Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Homespun Asheville, 1983


I stumbled upon an old New York Times article about Asheville that brought back some memories. It’s really hard to believe that 24 years have passed since 1983.

The article from October 2, 1983, In Asheville, The Homespun Lingers On (by Cecily Deegan McMillan), reminds us of how much things have changed since then.

For instance:

“Getting There – Piedmont Airlines has direct daily flights to Asheville…”

“Where to Stay – The Flint Street Inn, in the Montford Historic District has four bedrooms and two shared baths. Rates range from $35 to $50; full breakfast included.”

The article highlights several restaurants, including the Market Place, the Grill Room, and the Annex (at 22 Battery Park Avenue). How about this: Sonny Sparacino’s in Lexington Park is a bistro with homemade pasta and sauces from $5.”

McDibbs, in Black Mountain, an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Asheville, draws local artists, crafts students and musicians after dinner. It's an old-style country saloon, one long room where you sit on benches and share tables. Musicians of all kinds perform there most evenings.”

Outsiders have been trying - some in good ways, some in not so good - to use or exploit the beauty of Asheville, N.C., for at least 100 years.”

“There are signs of the people who moved in and their hoped-for Asheville everyplace around the mountainside: Tudor bungalows from the fantasies of one promoter, Victorian cottages from another; Montreat, the sprawling church complex where Billy Graham lives; Black Mountain College, a haven for Bauhaus refugees in the 1930's and 1940's; the Grove Park Inn, built by a patent medicine millionaire and the place where Scott Fitzgerald lived when he came to be near Zelda, then a patient in a sanitarium.”

“Not surprisingly, Asheville has attracted a new and year-round population seeking escape from pollution and oil spills, young people most of them, who like the clean air, the mountains, the clear streams and the waterfalls. They've created a new Asheville of hiking stores, health food cooperatives, antiques shops, a good bookstore, Malaprop's, which has its own cafe, and a restaurant, the Market Place, that ranks with the best in, say, Atlanta. Even the back-to-nature movement has found a place in the area. Mother Earth News has created a 622-acre center for ecological research in its eco-village and holds seminars on bread-making, natural gardening, beekeeping and solar heating.”

The article goes on to describes the 20 or so shops found on Wall Street:

“Not everyone is daring enough to wear a cotton beret, dyed pink, or blue straw shoes, but if you feel you can be tempted, visit Le Montage (18 Wall) where every piece of clothing - undershirts, jumpsuits, socks, shorts, shifts, pants and hats - is dyed by hand in bright colors. More cotton clothing can be found at Le Pont (28 Wall), which also has a showcase full of amusing accessories. The Open Door (22 Wall) has sandals and paisley-print clothes from India - and the sweet smell of burning incense.”

“The crafts scene and the shops are on hand the year round but you'll have to wait until next summer for Shindig - a taste of what folk music was like before it moved to Cambridge and Berkeley. It is a free, open-air event, held every Saturday night in summer on the plaza in front of City Hall, with audiences in everything from bib overalls to deck shoes. Shindig is as loose as the gait and as good as the ear of its organizer, Jackie Ward, an old clogger and autoharp player herself and a native of nearby Boone.”

And a visit to the “new” Farmer’s Market led the writer to conclude:
Asheville may be the only town in the United States where two men will spend the better part of the morning swapping knives, and consider the time well spent.”

And that’s the way it was, Asheville, 1983.

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