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  #1  
Old Posted Oct 20, 2019, 4:28 AM
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North Carolina 2019: ASHEVILLE (aka the best city in NC), with bonus BILTMORE GARDENS

Cirrus' 2019 North Carolina Series:
Earlier this year I posted a brief series of threads with a hodgepodge of cellphone and otherwise questionable-quality photos of NC cities. Here's the long-delayed final part, Asheville, and the good news is the photos are all new and all with a real camera.

The bad news for you Tar Heel aficionados is that this series will not include Charlotte. Despite 5 separate visits to North Carolina in 2019, I have not been to Charlotte since 2010. If you're itching to see decade-old photos, have at. Otherwise, continue below.

Here's Asheville

When I say Asheville is the best city in North Carolina, I am serious in that opinion. I think Asheville's urbanity--and by that I mean the factors contributing to a walkable urban form with a lot of vitality--are higher quality there than anywhere else in the state, including Charlotte.

We'll cover downtown, a few transit photos, Biltmore Village, and finally Biltmore itself, focusing on the gardens.

You'll see that Asheville is small. There's not that much of it. But what there is, is great.










































Two squares:

Downtown Asheville revolves around a pair of public plazas, only two blocks apart but dramatically different in feel.

To the west, the tiny triangular Pritchard Park is a big part of what makes Asheville unique in North Carolina. The plaza itself has a Colorado-esque vibe, with a mountain-themed layout and grungy characters straight out of Boulder.




Surrounding the plaza the shops trend towards touristy, but the irregular web of streets and solid low-rise streetwall feel like nothing so much as a slice out of a Boston collegetown neighborhood.






Two blocks east, Pack Square is the more institutional center of town. It's got the government buildings, the bank skyscrapers, the business hotels, and to remind you you're still in the Carolinas, a prominent Confederate memorial.










Although the more indie element is attempting annexation.




Transit:

For a small southern US city, Asheville appears to have respectable bus service. Nothing like a big northern city of course, but better than the underfunded afterthought that it is most southern cities of comparable size.

There's a nice downtown hub station.








And electric buses. Which I have mixed feelings about but if nothing else at least mean they're not completely starved for money.




Biltmore Village:

Two miles south of downtown, near the entrance to Biltmore estate, there's a sort of uptown called Biltmore Village. It's charming in the faux-cute way that New Urbanism is charming, except it's not new. These buildings were built to look old, but they've now become old.










Biltmore Estate:

Biltmore Estate is the closest thing to a baroque French chateau in America. The castle is probably the most famous castle in America, and if you care about formal European-style gardens (I do), its grounds are equally well-known.

I, um, neglected to take the famous front-on photo of the castle that everyone takes. So forgive me for giving you one picture from the internet, to remind you of where we are. You have seen some version of this photo before:


Photo by Jennifer Boyer via Flickr. All other photos in this post are mine.

Let me throw you some photos of the castle and get them out of the way, because I personally care a lot more about the garden (further down).

The castle is wonderful.






















But since I'm a planner not an architect, I'm more drawn to the more public space, the gardens. I have a particular avidity for formal gardens. I have a map of every formal garden in the US that I know about, and I will travel far out of my way to see a good one. Biltmore is the most famous formal garden in America.

I suppose I should say that I do not think it's the best formal garden in America. Top five, yes probably, but I'd rank at least Philadelphia's Longwood and DC's Dumbarton as better. Maybe more.

The front lawn is grand.




The South Terrace is better. Here the castle frames an excellently proportioned walled outdoor room, with what I think are the best statues in Biltmore.








Sadly the terrace is somehow incomplete. I don't know the story. But it's too empty; there should be a parterre here.




A trellis lines the exterior wall of the South Terrace, making for a soft transition between the terrace and the Shrub Garden (an informal section of the gardens that are more like a typical American park).








Descend some steps, go through a stone gate, and you are inside the Walled Garden. Here at last is the parterre. It needs shade; everyone stays inside the trellis.










Down a level to the Rose Garden:




And at the bottom of the hill, the Conservatory:






Go back up the hill, nearer the castle, and find the Italian Garden. This is, overall, the best part of the gardens. The statues are hokier than elsewhere, but the space is nicely filled.












End up back at the castle.




Fin.

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Last edited by Cirrus; Oct 21, 2019 at 12:33 AM.
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Old Posted Oct 20, 2019, 1:33 PM
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Old Posted Oct 20, 2019, 3:57 PM
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Great tour, I have not made it to Biltmore yet, the scale is fantastic.
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Old Posted Oct 20, 2019, 8:22 PM
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Nice!
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Old Posted Oct 20, 2019, 11:40 PM
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wow, amazing!
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2019, 1:20 AM
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This is a fantastic post, thank you especially for the gardens commentary. I learned a bunch of new words.

