The night before I had looked at the weather forecast for Asheville and was disappointed to see that it was supposed to be possible rain Monday, rain basically all day Tuesday and sunny Wednesday. But off I went and though it rained almost the whole time I was driving it was pretty much done once I got there so I was able to start my exploring right away. And, it didn't rain at all Tuesday until Tuesday night which was very thoughtful of the powers that be I thought. And Wednesday was gorgeous sun although very windy.
I, of course, took many pictures. Since the weather was so cooperative I was able to complete the self-guided "Urban Trail" over Tuesday and Wednesday. There's a little map that routes you throughout the downtown to find bronze sculptures, plaques, etc., that mark some notable building, event, or what have you. There are 30 of them and with the meandering streets of Asheville, it became a real challenge to find them all. I kept losing myself and spent a lot of time backtracking, etc. But it was fun and I certainly had a good look at what Asheville has to offer which is a lot of wonderful local shopping and eating.
The first set of pictures are of the Basilica of St. Lawrence which is not on the trail but is interesting. It is made entirely of "tiles and other masonry elements without the use of wood or steel" which I found pretty amazing. The dome is considered the largest free-standing elliptical dome in North America, measuring 82 x 58 feet! The architect and builder was Rafael Guastavino and after presenting his design in 1905, work commenced and it was completed in 1909. My little guide says his work can be found in over 1,000 buildings in the US including Grant's Tomb, Grand Central Station, Carnegie Hall, and the list goes on.
Sorry about the cars - I take what I can get...
So that was a good start. Now for the Urban Trail. The Basilica is right at the edge of the downtown area, so I found one of the downtown parking lots and got started.
I took a break from searching the trail to visit the Grove Arcade (Edwin Grove was responsible for a LOT of building done in Asheville back in the first quarter of the 20th century). On my previous visit I took a quick look inside this gorgeous building and it's what inspired me to look up living in downtown Asheville. It doesn't look like too much from outside - just a big building but the first floor has these skylights and is full of shops and eateries and the second floor is full of businesses. There are apartments on the third and fourth floor but way beyond my means. :) I poked around in a few of the shops and saw some really beautiful handcrafted things made by local artisans - wood, glass, jewelry, gourd art, textiles, you name it - it's there.
And the little picture below of the five "cubbyholes" I'm thinking maybe used to be a bank of telephone booths. If so, I think it's neat that they didn't just rip them out when they decided to do away with the phones.
Next is #13 on the trail, one of my favorites. I couldn't find #12 and searched diligently because it was titled "Guastavino's Monument" and was commemorating his design and building of the Basilica. But #13 is delightful and is titled "Appalachian Stage" with the musicians and dancers and a violin resting on a bit of quilt. The first Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was held in 1927 and it has continued annually ever since then.
That ended my trail blazing for the day and I just wandered about for a while longer. I'm sorry to report that I had a disappointing lunch which actually left me feeling kind of half sick so late in the afternoon or early evening I headed back to the motel and just sort of collapsed. I hadn't slept well the night before I left and I did all this trailblazing after a 5 hour drive to Asheville so I was happy with my progress. I came across this building on my way back to the garage and liked the Art Deco-ishness of it. Didn't notice even when taking the picture that it was an old S&W Cafeteria at one time. I recognize that name but don't know why...
And now I'm going to go ahead and post this before it gets any longer and tackle Wednesday tomorrow.