Exploring Asheville’s Neighborhoods
Ready to explore Asheville? Here are thumbnail sketches of neighborhoods in and around Asheville. Some of these areas may be visited on foot, but also consider one of the hop-on, hop-off trolley services (see Tours), ART (the public bus system) and sightseeing by car. For more information on the architectural history of the neighborhoods, see the Asheville architecture section. Neighborhoods indicated in RED are particularly notable.
Biltmore Forest (a residential area on the west side of Hendersonville Rd./US Hwy. 25 from Biltmore Village south to near the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance on Hendersonville Rd) was a creation of the Biltmore Estate. In 1920, Edith Vanderbilt, wife of Biltmore founder George Vanderbilt (he had died in 1914) sold 1,500 acres on the south side of the Biltmore Estate to a company set up to develop an upmarket residential area, with lots of 2 acres or more. Prominent local developers began building large houses, mostly in Tudor and Colonial Revival styles. Edith Vanderbilt herself in 1925 moved into one called The Firth, later the home of her son William A.V. Cecil, who reinvigorated and successfully ran the Biltmore House from the 1960s to 1990s.
Biltmore Estate landscape architect Chauncey Beadle, an associate of the Frederick Law Olmsted firm, helped plan the community. Donald Ross designed the golf course for the Biltmore Forest Country Club. A number of beautiful homes were built around the golf course, which opened in 1922. William Dodge, a leading local architect, designed many of the homes.
Today, Biltmore Forest remains one of Asheville’s most elite neighborhoods, home to many prominent business people, physicians and other professionals. Some homes in Biltmore Forest are valued at $2 million to $4 million or more.
ANNUAL DICKENS FESTIVAL IN BILTMORE VILLAGE
Each year, usually on a weekend (Friday through Sunday) in early December, Biltmore Village holds a Charles Dickens Festival. The Village sports holiday lighting, and there's free entertainment including music, dance and theatre by several hundred performers. Many shop owners dress in Victorian apparel. Street parking is free.
Biltmore Village (now predominantly a commercial area of small boutiques and restaurants directly east of the entrance to Biltmore Estate south of Downtown) was envisioned by George Vanderbilt as a manorial village, housing Biltmore workers and necessary business services. The streets were laid out by 1896, and the homes and other buildings in the original village were completed by around 1910. Most of the buildings, designed by Biltmore House chief architect Richard Morris Hunt, his son Richard Howland Hunt and Richard Sharp Smith were two- and three-story dwellings done in Tudoresque style with rough pebbledash exterior walls with half-timbering and red brick. The village also had shops, a post office, railroad depot, a small hospital and All Souls Episcopal Cathedral. Today, most of Biltmore Village is commercial, with boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and a few offices.
A number of the old pebbledash dwellings have been converted for business use, and the village, anchored by the stunning All Souls Cathedral, remains quaint and, at least in the original section, walkable. Many new structures were built over the years, including in recent times a large hotel, the Grand Bohemian, and a row of commercial shops, restaurants and condos along Sweeten Creek Road. Traffic often is heavy along Hendersonville Road, McDowell Street and Sweeten Creek Road, and it is sometimes backed up by trains at a railroad crossing on Hendersonville Road. Street parking is somewhat limited in the main part of Biltmore Village.
Downtown Asheville The hub of Asheville’s fairly compact and highly walkable Downtown is Pack Square, and most of the city’s major streets radiate out from it: Patton Avenue to the west, Broadway Street to the north, Biltmore Avenue to the south and College Street to the east. The Pack Square area is home to a number of popular restaurants, along with the Asheville Art Museum complex (now under total renovation and expansion) and Asheville's first skyscraper, the 1920s-vintage Jackson Building, on the south side of the square. On the west side is the former BB&T Building, at 18 stories once the region’s tallest office building, but now outgrown by one of the hotel towers at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Resort in Cherokee. The former office building is currently being converted in a major rehab to a multi-use building, with luxury condos, a boutique hotel, restaurants and retail. On the east side is the nicely planned and landscaped Pack Square Park, which faces the elegant Art Deco Asheville City Building designed by Douglas Ellington and the squat Buncombe County Courthouse. In warm weather the water fountains in the park are a favorite spot for kids to play. On the north side of the square the windows of the I.M. Pei company-designed Biltmore Building (now tagged the Merrill Lynch Building) reflects the images of older buildings on the square, including the elegant Jackson Building, one of Asheville’s first skyscrapers.
