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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

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Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
Sue Diehl shared their event on Facebook
Feb 8
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

TWO NEW APPALACHIAN NOVELS

I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Main Show

The Main Show: a story-poem stage presentation(part of  Living Poem)Program Notes (A program note reader comes out to read from the program notes.) Reader: Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our minds,…See More
Jan 26
Don Talley posted a discussion

Hollywood Pictures Inc in Fairview

In the 1920's it seemed the whole country was caught up in excitement about films and Hollywood.    Asheville and Western North Carolina were well aware of the hoopla of Hollywood.   In fact, Hollywood (or at least filmmaking) was already beginning to come to Western NC.I recently stumble across an article from the Jun 6 1926 issue of The Asheville Citizen Times which mentions that Hollywood Pictures Inc, was planning to film just south of Asheville, near Fairview.  But....was this really…See More
Jan 23
Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Jan 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Intermission

IntermissionHear audio by clicking mp3 attachment!(Part of poem, "Coalescence") I thought I might take a break at this point to look around,Now that I’m in the business of making things resound.It’s so nice to have the luxury of being carefree. If you stop and sit back and try to take in everything,It stuns you and you can’t focus on anythingUntil something crops up, and what…See More
Jan 16
Joan Henehan replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Coalescence
"It's an odyssey..."
Jan 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Coalescence

The Main Show: A Story Poem Cycle(formerly, Coalescence) (part of  Living Poem)The Main Show  Program Notes (A program note reader comes out to read from the program notes.) Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and…See More
Dec 11, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Sultan's Dream

The Sultan’s Dream (Part of Living Poem) When it comes to walking, the jig’s up.No more fit lad sitting at the pub.No more flim-flam smiling with a limp. See how the legs totter and the torso leans.Do you know what a lame sultan dreams?Of reclining on a divan wearing pantaloons, Comparing his plight to a mountaineer’sNegotiating an icy bluff in a fierce wind,And then lounging in a tent to unwind. Which…See More
Nov 15, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Tale of Ononis

The Tale of Ononis by Rob Neufeld Part 1: The Making of a Celebrity ❧  Hare Begins His Tale  Ononis was my region’s name.People now call it Never-the-same.I’ll start with the day a delivery came. The package I got was a devil’s dare,Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hairAnd bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!” Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyesUntil fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.   ❧  Hare’s Colleagues  I asked my boss,…See More
Nov 9, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Drop Your Troubles: A Solo Storytelling Performance with Connie Regan-Blake at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

December 1, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join this internationally renowned storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she transforms a packed theater into an intimate circle of friends with old-timey charm, wisdom, and humor. We’ll also welcome the Singer of  Stories, Donna Marie Todd, who will perform her original story, “The Amazing Zicafoose Sisters.” Connie’s last two shows at BMCA have sold…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” The event will be hosted by the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, just a short drive from Asheville nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding the area. Call the Center for advance tickets (828) 669-0930 or order…See More
Oct 28, 2018

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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