Asheville: Mountain Majesty (An Illustrated History)

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9780914875352: Asheville: Mountain Majesty (An Illustrated History)
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Sometimes called the Paris of the South, Asheville, North Carolina, is known for its grand mountain views, rich and diverse culture, deep-rooted artistic heritage, historic architecture, and the legendary Biltmore Estate. Asheville: Mountain Majesty is an excellent source for discovering, or rediscovering, these and other facets of the city and its history.

A lifelong resident of Asheville and regional historian, author Lou Harshaw offers a firsthand look at the history and development of this magnificent city by drawing upon a host of historical sources as well as an extensive oral tradition. She follows the development of Asheville from village to town to city, always reflecting the feeling of the times. The result is a journey through time, documenting the evolution of one of the most intriguing cities in the United States.

Asheville: Mountain Majesty is enhanced by a wealth of period images, complemented by the author's contemporary photography, illustrating the people and places that make Asheville and Western North Carolina a premiere travel destination.

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About the Author:

A native of Asheville, independent publisher, and former publicity director for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Lou Harshaw has been photographing and writing about the mountains throughout her career. She has also taught classes on Southern Appalachian history and culture at several colleges in Western North Carolina.

As a historian and professional photographer, Harshaw has written numerous books about the Southern Appalachians, always imparting to her narrative a sense of her own involvement and her deep affection for the region.

Review:

"...[A] major contribution to Asheville historiography...[T]he most interesting and comprehensive chronological history of the Asheville area to date...[A] must read for those who want to have a better understanding of the complexity of Asheville's colorful past."

"We welcome this readable, well-illustrated, and extensively indexed book. . . It should prove to be an interesting and valuable resource for both newcomers and longtime residents." --Ann Wright, special collections librarian, Buncombe County Public Libraries

So many people have moved into Asheville and Buncombe County in recent years that a deep hunger has developed for anything written about the area's past, particularly the past 200 years, during which Asheville grew to adulthood as a city that was sometimes called "the Paris of the South."

Old-time residents as well as newcomers seek to read local history written by local authors who know the area and meticulously research its past. As of now, they have to go no farther than their favorite bookstore to find the latest contribution to that era, a magnificent work titled "Asheville: Mountain Majesty," by Lou Harshaw, published locally by Bright Mountain Books, of Fairview.

This book started out to be a textbook for Lou's lectures on local history at Mars Hill College, but it is more than a textbook. It is a most interesting story of the heritage of those of us who were born here. Harshaw has always been a digger into history and has written several previous books on historical subjects.

This one tops them all. It is a massive work. In its pages you'll meet such giants of our past as Zeb Vance, Thomas Wolfe, George Vanderbilt, E.W. Grove, Kiffin and Paul Rockwell, Foster A. Sondley, Augustus A. Merrimon, James W. Patton and dozens of others whose contributions made Asheville the city that it is today, and some of whose names you may recognize by street names in the city.

Included in the book are so many heroes, events and important places of the past that its index covers 15 pages, and the 400 historical photos represent a massive search by writer and publisher, both of whom drew on their own collections of pictures of bygone days. The pictures alone are worth the $29 price of the 358-page work.

One of my favorite characters of yesteryear was Zeb Vance, whose monument stands like a stone needle pointing heavenward from Pack Square. Vance was a politician and a wit of the first order, something akin to Davy Crockett, who was born in the North Carolina mountains beyond the boyhood home of Zeb Vance.

In the book, Harshaw quotes a witticism of Vance's that summed up his strength in political life. He said, "Every man in public office had to possess three characteristics: an organlike voice, a keen wit to counter the shouted comments from the audience and a strong right punch to flatten the opposition."

A brilliant man, Vance raised a Confederate regiment, the Rough and Ready Guards, to fight in the War Between the States but was called home from combat to serve his first term as governor. He put in two more gubernatorial terms afterward and served his state as a U.S. congressman and senator.

Harshaw also tells the story of the first indoor bathroom in a public building in Asheville. Opened in 1880, the Swannanoa Hotel was chosen by George Willis Pack, for whom Pack Square was named, as the place he wanted his family to live. He wanted an indoor bathroom, and to please him, the manager of the hotel turned one of the rooms adjoining the Pack quarters into the city's first bathroom in a public building.

So many people dropped by to watch construction of the bathroom, Harshaw wrote, that they hindered work, and the manager set aside a day for everyone to see the indoor facilities. He made a festive occasion of the event, serving food to the guests and bringing in a band for dancing. "Almost the whole village turned out to parade through the hotel," Harshaw wrote.

--Bob Terrell, columnnist, Asheville Citizen-Times

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