Biltmore Avenue (the main north-south corridor from Pack Square south to Biltmore village) was originally called Main Street. Many of the buildings in the first few blocks south of Pack Square were built from 1900 to 1920, as low-rise commercial structures, and now are home to a thriving selection of art galleries, restaurants and bars. The Aloft Hotel (which debuted in late 2012) has brought new tourism traffic to Downtown and also a new public parking lot under the hotel, making dinner parking easier. Farther south is McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Tourists minor league baseball team, and the main campus of Mission Hospital, plus its St. Joseph campus. Mission Hospitals is the largest private employer in the region. In addition to its 730-bed main campus facility it owns and operates many other medical support and physician offices along the Biltmore Avenue corridor and elsewhere. Closer to Biltmore Village are several lodging options catering to both hospital patient families and to visitors to the Biltmore Estate, including Residences at Biltmore, Marriot’s Residence Inn, Grand Bohemian, Cedar Crest Inn and others. Just to the west of Biltmore are Asheland Avenue and McDowell Street areas. Asheville High School, a wonderful Douglas Ellington Art Deco design, is one of the top public high schools in the state.
Broadway Street Corridor (the northerly extension of Biltmore Avenue, which runs from Pack Square north to the UNC-Asheville area, connecting with I-26) is filled with restaurants, coffee houses, clubs and small shops. The new Marriott AC Hotel opened in 2017 a block north of Pack Square. As it passes under I-240, Broadway becomes less retail-oriented, and the streetscape opens up. Broadway passes the east side of the Montford Historic District and the slightly funky but growing Five Points area before reaching the 360-acre University of North Carolina at Asheville campus and I-26.
East End (a section just to the southeast of Pack Square and near the main Asheville police department and fire station) was an important African-American business and residential district, with many black-owned shops, restaurants, a theater and a hotel. It heart was Market and Eagle streets. The area contained at least 10 churches and Stephens-Lee High School (1924-64, the area’s only black high school). It also was home to the YMI Cultural Center, built by George Vanderbilt as a community center for the city’s black citizens, operating (somewhat tenuously) now as a museum of local black history. Today, the area is gentrifying, with new upscale restaurants, shops and condos.
Southside (bounded roughly by the French Broad River, Biltmore Ave., Oakland Ave. and Aston Park) was one of Asheville’s premier African-American business districts, surrounded by a large residential neighborhood. At over 400 acres, the urban renewal project that began in the 1960s was one of the largest in the Southeast. One observer noted that more than 1,100 homes, 14 grocery stores, 11 beauty parlors and barber shops, five filling stations, eight apartment houses, seven churches, one hotel, five funeral homes, one hospital and three doctor’s offices were razed by urban renewal programs. Today the area is predominantly residential, a racially mixed neighborhood, although the expansion of Mission Hospitals and supporting medical offices continues to encroach on the area.
In recent years, the term South Slope has come into use to describe the area generally bounded by Asheland Avenue, Biltmore Avenue and Buxton Street and Coxe Avenue. This is an up-and-coming area for restaurants and craft breweries.
Lexington Avenue (a main north-south street that keeps the Lexington name as it crosses Patton Ave.) is as authentically Asheville as you can get. In 2012, the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association named it one of the state’s “Great Main Streets,” along with Charlotte’s Tryon Street, Hillsborough’s Churton Street and Edenton’s Broad Street. Lexington has some 40 small, local clothing and second-hand shops, clubs, restaurants, brewpubs, antique shops and street art installations. Eminently walkable and slightly funky, Lexington in many ways is an icon of the resurgence of Asheville’s Downtown since the 1980s, a street with character and full of life day and night. At the north end of Lexington is a mural on the I-240 overpass celebrating Asheville. Here, you can continue on to the northern section of Broadway or bear right onto Merrimon Avenue. Downtown After Five is a food and music festival on the third Friday of each month from May to September held at the foot of North Lexington Avenue at the site of the late, lamented Downtown farmer’s market. Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) is an arts and music fest and pub-crawl held in early September on North Lexington (see Festivals).
