Tourist Court Expedition Taken by Library Staff

Fearing that tourist courts were fast disappearing, Library Director Ed Sheary and North Carolina Room staff Ann Wright, Zoe Rhine, and Peggy Gardner made a Tourist Court Expedition in August 2000. Our aim was to document as many tourist courts and their signage as we could in the day. Major roads coming into Asheville were surveyed for remaining motor or tourist courts from the 1940s and 1950s. We made a pretty good run of Tunnel Road, Weaverville Highway and Patton Avenue. Ed Sheary, always the one to be in appropriate automobile attire, chose his 1971 Ford Torino GT convertible ‘Rosalita’ for the drive.

Rosalita pictured here with Library Director Ed Sheary and head of Special Collections Ann Wright. Photo by Peggy Gardner, August 31, 2000.

Rosalita pictured below at the Rockola Motel. The tourist court was built in 1946 by Gladys and J.W. Haynes.

Rockola Motel, at 1655 Patton Ave.

Tourist Courts did not really take off in Western North Carolina until after W.W. II. They came to replace the old “tourist camp,” typically a cabin or shack. The Asheville City Directories do not have a subject heading for “Tourists’ Courts” in the business section until the 1948-49 directory. With families hitting the new highways, there was an ever-growing need for all-year-round accommodations, with central heat, private baths, hot and cold water, radios in each room, and easy parking. (Asheville numbered quite a few Tourists’ Homes, but they were insignificant to the number of people they could serve.)

A 1950s postcard from the North Carolina Room’s postcard collection, published by Thomas B. Kehoe Co. of Atlanta, Georgia.

One newspaper article quoted a leading hostelry executive as saying that the tourist court industry saved the tourist industry in this area. In the mid 1940s he said, “visitors and vacationers were staying away from Asheville in droves because word had gotten around that our hotel facilities were inadequate to meet the seasonal demand.” Once tourist courts began to spring up “word went back around that it was safe to come to Asheville again without bringing your own cot to sleep on.” In 1950, the motor court industry banked just short of a million dollars from rents alone. [“Motor Courts Become Big Business Here,” Asheville Citizen July 8, 1951.]


 The Rockola was razed in 2008.

Library Director Ed Sheary retired September 2014 after almost 25 years. Thanks Ed, it was a fun ride.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian


  1. If you would like to view all of the tourist courts taken by staff on this day, go to our special collections search page at
    In the Subject/Keyword box type in M632-5 and it will bring up all of the records. You can also get to our search page by going to the Buncombe County Library site, click on North Carolina Collection tab on left, and on our page you can click to the search page.

  2. I’m just jealous that I wasn’t along for the ride that day. Had just arrived in Asheville in August of 2000, but had the wonderful opportunity to stay at Forest Manor Inn and the American Court before we moved here permanently.

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