This last weekend took us to the foothills of the mountains of North Carolina. We spent a few hours in downtown Asheville taking what has come to be known as the ‘Urban Trail’. This trail takes visitors along through the streets of the artsy, eclectic area of downtown with a lot of interesting shops and delicious food.
Asheville’s Urban Trail really gives visitors a great look at the incredible art and architecture that has made this city what it is. I probably could have spent the whole day just wandering through the different shops and seeing the beautiful things that people have created. I particularly loved a shop with windows full of colorful stars.
We reached the main business part of downtown, Pack Square Park, where a green area sits in front of the government buildings. The area was full of people and pets out enjoying the warm weather and blue skies.
One of the most popular places to eat around the area is right off the park at Pack’s Tavern. The place is tough to miss with the old yellow truck sitting outside with a giant barrel in the back of it. With live music streaming from within and the smells of food wafting through the air, it was a very inviting place for lunch.
The Urban Trail includes a lot of architectural landmarks and as we got closer to the government buildings I started to see why architecture is so featured here. The columned walkway leading to the stage was beautiful. And the buildings themselves were so interesting.
At first the County Court House looked stark and imposing, until you see the green around the windows that give it a much warmer feel. And if you can catch them in the right light you can see the mountains reflected in the windows.
Next to the County Court House is the City Building. I loved the purple and green top of the building and the slanted windows along the top floor. The design seemed very art deco and was so interesting to see. Just these two buildings really show the diverse architectural styles that have gone into the city.
Next to the square is the veteran’s war memorial showing a woman facing the pillars of the different military branches. Hand knitted scarves were draped around the memorial. The local knitting store had invited the veterans in the area to join them for a ‘knit-in’ event with their families. The veterans brought their families and learned to knit and then placed some of the scarves at the memorial to honor those who had served. They also donated hundreds of the scarves to charity organizations around the city.
One of Asheville’s claims to fame is being home to American author Thomas Wolfe who wrote about his hometown and the people he knew growing up here in the early 20th century. He is considered the first autobiographical fiction writer combining autobiography with poetry of prose. His most acclaimed work was his book ‘Look Homeward Angel’. Wolfe was credited by William Faulkner as being the greatest talent of their generation. Visitors can stand in his footsteps and see the city as he would have seen it.
A little further down the street we came to the Woodfin House replica set right into the ground by the sidewalk. This replica shows a house that use to stand across the street that was built in 1840 by a prominent lawyer and farmer Nicholas Woodfin. This house stood for 130 years and served as a residence, then a tuberolis clinc, and finally was the center for the YMCA organization. Though the house is no longer there, visitors can see what it use to look like from this replica. It was such an artistic nod to such a beautiful house to have it set into the sidewalk.
Next we came to the First Baptist Church with colorful tiles adorning the roof. This church was built in 1925 and later added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Also included on the National Register of Historic Places is the Basilica of St. Lawrence. The basilica was built in 1905 and then later elevated to be a minor basilica by Pope John Paul III. I would say of all the architectural gems of the city, this one was my favorite. I loved the shape of the windows and the detailed reliefs and statues that adorn the building.
But not only are there large scale architectural wonders to find in the city, but also small works of architecture as well. Along the street could be found an entire neighborhood of small doors along the sidewalk. You could tell each door had been painstakingly created and carefully displayed.
If you look closely there are figures or pictures in the windows of the little houses. Asheville keeps you looking up at the buildings while at the same time reminds you to look down and notice the smaller works of art as well.
Asheville was a beautiful city that kept surprising me with hidden treasures. It was such a fun walk through downtown and seeing all the interesting things that are tucked away waiting to be found.
For some other wonderfully surprising cities, consider these places:
Thanks for coming along on a walk through Asheville on the Urban Trail. There is so much more to discover in this city and I can’t wait till the next time and what I will find then.