Patton Avenue Corridor (one of Asheville’s first east-west thoroughfares, a main access corridor from the west – where it is variously called U.S. Hwy. 19/23 or Smoky Park Hwy. to Downtown’s Pack Square) is one of Asheville’s bi-polar streets. It is both an ugly commercial thoroughfare through Candler and West Asheville -- high school kids still cruise some of the West Asheville strip on weekends -- and a business and banking street in town. As it enters the main Downtown area it passes the National Climatic Data Center in the Veach-Baley Federal Building, home to the world’s largest climate data archive; Pritchard Park, host to a Friday night drumming circle; and one of Asheville’s Art Deco highlights, the old S&W Building. There are a few crafts galleries and restaurants before Patton reaches Pack Square.
Battery Park, Grove Arcade and Haywood Street (a commercial area between I-240 to the north, North French Broad St. to the west, South Lexington Ave. to the east and Patton Ave. to the south) in the early to mid-20th century was the heart of Asheville’s retail Downtown. The Grove Arcade, between Page and O. Henry streets, was originally built in the 1920s as an enclosed multi-use urban mall. Despite the Depression it functioned as such until it was taken over by the federal government during World War II. In the early 21st century, it returned to its roots as a mixed-used market, office and residential building. Along Battery Park Avenue and Haywood Street were most of Asheville’s original department stores, including Ivey’s, JC Penney and Bon Marché. Today this area has become a lively combination of residential condos, boutiques, crafts shops, restaurants and hotels including the all-suites Haywood Park Hotel and the hip Indigo Hotel. Even though there are three large city parking lots in the area -- one across from the Grove Arcade, one on Rankin Avenue and one behind the main Pack Library -- plus considerable street parking, finding a space can occasionally be difficult when there is a major concert or other functions at the Asheville Civic Center (now U.S. Cellular Center) and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Asheville’s best independent bookstore, Malaprop’s, is located on Haywood Street.
Wall Street (just north and above Patton Avenue with the main pedestrian entrance off Battery Park Avenue) is a short, picturesque side street with a number of restaurants and small boutiques. Parking is easy due to a large city parking garage on the west end of the street.
East Asheville (from Town Mountain and Chunn’s Cove at the east edge of town past the Tunnel Road mega retail strip to Oteen) is a sprawling area that includes the major retail strip along and near Tunnel Road, anchored by the Asheville Mall, a regional mall that ranks as the eighth largest in the state, after malls in Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and Winston-Salem (the largest in the state is Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem). But it also includes many well-established, middle-class subdivision and residential areas including Town Mountain, with wonderful views over Downtown, Chunn’s Cove, Haw Creek and Beverly Hills, with many of the homes built between the 1940s and 1970s, along with areas farther out including Oteen and Swannanoa. Then to the southeast are the fast-growing Buncombe areas of Reynolds and Fairview. Reynolds High School is considered one of the Buncombe County’s best public high schools.
Enka-Candler (a non-incorporated area in southwest Buncombe County in what is called the Hominy Valley) is an amalgam of small farms, middle-class subdivisions, modest homes, condos, trailer parks, small businesses and a large upscale planned community around a lake.
The main commercial spine of the Enka-Candler area is the Smoky Park Highway (U.S. Highway 19-23), housing an unruly collection of small businesses suffering from lack of zoning controls.
Enka Village, off Sand Hill Road, was begun in 1928 as a planned company town developed by American Enka, a European-owned rayon-nylon factory that became one of the largest employers in the region. By 1930, about 100 homes, both small homes for workers and large brick homes with lake views for managers, had been constructed, but the village was never completed due to the impact of the Depression. In the late 1950s the homes were sold to individual owners. American Enka eventually was purchased by what is now BASF, an international conglomerate, and limited manufacturing continues at the Enka plant.
