Asheville Authors and the Literary Scene

 

“Oh, I remember so well the day I arrived in Mountain City. It was spring of 1937."

                               -- Gail Godwin, A Southern Family

 

In terms of the authors who have lived and worked in the area, a small city such as Asheville doesn’t begin to compare with New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago or other larger and perhaps more exciting cities. Nonetheless, Asheville has been fertile ground for writers. Especially notable writers and sites are highlighted in RED.

 

The “Big Three” in the Asheville area are native son Thomas Wolfe, Jazz Age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent summers here in the 1930s and who lost his love, Zelda Fitzgerald, to a fire at an Asheville psychiatric hospital, and poet and historian Carl Sandburg, who lived the last 22 years of his life on a farm in Flat Rock near Hendersonville.

 

 

Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) was born in Asheville at 92 Woodfin Street. His father carved gravestones, and his mother ran a boarding house at 48 Spruce Street, where Wolfe lived until he went to Chapel Hill to attend the University of North Carolina. At UNC, Wolfe had several plays produced by the Carolina Playmakers and rose to become editor of the Tar Heel, the university’s newspaper, which under his leadership began publishing twice a week. (It is now the Daily Tar Heel.) After finishing at Chapel Hill in 1920, he went to Harvard to study playwriting.

 

After getting a master’s degree at Harvard, Wolfe spent time in Europe and in Brooklyn. He had a five-year love affair with Aline Bernstein, a married woman 18 years his senior who helped support him financially.

 

Wolfe’s first and arguably best novel, Look Homeward, Angel, is autobiographical. Eugene Gant is Wolfe, and scores of the many characters in the novel are thinly disguised real people in Asheville, which in the novel is called Altamont. Later Wolfe called Asheville Libya Hill. Angel was edited by the great Maxwell Perkins who also was the long-time editor of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It was published by Scribner’s just days before the 1929 stock market crash and did not do well commercially in the United States, though it was critically acclaimed and sold well in Europe.

 

Many in Asheville took issue with the book and its author, and Wolfe did not return to Asheville until near his death at age 37. Of the town’s reaction to Wolfe’s first book, Wilma Dykeman wrote, “With the usual perverseness of humanity, the people of Asheville did not seem shocked at much of the deceit and folly and wickedness and waste that Wolfe found – they were shocked only that he exposed it.”

 

The author’s second novel, Of Time and the River, did better commercially. Wolfe’s next, and last, two books, both over 700 pages long, The Web and the Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again, were published posthumously.

 

Wolfe died in Baltimore in 1938 of tuberculosis of the brain. He is buried next to his father, W.O. Wolfe, and mother, Julia Wolfe, at Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery.

 

During his professional lifetime and in the years afterward, Wolfe was – with Hemingway and Faulkner – considered one of the best serious novelists of the century. Some critics put him at the very top of the list. Since then, his reputation has been in decline, and his sprawling books are no longer widely read except in college English classes, but he remains Asheville’s best-known literary figure. The cycle may one day turn again; readers and critics may rediscover Wolfe.

 

Today, you can visit Wolfe landmarks including the boarding house he called “Dixieland” in Look Homeward, Angel, the marble angel of the title at the Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville and his grave at Riverside Cemetery. (See below.) There is a reproduction of the angel on Pack Square in Downtown Asheville.

 

Another Tom Wolfe, the white-suited New York sophisticate, also wrote unflatteringly about Western North Carolina in his 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. His fictional main character is a student at elite Dupont University – said to be a combination of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke and Stanford -- and is from Sparta, N.C., in Alleghany County.

 

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) had a brief but intense relationship with Asheville.

Born in St. Paul, Minn., Fitzgerald was the chronicler of the “Jazz Age” in the 1920s. One academic wrote, “the dominant influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald were aspiration, literature, Princeton, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and alcohol.”

 

Fitzgerald briefly mentioned Asheville in his 1920 short story “The Ice Palace” and in his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, but he didn’t spend time in the city until the summer of 1935, when he visited seeking relief for what probably was tuberculosis. At that time, in the days before antibiotics, Asheville’s climate and elevation were believed to be helpful to victims of the disease. Some biographers, however, believe that he was suffering mainly from overconsumption of demon alcohol.