And no kidding about the quality of Asheville's urbanism. Looks like Harvard Square!
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2019, 1:55 AM
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Looks great!
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2019, 8:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
To the west, the tiny triangular Pritchard Park is a big part of what makes Asheville unique in North Carolina. The plaza itself has a Colorado-esque vibe, with a mountain-themed layout and grungy characters straight out of Boulder.
Fun fact: Pritchard Park used to be the location of the central post office. After that, and until the new ART station was built, it was the city's central transit depot.

Quote:
Two blocks east, Pack Square is the more institutional center of town. It's got the government buildings, the bank skyscrapers, the business hotels, and to remind you you're still in the Carolinas, a prominent Confederate memorial.
Technically, the Confederate monument is down the hill beside the courthouse. Up in Pack Square itself you've got the Vance Monument, which honors Zebulon Vance, who was the governor of North Carolina and who was born near Asheville. You've also got the Robert E. Lee monument, regularly vandalized, at the foot of the Vance Monument.

Fun, morbid fact: There was a mass shooting in downtown Asheville in November, 1906. One of the bullets bounced off the Vance Monument, leaving a nick near one of the V's which is still visible today.

Quote:
Two miles south of downtown, near the entrance to Biltmore estate, there's a sort of uptown called Biltmore Village. It's charming in the faux-cute way that New Urbanism is charming, except it's not new. These buildings were built to look old, but they've now become old.
There are also four other neighborhoods that function a little like Biltmore Village, with their own little historic commercial heart, and all of which are worth visiting. West Asheville, East West Asheville, the River District, and the South Slope... although the South Slope is the span of land that connects downtown to the Medical District at the bottom of the hill around the hospital (whose new tower I'm sure you saw). Technically you could argue that the South Slope is just an extension of downtown, but it's still filling in nicely and has quite a few destination bars and restaurants now when just a decade ago there wasn't squat, not even the name itself, in the South Slope. You could also argue, I suppose, that East West Asheville and West Asheville are just extensions of each other, but I just had to include East West Asheville because it's the best neighborhood name in America.

I also note that you took advantage of the views from the top of the new DSS parking deck. I've had some good times in that deck...

Just kidding. Every time I've had to park in that deck it's been for something awful.
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Old Posted Oct 22, 2019, 3:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hauntedheadnc View Post
Pritchard Park used to be the city's central transit depot.
I broadly hate the practice of moving downtown bus terminals to less prominent locations, but I think this may be a rare instance where it's OK. Those streets are pretty tight, buses are loud, and the new station is only a block away.

Quote:
Technically, the Confederate monument is down the hill beside the courthouse. Up in Pack Square itself you've got the Vance Monument, which honors Zebulon Vance
Confederate Colonel Zebulon Vance. He does, admittedly, seem to be on the not-as-bad end of the Confederate veterans spectrum.

Quote:
There are also four other neighborhoods with their own little historic commercial heart: West Asheville, East West Asheville, the River District, and the South Slope
Nice. We never made it down to the river, nor west of it at all. We did go through South Slope lots of times, and I see the potential.
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Old Posted Oct 22, 2019, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
I broadly hate the practice of moving downtown bus terminals to less prominent locations, but I think this may be a rare instance where it's OK. Those streets are pretty tight, buses are loud, and the new station is only a block away.
The ART station is also getting ready for a big upgrade that should begin construction sometime soon, for what it's worth.

Quote:
Confederate Colonel Zebulon Vance. He does, admittedly, seem to be on the not-as-bad end of the Confederate veterans spectrum.
Well, naturally, but that monument is just to him. There are two actual "To our Confederate dead and the noble cause, blah blah blah..." general Confederate monuments. One is down by the courthouse, and the other is in a little cemetery by the hospital. And you're right about him being not as bad... He loathed black people with a virulent passion, but was a-okay with Jews. By the standards of the time he was a frothing liberal with views like that.

Fun fact: The Vance Birthplace is a state park north of town and visitors are usually surprised, and often upset, to learn that the Vance family owned eighteen slaves and that the farm was a pig farm. Slavery in the mountains isn't much spoken of. People also have a hard time remembering that slavery infected all aspects of agricultural life in the South, not just the cotton plantations.

Funner fact: My husband, who is black, got a contract to make all the soap for sale in the Vance Birthplace gift shop a couple of years back.

Quote:
Nice. We never made it down to the river, nor west of it at all. We did go through South Slope lots of times, and I see the potential.
Did you happen to go down the street where the entire pavement was painted with butterflies? It was a neighborhood experiment, designed to see if it would calm and slow traffic.

It did.


Source.
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Old Posted Oct 24, 2019, 7:42 PM
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Nice job!
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Old Posted Oct 25, 2019, 2:39 AM
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Nice pictures!
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2019, 6:25 PM
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nice to see.

so is it:

ash ville

ash vuhl

ayysh ville

ayysh vuhl

????
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2019, 7:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mrnyc View Post
nice to see.

so is it:

ash ville

ash vuhl
Either of those pronunciations is correct.
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2019, 7:16 PM
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Lovely shots mate!
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