Some 1,300 acres of Enka land was sold to Biltmore Farms, a development and hotel company owned by a branch of the Vanderbilt family but not directly affiliated with Biltmore Estate. In 2002, the company began building the upscale Biltmore Lake development, with homes in the $500,000 to $2 million range. There are now more than 600 homes in the development, with additional ones planned.
Enka-Candler has many different communities, including some located near the main public schools in the area -- Enka High School, Enka Middle School and Hominy Valley, Pisgah and Sand Hill primary schools – and others along a scenic rural stretch of the Pisgah Highway/NC Highway 151 that eventually winds it way through the Pisgah National Forest to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mt. Pisgah.
Kenilworth (southeast Asheville between Biltmore Ave. on the west and Tunnel Rd. on the east) was established in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was named for the large resort hotel, the Kenilworth Inn -- completed in 1891 and destroyed by fire in 1909 -- that stood nearby. Many of the older homes in Kenilworth are in the Tudor Revival style, although the area also has Prairie, Bungalow and even Spanish Colonial homes, along with a number of newer homes built in the mid-20th century.
Leicester (in Buncombe County northwest of Asheville), locally pronounced “Lester” rather than “Lee-cester,” is a mix of suburban subdivisions, modest homes, trailer parks and rural areas, with a total population of about 12,000. The commercial spine is Leicester Highway, which can be heavily trafficked at rush hours. Erwin High School is the community’s public secondary school.
Montford (just north of Downtown Asheville and I-240) is a 300-acre neighborhood historic district that dates from the late 19th century. It has some 600 homes, including a number designed by Richard Sharp Smith. Nearly all of the homes in the district were built before 1930. Homes in Montford are in Victorian, Queen Anne, Craftsman, Neoclassical and Colonial Revival styles.
Plagued by crime and deteriorating properties in the mid-20th century, much of Montford was gentrified beginning in the 1970s. Part of its attraction is that most of Montford is within a short drive or walk of Downtown, yet the neighborhood is mostly single-family homes with porches, yards and sidewalked streets. Some larger homes in Montford now are valued at well over $1 million.
The 87-acre Riverside Cemetery, where Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, Richard Sharp Smith and Zebulon Vance are buried, is within the Montford Historic District. Montford is also Asheville’s “B&B District,” with more than a dozen licensed bed and breakfast inns.
The main streets in Montford are Montford Avenue, the spine of the neighborhood, along with Cumberland Avenue and Flint Street, all running more or less north-south.
Stumptown was a traditionally African-American neighborhood of around 30 acres near Riverside Cemetery that developed in the late 19th century, but by the 1970s urban renewal had changed the area, dispersing most of the 200 or so black families that had lived there.
North Asheville is a group of different neighborhoods and districts, including the Merrimon Avenue corridor, Broadway corridor, Kimberly, Grove Park, Charlotte Street, Chestnut-Hill, Lakeview Park/Beaver Lake and, farther north, the new upscale development of Reynolds Mountain.
Albemarle Park (off Charlotte St. across from Edwin Place) is a small but intriguing historic district comprised mainly of turn of the 20th century Manor and Cottages. The Manor, a resort with an English inn atmosphere conceived by Thomas Raoul and his father William Greene Raoul, was begun in 1898 on a 32-acre tract of land acquired by the elder Raoul, a railroad magnate. Working in collaboration with the Raouls, architect Bradford Gilbert designed cottages that each bears a distinctive motif reflecting the eclectic character of the Manor with various combinations of Shingle, Tudoresque and Colonial Revival styles.
Chestnut-Hill (located north of Downtown, centered around East Chestnut and North Liberty streets.) Most of the 200 or dwellings in this historic district were built from 1880 to 1930, in the Craftsman, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. Two locally important architects' works are represented here: J.A. Tennent and Richard Sharp Smith. A number of medical, dental and other professional offices have opened along East Chestnut.