 

At the height of his career, Fitzgerald earned the equivalent today of $50,000 or more for a single story in the Saturday Evening Post. By the mid-1930s the Roaring 20s were long gone, the country was mired in the Great Depression, Fitzgerald’s novels were seen as relics of the past, and Fitzgerald was an alcoholic.

 

In 1935 Fitzgerald took a room at the Grove Park Inn, spending the summer trying to overcome his alcoholism, drinking beer by the case instead of his usual gin. It was during that summer that Fitzgerald met Tony Buttitta, the owner of a bookstore at the George Vanderbilt Hotel (now Vanderbilt Apartments). Buttitta kept a record of his talks with Fitzgerald, which he published many years later, in 1974, in After the Good Gay Times. A graduate of UNC, Buttitta also had co-founded the much-loved Intimate Bookshop in Chapel Hill, now sadly closed.

 

Of Fitzgerald that summer Buttitta wrote, “He was a physical, emotional, and financial bankrupt. He smoked and drank steadily, but ate very little; he took pills to sleep a few hours, and he could scarcely write what he thought was a decent line. He was a stranger in Asheville....”

 

After staying at the Grove Park Inn, Fitzgerald moved in November 1935 to the Skyland Hotel in Hendersonville (now condominiums) where he began his collection of essays, The Crack-Up.

 

Returning to Asheville in April 1936, Fitzgerald brought his wife Zelda, who was by then deep in mental illness. Fitzgerald installed Zelda at a local psychiatric hospital, Highland Hospital (now closed). Fitzgerald again stayed at the Grove Park Inn, in rooms 441-443. Fitzgerald himself wasn’t all that stable. At one point, he threatened suicide and fired a pistol while at the inn.

 

In July 1937, Fitzgerald left Asheville for good, moving to Hollywood where he lived until his death in 1940. Zelda died in a fire at Highland Hospital in 1948.

 

Fitzgerald’s literary reputation was at its nadir in the 1930s and 40s, but since then it has been rising and rising, eclipsing even that of Faulkner and Hemingway. Two of his novels, The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, and some of his short stories, such as “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” and “The Ice Palace,” are now viewed as among the greatest works of the 20th century.

 

Each year, around the anniversary of Fitzgerald’s birth September 24, the Grove Park Inn holds an F. Scott Fitzgerald Weekend, when you can tour Fitzgerald’s suite with a literary critic. At other times, you can stay in the rooms Fitzgerald occupied, if they are available. Near the inn are luxury condominiums called The Fitzgerald. (See below.)

 

 

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was already famous for his down-to-earth poetry celebrating industrial and agricultural America and for what eventually would become his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, when in 1945 he moved to Connemara, a 264-acre farm in Flat Rock near Hendersonville. There he lived with his wife Paula Steichen Sandburg, brother of the photographer Edward Steichen, until his death.

 

At Connemara, Sandburg continued to write – several volumes of poetry, the novel Remembrance Rock and his autobiography, Always the Young Stranger. About one-third of his published work was completed at the farm.

 

Sandburg’s best-known poem is “Chicago,” published in 1916. In it he famously describes the city where he worked as a newspaper reporter as “Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler, Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders." Children know Sandburg for his Rootabaga Stories. Sandburg won three Pulitzer prizes, two for his poetry and one for his Lincoln biography.

 

In the 2012 PBS documentary, The Day Carl Sandburg Died, filmmaker Paul Bonesteel relates Sandburg’s radical politics and anarchist writing during World War I.

 

The Sandburg home and farm in Flat Rock are now maintained as a National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service. (See below.)

 

 

Black Mountain Poets and Other Black Mountain College Writers

For the first two decades of its all-too-short existence, Black Mountain College was known for its painters and other visual artists who taught or were students there, such as Josef and Anni Albers, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland and M.C. Richards.

 

After World War II and especially in the early 1950s, Black Mountain College was better known for its poets and writers than for painters, musicians and performers. Charles Olson (1910-1970) taught and served as rector at the college from 1951 to 1956.  Olson, who began writing poetry in the early 1940s, is considered a transitional figure between earlier modern poets such as Ezra Pound and the New American Poets such as Elizabeth Bishop and the Beat Poets such as Allen Ginsberg.

