Florida, rented out his Oteen cabin to Thomas Wolfe, who had come home again, at least physically.

            “Tom heard I had a cabin up near Recreation Park and wanted to rent it for the summer,” Whitson recalled in 1971.  “I took him up there and he was delighted with the place.  ‘If I can’t write here,’ he remarked, ‘I can’t write anywhere.’”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler; email him at RNeufeld@charter.net.

 

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