Grove Park (consisting of several blocks flanking the north end of Charlotte St.) was the creation, in the early 1900s, of E. W. Grove of Grove Park Inn and Grove Arcade fame. He developed the Grove Park residential area with the help of landscape architect Chauncey Beadle of the Biltmore Estate. The design used curving streets rather than a rectangular grid pattern. Most of the early homes in Grove Park were in the Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and Bungalow styles. Many were designed by Richard Sharp Smith and his firm, Smith & Carrier.
A landmark in the Grove Park and Proximity Park area (Proximity Park already existed when E. W. Grove began his development, but the park area is now considered a part of the Grove Park neighborhood) is the Dr. Carl V. Reynolds House, now the Albemarle Inn at 86 Edgemont Road, a bed and breakfast. The two-story 1909 Neoclassical building is charmingly restored. The most famous resident of the house was Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, who spent the winter of 1943-44 in Asheville and completed his “Third Concerto for Piano,” also known as the “Asheville Concerto,” here.
Kimberly Avenue/Norwood Park (residential corridor from Charlotte St. to Beaverdam Rd.), sometimes considered as part of the Grove Park area, in effect begins at Edwin Place, which turns off Charlotte Street. Edwin Place becomes Kimberly Avenue, which then runs by the Grove Park Inn’s golf course on the east, with a row of upscale homes across Kimberly on the west. These homes, in the $500,000 to $1 million+ range, are an eclectic mix of Colonial Revival, Mediterranean and other styles, mostly built from the 1920s to 1940s. This part of Kimberly is lined with sugar maples, which usually are stunning in their fall gold colors. Farther on, some of the homes on Kimberly were built in the mid-20th century. Norwood Park is a 26-acre National Historic District on the west side of Kimberly, with many Craftsman bungalows, along with Colonial Revival and other home styles, built in the first half of the 20th century. Most of the Norwood Park lots are relatively small. Kimberly Avenue eventually intersects with Beaverdam Road, a long and winding residential road with attractive homes and a number of condominium developments. Beaverdam leads to Webb Cove Road, which winds up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Noted author Wilma Dykeman was born in and spent much of her life in the Beaverdam Valley of North Asheville.
Lakeview Park/Beaver Lake (on both sides of Merrimon Ave./U.S. Hwy. 25 with Beaver Lake on the west and the Asheville Country Club on the east) is a 1920s-era residential subdivision. It curves around Beaver Lake and the Donald Ross golf course, now a part of the Asheville Country Club. Most of the original 100 or so homes, as in Biltmore Forest, are in Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival styles. Homes and condos built later are in a variety of styles. Lakeview Park was planned by Charlotte landscape architect John Nolen, a student of Frederick Law Olmsted. Beaver Lake is owned collectively by the residents of Lakeview Park. Part of the lake is a 10-acre bird sanctuary owned and managed by the local chapter of the Audubon Society, open free to the public. According to the real estate website Trulia in early 2013 the average home for sale in Lakeview Park was listed for $801,000.
The Merrimon Avenue Corridor (along Merrimon Ave./US Hwy. 25 from Downtown north toward Weaverville) is primarily commercial, with offices, stores and restaurants lining the busy street (mostly two lanes each way). Merrimon is becoming known as Supermarket Row, with locations for GreenLife (owned by Whole Foods), Harris-Teeter, Trader Joe’s, Ingle’s, Fresh Market and others. On side streets east and west of Merrimon are many appealing homes, many dating from early 1900s to 1920s, some modest bungalows and others more substantial.
Reynolds Mountain (on the east side of Merrimon Ave./US Hwy. 25 near I-26, in the Woodfin area) is part of a large, planned 250-acre community with some 200 expensive hillside homes, apartments, a “village” with shops and offices, a high-tech manufacturing plant and the Reynolds Mansion B&B. Lots on Reynolds Mountain start at around $100,000 and range up to $500,000.