 

Olson founded the so-called Black Mountain School of poets. Among his students were poets Robert Creeley (1926-2005), the author of more than 60 books, Fielding Dawson (1930-2002), Jonathan Williams (1929-2008), whose company published several of the Black Mountain Poets, Ed Dorn (1929-1999) and John Joseph Wieners (1934-2002). Olson also influenced many other poets including Denise Levertov and Paul Blackburn.

 

Through a magazine founded by Robert Creeley, Black Mountain Review, which early on published Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Olson and Black Mountain College developed a connection with the Beat poets in San Francisco and with the larger Beat movement in the 1950s.

 

Novelists James Leo Hirlihy (1927-1993), who wrote Midnight Cowboy, and Michael Rumaker (1932-) attended Black Mountain, as did filmmaker Arthur Penn (1922-2010). (See below and also The Arts in Asheville section.)

 

 

Other Notable Writers Who Served Time Here

William Bartram (1739-1823), the famed natural historian, explored Western North Carolina in 1776. His classic work, published in 1791, is Travels in North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, etc. The Bartram Trail, honoring his travels in five Southern states, runs a little over 78 miles in the mountains of North Carolina.

 

Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006), born in Buncombe County, was the author of 18 books including The French Broad, published in 1955 as part of the Holt Rinehart Rivers of America series. The French Broad is a history of the river, which runs from near Brevard to Tennessee, and an oral history of the people who lived along the river.

 

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) stayed in a log cabin at Pine Crest Inn in Tryon on a hunting trip.

 

DuBose Heyward (1885-1940), author of the 1925 novel Porgy, which he and George Gershwin transformed into the opera Porgy and Bess, lived in Charleston, S.C., but had a summer home in Hendersonville. Heyward died in Tryon.

 

Henry James (1843-1916), the American-born realist writer, and his friend, Edith Wharton, (1862-1937) both visited the Vanderbilts at their Biltmore Estate in 1905 (but separately). Neither appeared much taken with Biltmore House, yet both now have suites there named for them.

 

Horace Kephart (1862-1931) is best known for Our Southern Highlanders, his 1913 study of mountain people in what would become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Born in Pennsylvania, he came to Western North Carolina in 1904 and lived in Hazel Creek, Bryson City and Dillsboro. With photographer George Masa, Kephart was instrumental in establishing the national park in the Smokies. He also helped plot the route of the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies. His 1910 book, Camp Cookery, on how to cook game and other food during camping trips, is still in print.

 

Caroline Miller (1903-1992), a Georgia native, lived for several years in Waynesville. Her 1933 novel, Lamb in His Bosom, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

 

John Parris (1914-1999) was one of the great keepers and historians of mountain culture. Born in Sylva, Paris became a foreign correspondent with United Press and the Associated Press. Then, for almost four decades he wrote a daily column in the Asheville Citizen called “Roaming the Mountains.” The columns were prose poems, sometimes sentimental but always engaging, about the mountains and mountain people. Many of the columns were collected into books, including Roaming the Mountains (1955), My Mountains, My People (1957), Mountain Bred (1967), These Storied Mountains (1972) and Mountain Cooking (1978). Sadly, these books are now out of print. They deserve to be republished and cherished by all who love the mountains. John Parris and his wife, Dorothy Luxton Paris, helped launch the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.

 

Walker Percy (1916-1990), who lived in St. Tammany Parish near New Orleans, in the 1970s and 1980s spent part of most summers in Highlands. His novel, The Second Coming (1980), is set in Western North Carolina.

 

William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), wrote short stories with surprise endings under the pen name O. Henry. He married a childhood friend from Weaverville and spent a short time in Asheville near the end of his life, though he found the city too quiet. O. Henry, a heavy drinker who died in New York of complications of alcoholism and diabetes, is buried at Riverside Cemetery (see below) in Asheville. Occasionally, diehard O. Henry fans leave $1.87 on his grave, in memory of the amount of money that features prominently in “The Gift of the Magi,” O. Henry’s best-known story, about a young couple who are short of money but want to buy each other Christmas presents. The avenue that runs between the Asheville Citizen-Times Building and the Grove Arcade was named after O. Henry.

