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Black Mountain and Asheville

Blue Ridge Campus
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Section Outline

  Black Mountain and Asheville, North Carolina

The first Black Mountain campus was located southwest of the village of Black Mountain; the second, two miles northwest of the village. Asheville was eighteen miles to the west. Although both towns were isolated from a major city or cultural center, the Southern Railway, the primary means of transportation for those without cars, stopped in both Black Mountain and Asheville, and for those with cars, U.S. 70, the main east-west route across the state, passed through both towns.

Located just west of the Continental Divide at an elevation of 2,366 feet, the area, known for its fresh water, cool summer evenings, and clean air, was a popular summer resort. It was the site of summer assemblies for various religious groups as well as sanatoriums and other hospitals. An article in The State (26 June 1937) boasted of a number of summer camps, civic organizations, convenient transportation, boarding houses and hotels, and small industry. As for recreation, there was a 9-hole golf course; "hiking; mountain climbing, riding; motoring, swimming; boating; tennis; etc. Religious and education programs and musical recitals at Montreat, Ridgecrest and Blue Ridge. Latest talking pictures...." Zelda Fitzgerald spent her last years at nearby Highland Hospital, Bela Bartok came to the area near the end of his life in search of a healing atmosphere, and the state tubercular sanitarium was nearby. Thomas Wolfe, Asheville's most famous son, if not its favorite, was from Asheville, and his family home was visited by many students. The Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches had summer assembly grounds in the area, and the YMCA held its summer assemblies in the Blue Ridge buildings rented by the college from 1933-41.

The typical "town and gown" relationship existed between the village and the college -- though undoubtedly in this case it was more pronounced. Some area people thought the college was a Communist community, a center of free love, or a nudist colony. Others relished the presence of the college with its strong arts program and attended the concerts and drama productions.

In the early years the students and faculty frequented Roy's, a beer house near the railway station. After complaints by the locals, Stephen Forbes, a student, funded construction of a roadhouse, Peek's Tavern, on the outskirts of town. Students frequently went into town for sundries and attended the local square dances.

Asheville provided a slightly more cosmopolitan atmosphere. The town's most prestigious estate was the Biltmore House, constructed by George Vanderbilt from 1889-95, still the country's largest privately owned home in the United States.

Both the Asheville and Black Mountain newspapers frequently posted articles about the college and its programs.



The Black Mountain College Project gratefully acknowledges a grant from the Graham Foundation
for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts for a study of architecture at Black Mountain College.