Casa Loma

January 2020

The Asheville Art Museum opened its doors (finally!) late last year. On the left is the old Pack Library building and to the right is the newest entrance to the museum. Do you know what that corner looked like before the museum expanded or, even earlier, when it was the main entrance to the Diana Wortham Theatre? Or even earlier than that?

Circa 1941-1944

A massive Coca-Cola sign stood atop The Plaza Theatre which opened in Asheville’s boom years in 1925. Right below Coca-Cola is the phrase “In the Land of the Sky“. The small log building in front of Vance monument was “the information hut” dispensing information to visitors in our land of the sky.

Ensign Dick Chiles, in uniform, and usher Ike Chiles.

Military uniforms were frequently seen around town during the the war years. Businesses such as The Biltmore Plaza Recreation Center catered to military personnel traveling through town. Another business in the very center of downtown announced it’s opening in August of 1944.

Asheville Citizen-Times, August 1944

The Casa Loma offered three meals a day to hungry visitors. An advertisement in the Asheville Citizen-Times ran a full page advertisement listing places to go and what to do for Asheville’s war-time visitors including The Casa Loma. At the end of the war in 1945 soldiers were not as common on the streets. By 1946 the advertising for Casa Loma changed.

Asheville Citizen-Times

The Casa-Loma (note the insertion of a hyphen) became a smart, hot-spot in the evenings. Dinner, dancing, and drinks (albeit brown-bagged) were served. Wouldn’t you like to have heard Tillie and the Casa Lomans? And like every cinematic nightclub scene in every movie from the era a roving photographer and perhaps a cigarette girl completed the scene.

Mary Lou Marret & Gus Meisner in 1947
Photo Courtesy of Ron Meisner

Mary Lou Marret grew up in Swannanoa. She worked in “the shop” at Moore General Hospital after she left military service. That’s where she met Gus Meisner who was recuperating from malaria. They married in 1948. I’ve known one of their sons, Ron Meisner, since 1972 when we were in school at UNC-A. Both Gus and Mary Lou allowed that there was a “brown bag” under the table at the Casa Loma.

Casa Loma Club was still in business in March of 1951. Here’s an ad touting the evening’s entertainment. Don’s brother Cesar played The Joker on the original Batman television series (1966-1968) on our local television station WLOS.

Asheville Citizen-Times, March 1951
Asheville Citizen-Times, May 1965

By the 1960’s the Casa Loma had moved further down Biltmore Avenue. See if you can locate the address today! The Plaza, The Imperial, and Fine Arts continued to show films until The Imperial and Plaza both fell to the wrecking ball in the 1980’s and 90’s. The art deco Fine Arts Theatre is still showing films, along with the relative newcomer–The Grail–on South French Broad Avenue. But Casa Loma is no more.

Terry Taylor, Friends of the NC Room Board Member

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