 

Marjorie Rawlings (1896-1953) wrote much of her classic Florida novel, The Yearling, holed up in a cabin at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.  The Yearling won a Pulitzer Prize. She met Scott Fitzgerald in Asheville in 1936.

 

 

Contemporary Writers

Sarah Addison Allen (1971-) grew up in Asheville and was graduated from UNC-Asheville. She is the author of five popular and well-reviewed novels, plus an early romance novel written when she was a teenager under the pen name Cathie Gallagher. Her 2007 debut novel under her own name, Garden Spells, is set in Balsam, N.C., a town that resembles Asheville. Her latest work, Lost Lake, was published in 2014.

 

Cathy Smith Bowers (1949-), a poet who lives in Tryon and has taught at UNC-Asheville, was North Carolina Poet Laureate from 2010 to 2012. She has published four books of poetry, including Like Shining from Shook Foil in 2010.

 

Wayne Caldwell (1948-), who grew up in Enka-Candler, is the author of two of the best novels ever written about mountain life. Cataloochee (2007) and Requiem by Fire (2010) are both mostly set in the Cataloochee Valley before the coming of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cataloochee follows several generations of mountain people from the Civil War to 1928, while Requiem by Fire takes place in the late 1920s when the government begins to remove residents to make way for the park. Caldwell gets the setting, the people and mountain speech exactly right.

 

Canton native and former North Carolina Poet Laureate Fred Chappell (1936-) has written a series of novels, including Look Back All the Green Valley (1999), set in Haywood County. In the novels Canton is called Tipton.

 

Tony Earley (1961-), a short story writer and novelist, was born in San Antonio but grew up in Rutherfordton and graduated from Warren Wilson College. His best-known novel is Jim the Boy, set in the 1930s in a fictional small North Carolina town of Aliceville. He now lives in Nashville and teaches at Vanderbilt.

 

John Ehle (1925-), an Asheville native, has authored 11 novels, most set in Appalachia. A member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, Ehle and his wife have a home in Penland.

 

Asheville-born Charles Frazier (1960-) had a huge success with his 1997 novel, Cold Mountain, which won the National Book Award and was made into a movie in 2003. It was filmed in Romania, however, not in Western North Carolina. Cold Mountain tells the story of a Confederate deserter making his way back to his home in the mountains. To view the real Cold Mountain (elevation 6,015 feet) in the Shining Rock Wilderness section of the Pisgah National Forest, drive to the overlook at Milepost 412 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. An even better view of Cold Mountain is available from the top of Mt. Pisgah. It’s a 3-mile roundtrip hike from the parking area at Milepost 407 of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the top of Pisgah. Frazier’s second novel, Thirteen Moons (2006), also set in Western North Carolina, traces the story of a white man’s involvement with the Cherokee Indians in the early 19th century. His latest novel, Nightwoods (2011), a thriller, is also set in the mountains. Frazier lives in Asheville.

 

Gail Godwin (1937-) was born in Birmingham, Ala., but raised in Asheville. Several of her 11 novels, including A Mother and Two Daughters and A Southern Family have been at least partly set in or near Mountain City, a town that resembles Asheville. Godwin’s most recent novel, Unfinished Desires (2010), is set almost entirely in Mountain City. A tale of the girls and nuns at a local Catholic school for girls, now closed, St. Genevieve's, (which Godwin attended), the story features area landmarks such as the S&W Cafeteria, the Man's Store, the Asheville School and the American Enka plant.

 

Billy Graham (1918-), whose home is in Montreat, has published 30 books on religion and spiritual advice. His wife, Ruth Graham (1920-2007), was author or co-author of 14 books, including volumes of poetry and personal recollections.

 

Jan Karon (1937-), born in Lenoir, retired from advertising and lives in Blowing Rock, the setting (as the mountain town of Mitford) of the nine-book Mitford series, which began with 1994’s At Home in Mitford. Karon also has authored two books in the Father Tim series, several books for children and other books.

 

Novelist Elizabeth Kostova (1964-), best known for her first novel, The Historian, published in 2005, lives in Asheville.

 

Valerie Ann Leff co-founded the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Her wonderfully titled 2005 first novel, Better Homes and Husbands, follows the lives of the residents of a posh New York City co-op building from the 1970s to the present. She now lives in Weston, Mass.