River Arts District (an area of about one mile by one-half mile bounded by the French Broad River on the west and Clingman Ave. and the Depot St. corridor on the east, with the north and south ends of the district somewhat fluid) was once one of the region’s main industrial zones. Anchored by the French Broad River and Southern Railway, the Riverside industrial area developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a center for tanneries, livestock sales, cotton and other mills, ice and coal houses, grain storage facilities and warehouses. Although in 1916 the worst flood in Asheville history damaged many buildings in the low-lying river plain, the area recovered. Riverside thrived for several decades, but with changing economic conditions by the 1950s and 1960s many of the warehouses and businesses in the district had closed and were abandoned.
In the 1980s and 1990s, artists and craftspeople rediscovered the former industrial zone, drawn by inexpensive rents for large industrial and loft spaces, perfect for studios. Today the River Arts District is home to more than 160 art and craft studios, most of which are open to the public. There also are art and craft galleries and at least a dozen restaurants, coffee shops and bars. A number of creative businesses such as ad agencies and design studios also have relocated to the area. Residential apartments and condos also are in the district.
RAD Lofts, a new seven-story, 200-unit apartment and retail complex with 300-450 vehicle parking deck is planned for the former Dave Steel site, at the corner of Clingman Avenue and Roberts Street.
South Asheville (a hard-to-define area primarily along the I-26 corridor from the south edge of Asheville City limits to Skyland, Arden and Fletcher near the Asheville Regional Airport) has seen more growth in recent decades than any other area of Buncombe County. Large strip malls have sprung up here, turning rural pastureland into sites for Big Box stores and fast food chains. Biltmore Park, a large mixed-use residential, office and retail planned community, was developed by Biltmore Farms of Asheville and Crosland of Charlotte. The development has an 800,000 square-foot retail center, Biltmore Park Town Square, designed along New Urbanism principles, that includes a 15-screen movie theater, Biltmore Grande, and many restaurants and stores including Barnes & Noble and REI, plus a Hilton Hotel, YMCA and condos and apartments. In this area Biltmore Farms also developed the Biltmore Park residential subdivision, with more than 550 upscale homes and the 1,000-acre Ramble development. According to the real estate website Trulia the average home for sale in the Biltmore Park development was listed for $1,100,000.
Weaverville (off I-26 about 15 minutes north of Asheville) is a small town and rural community with several sizeable manufacturing plants, a commercial area with many small businesses and a thriving arts community. The town has a population of about 2,500, but additional residents live in the rural areas around the town. North Carolina’s Civil War governor, Zebulon Vance, was born in the Reem’s Creek community nearby, and his family cabin is now a state historic site. Most homes in the Weaverville area are in the $150,000 to $500,000 range.
West Asheville (bounded roughly by the French Broad River on the east, I-40 on the south, the Enka area on the west, with Patton Avenue on the north, although parts also lay north of Patton) has been a part of the City of Asheville since 1917, but it continues to be seen by locals as a separate area. It has always been considered as Asheville’s cheap date, with homes costing a fraction of what they do in some other areas of the city, such as North Asheville. Residents tended to be older and blue collar. In the 1980s, young people discovered the cheaper house prices and rents in Asheville and migrated here, creating an increasing vibrant and diverse restaurant, retail and bar scene. By the early 21st century, parts of West Asheville became known as hipster neighborhoods.
Many of the homes here date from the early part of the 20th century, some in the late Queen Anne and bungalow style. Sizeable numbers of dwellings, mostly frame or red brick bungalows, were built in the post-World War II period. In the last couple of decades, small clusters of new construction have taken place in West Asheville, with the focus on moderately priced starter and second homes.
Established neighborhoods such as Malvern Hills, along Brevard Road and Virginia Avenue, are solidly middle class, while some other areas, especially those near I-240, are still a little scruffy, but gentrifying.
Haywood Road (as distinguished from Haywood Street Downtown) is a commercial spine of West Asheville. It connects the River Arts District and South French Broad areas with Patton Avenue. Many of the commercial buildings are two-story brick structures dating from 1900 through the 1920s. Shops, boutiques, second-hand stores, restaurants, coffee houses and bars have opened here.
A prominent co-educational prep school, The Asheville School (founded 1900) is at the far west end of what is considered West Asheville.
Prices have risen all over West Asheville, but it’s still possible to find attractive buys in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.
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.