Local History Woo

It is perhaps odd to begin a brand new blog–a professional library blog—with a  woo-woo* story.  But it would not seem odd if you worked in the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library, where woo-woo experiences are as common as pickles next to a grilled cheese sandwich.  When this one occurred, I vowed to start recording them.  It soon seemed like a perfectly respectable “blog category.”

*Woo-Woo (or just plain wooadj. “concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey.”

I was reading through a roll of 1885 microfilm, which happens to be a negative copy, which means it is really hard to read.  I was looking for early announcements of when Riverside Cemetery (then called Asheville Cemetery) was being built.  We have no early history on the cemetery, only a brief announcement in October of that year when the city was still trying to decide where to put it.  I was also trying to verify whether or not Charles T. Colyer, a landscape architect then living in Asheville, was the landscape architect.   The problem is that not many newspapers survived from this time period.

In the “About Town” section I saw a notice where W.O. Wolfe, the father of Asheville author Thomas Wolfe, got the contract for erecting a new front porch on the courthouse to replace the dilapidated one — the new one was to be of iron.  Because it is my nature, as well as the nature of my job, to go off on tangents, I wondered if we had a photo of the iron porch on the courthouse, so I got up to look at photocopies of the building under “Public Buildings” but we only had one photo of that 1876-1903 courthouse.  So I went to our photograph database to see what other images we had of it and found a photograph we have of a man carrying another man on his back on top of a high wire in front of the courthouse.  I am looking at the photograph. The phone rings.  A zippy young man had found some cool images on our website and wanted to know how to get copies.  I told him the spiel and asked him what the ID number was for the photograph that he was interested in.  I clicked out of the record for the high-wire act and put in the ID number for the photo he was interested in . . . and it was the photograph of the high-wire act.

It turns out that this patron was opening a new brewery in town, Hi-Wire Brewing, and he wanted to put the photo up inside his business.

And, as if that weren’t enough, when librarian Ann Wright went home that night, there sat a beer glass on the kitchen counter with the label, Hi-Wire Brewing.  Her husband had gone out with a friend that day and got the glass free if he ordered the new beer.  And “Cheers” to the new brewery.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian


  1. Was Charles Thomas Colyer, or C. T. Colyer as he liked to be called, the landscape architect for the Asheville Cemetery Company? Yes! Did he design and layout The Asheville Cemetery? Yes!

    Colyer’s creative genius made The Asheville Cemetery (later called Riverside Cemetery) an instant landmark. The ‘almost forgotten story’ is fascinating.

    Following extended research, I just finished writing a twenty-four page booklet entitled, “Riverside Cemetery: the almost forgotten story.” It is being printed now and copies will be available soon.

  2. Charles Thomas Colyer was my great Grandfather. Not only did he lay out the Riverside Cemetery, but also the grounds at Grove Park, the town of Old Fort, and the Morganton Asylum (Broughton Hospital). He surveyed the original road up Sunset Mountain and built his house there with help of his sons. The house, called “The Cliff” is still there, although remodeled significantly, as documented by Joe Franklin.

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