 

Robert Morgan (1944-), born in Hendersonville, is a poet, short-story writer, novelist and historian who teaches at Cornell. Several of his novels, including the best seller Gap Creek, are set in Western North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

 

Heather Newton (1963-) was born in Raleigh. Her first published novel, Under the Mercy Trees, won the 2011 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.  She has finished a collection of related short stories set on the campus of a boarding school in the North Georgia mountains and is working on a new novel that she describes as a women’s friendship story set in Western North Carolina. Newton practices law in Asheville.

 

Asheville poet Glenis Redmond (1963-) is best known for her poetry performances, but she has published a book of her poetry, Backbone.

 

Joshua Warren (1978-) of Asheville has created a writing career out of the paranormal. He penned his first book at age 13 and has since written more than half a dozen books on ghosts in Asheville and elsewhere. He appears in a ghost hunters show, “Paranormal Paparazzi,” on the Travel Channel.

 

Allan Wolf (1963-) is a Connecticut-born poet and writer who lives in Asheville. He authored a notable history of the Lewis and Clark expedition, New Found Land: Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery. Wolf is active in local poetry slams and theatrical poetry.

 

Among mystery writers with an Asheville area connection are Mart Baldwin of Hendersonville, author of A Diary to Die For and other novels; Rick Boyer, who moved to Asheville after doing the Places Rated Almanac, which rated Asheville highly; the author of 11 mystery novels, some under pseudonyms; Lilian Jackson Braun (1913-2011), author of 29 highly popular The Cat Who ... mystery novels featuring newspaper reporter James Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats KoKo and Yum-Yum – Braun for many years lived part of each year in Tryon; Patricia Cornwell (1956-), who spent part of her childhood in Montreat, author of 20 popular mysteries on medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta; Mark de Castrique, born in Hendersonville but now living in Charlotte, author of eight mystery novels set in Western North Carolina, including The Sandburg Connection, about poet Carl Sandburg; Sharyn McCrumb, who has written extensively about the Appalachian mountains, including a retelling of the Tom Dooley ballad; Brenda J. Moody, author of More Than Murder in 2009, based on a true-life murder of three men in 1960s Hendersonville, two of them gay lovers; Ann B. Ross, creator of the spunky, funny Miss Julia series, which now totals 13 novels, lives in Hendersonville (Abbotsville, N.C. in her books); Alexander Skye’s astrologer-sleuth Charlotte McCrae lives in a small North Carolina mountain resort town; Elizabeth Daniels Squires (1926-2001), of Weaverville, granddaughter of Josephus Daniels, founder of the Raleigh News and Observer, is author of series of mysteries set in the Carolina mountains featuring Peaches Dann, a smart, absent-minded, middle-aged woman.

 

For more on the literati of Western North Carolina, read Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains by Georgann Eubanks and Scribblers: Stalking the Authors of Appalachia by Stephen Kirk. For details, see Books in the Resources section.

 

 

LITERARY LANDMARKS

Black Mountain College Lake Eden Campus In 1941, Black Mountain College moved from rented quarters at Blue Ridge Assembly to Lake Eden, which is now a summer camp, Camp Rockmont (375 Lake Eden Rd., 828-686-3885, www.rockmont.com). The college remained there until it closed in 1957. Rockmont now operates as a 550-acre Christian camp for boys from early June to mid-August and at other times rents parts of the camp to organizations and groups. Seek permission in advance to visit the grounds of the private camp. Twice a year, in mid-May and mid-October, the Lake Eden Arts Festival or LEAF (377 Lake Eden Rd., 828-686-8742, www.theleaf.org) stages a weekend music and arts festival on the grounds of Camp Rockmont. Buy tickets in advance, as they usually sell out. You can walk around and see the buildings that remain of the original campus, including the Studies Building, dining hall and two lodge dormitories. The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (see below) occasionally gives tours of the Lake Eden campus of the college.

 

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (56 Broadway St., Asheville, 828-350-8484, www.blackmountaincollege.org; open noon-4 Tues.-Wed., 11-4 Thurs.-Sat., admission fees vary depending on event, exhibition or conference) is dedicated to preserving and continuing the legacy of educational and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College.

 

Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave., 828-252-2711, www.groveparkinn.com) hosted F. Scott Fitzgerald during the summers of 1935 and 1936. Capitalizing on the writer’s fame, the hotel now holds a Fitzgerald weekend annually around the time of Fitzgerald’s birthday, September 24. It’s possible to tour or even stay in the rooms Fitzgerald occupied, rooms 451 and 453, if they are available. Over the years, many other writers have stayed at the Grove Park Inn, including Margaret Mitchell, Alex Haley, George Plimpton, Will Rogers, Pat Conroy, Charles Kuralt and Charles Frazier. The inn developed the luxury condominiums nearby named The Fitzgerald.

 

Homewood at Highland Hospital (19 Zillicoa St.), at the northwestern edge of the Montford section, is part of the original Highland Hospital complex where Zelda Fitzgerald died in a 1948 fire that destroyed the hospital’s main building. Homewood was the residence of Zelda’s psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Carroll, founder of what was then called a mental hospital and tuberculosis sanatorium. The large stone house was built in 1922 in the Gothic style similar to that of parts of Duke University in Durham. Homewood is now used as an event venue. See Homewood Event and Conference Center (828-232-9900, www.mybelovedhomewood.com).

 

Oakdale Cemetery (U.S. Hwy. 64W and Valley St., Hendersonville, 828-697-3088, www.cityofhendersonville.org) is the site of the marble angel owned by W. O. Wolfe, Thomas Wolfe’s father, that is featured in Look Homeward, Angel. It marks the grave of Mrs. Margaret Bates Johnson. There is a wrought iron fence surrounding the grave and angel. Look for a state historic marker.

 

Riverside Cemetery (53 Birch Ave., 828-350-2066, www.ashevillenc.gov; daily 8-5, gates open 7 am-8 pm, free) is an 87-acre cemetery where writers Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry are buried. George Masa, the Japanese photographer who worked with Horace Kephart in promoting the idea of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, also is buried here. You can download a Riverside Cemetery map and walking tour from the City of Asheville website.

 

Carl Sandburg Home (81 Carl Sandburg Lane, for GPS use 1800 Little River Rd., Flat Rock, 828-693-4178, www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm; guided tour fee $5 adults, $3 seniors, children 15 and under free, admission to grounds and barn free, daily 9-5 year-round, tours of house every half hour starting at 9:30, last tour 4:30) is operated by the National Park Service. It’s the first national park to honor a poet. You enter the 248-acre grounds via a short walk up a winding driveway lined with white pines. The house, a white one-and-a-half story on a raised basement with Greek Revival columns on the front porch sits on a knoll above a small lake. The house was built around 1839 as a summer cottage by a South Carolina railroad owner. Called Connemara after a region in Ireland, and meaning “of the sea” in Irish Gaelic, the farm was named by a previous owner. On the guided tour, you’ll see the Sandburg house much as it was in the 1960s, as if the family had stepped out for a walk. There are magazines on the floor, a guitar leaning against the piano and shelves of books. Sandburg’s book-filled study has his Remington typewriter. Sandburg move to the house with 16,000 books, and about 11,000 remain there today. In the basement level of the house, there’s a NPS bookstore with a good selection of books by and about Sandburg. Don’t miss a visit to the barn and outbuildings, where you’ll see descendants of Paula Steichen Sandburg’s herd of dairy goats. The farm has some 5 miles of hiking trails.

 

Thomas Wolfe Memorial (52 N. Market St. and 48 Spruce St., 828-253-8304, www.wolfememorial.com; visitor center open Tues.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-5; $5 adults, $2 children, guided tour of the house included) is operated as a North Carolina State Historic Site. The rambling 29-room boarding house, operated by Wolfe’s mother Julia Wolfe, is where Thomas Wolfe grew up. The “Old Kentucky Home,” called “Dixie” in Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel, is directly behind the visitor center at 48 Spruce Street. The Wolfe home was extensively damaged in a 1998 fire (the arsonist was never caught), but it was meticulously restored as it might have looked in the early 20th century when Wolfe lived there before heading off to college at Chapel Hill. The house, a Queen Anne style structure built in 1883 with later additions, is painted a bright canary yellow. The visitor center exhibits personal effects of the author, including some of his clothes, his Remington typewriter and his diploma from Harvard. There’s also a 22-minute film on the author’s life and work.

All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.

We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.