1980s Asheville Revisited

Asheville in the 1980s is the theme for a series of summer-long evening programs beginning in April. Each program covers a unique aspect of Asheville’s history from arts to business to architecture, and includes the “Save Asheville’s Downtown” grassroots campaign.

The 1980s were a time of uncertainty for many.  A May 25, 1980 article in the Asheville Citizen Times by AP Special Correspondent Saul Pett compared Asheville residents with other Americans.   Asheville residents were unsure about the direction their city leaders should take,  confused by changes going on at home and in the larger world.  “Turned off” was the phrase the writer used to describe the local attitude toward the 1980 presidential election. He notes that ambivalence: “Most people here seem to think that the identity of the next president won’t make much difference.” Yet decisions were made, and they helped shape the city we know today.

The accompanying image was selected to illustrate Pett’s article.  It shows the Thomas Wolfe Memorial positioned beside the 12-story Inn on the Plaza, contrasting the sureties of history with the discomfort of the new.

Opened in 1977, Smoky Mountain Inn on the Plaza was changed to Quality Inn on the Plaza in the 1980s. Today, it is the Renaissance Hotel Asheville.


Pre-Inn on the Plaza construction view of intersection of College Street and Court Plaza, looking west from the roof of Asheville City Courthouse, which fills the right side of the picture. In the center, beside the Charlotte Street Gulf Service (140 College St.), is the municipal parking lot (146 Charlotte St.). In the distance on the left is the Thomas Wolfe House (48 Spruce St.)
This image shows the 2007 construction underway on a 9-story, 75-condo project by a Fairview developer. The address is 60 N. Market St., with the Thomas Wolfe Visitors Center (52 N. Market St.) to its right and the Asheville Biltmore Hotel building to its left.

Spring 2016 brings some of the same challenges Asheville has seen historically, short and long term. Pett notes, “Beauty here … brings mixed blessings. So does change.” Make plans to join your 21st century neighbors as the Friends of the NC Room hosts a look back at Asheville in the 1980’s and, if history is any indicator, a look into the future.


Post by Tammy Young

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