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 below at the Rockola Motel. The tourist court was built in 1946 by Gladys and J.W. Haynes.
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.)
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.
Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian