Asheville, NC – Nature’s Health Spa

Parks Fountain, Asheville
Parks Fountain, Asheville

Yep, that’s how Asheville was promoted in the late 1800’s, as a place of relief for tuberculosis patients.  It’s one of the things we learned about the city during our two-hour narrated trolley tour.

Asheville was a destination for health seekers, and it rose in prominence as a curative place for tuberculosis.  The city’s location – nestled in between the scenic Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains in Western North Carolina – has clean, pristine mountain air.  That fresh mountain air was considered optimal and a good place for those patients to recuperate.  Asheville’s population exploded as it became the place for boarding houses, luxury inns and resorts, and, well, sanitariums.  By 1930 there were no fewer than 25 sanitariums in the city with a total of 900 beds.  I guess even crazy people enjoyed the mountain air!

While tuberculosis has been brought under control, Asheville remains a health care center for people who require specialized medical care, and for others who just want to enjoy the fresh air.  We were not concerned in the least about contracting TB as we wandered around the downtown area.  We also learned that most of the sanitariums have been converted into apartment and condominium complexes.

Pack Square, Asheville
Park Square – Asheville’s prime gathering spot – and not a single TB patient in sight!

Among the many notable people who came to seek cures here were the ailing mother of George W. Vanderbilt, and Edwin Wiley Grove was also a patient.  These folks fell in love with Asheville, so much so that G.W. Vanderbilt had the Biltmore Estate constructed here (more on that fascinating place later), and E.W. Grove built the Grove Park Inn and the Grove Arcade.  Their influence can still be seen in the buildings today, restored and preserved as major tourist attractions.

Grove Arcade, Asheville
The Grove Arcade building was started as a 5-story building with a 14-story tower, but Mr. Grove died during construction and this is as far as it got.  It’s still a large structure covering an entire block.
Inside Grove Arcade, Asheville
Inside the Grove Arcade – very quiet on this weekend morning

One of the landmarks of Asheville is the 100-year-old historic Grove Park Inn.  Built using thousands of local stones reinforced with concrete and capped with a burnt-orange tiled roof, it was constructed in less than one year in 1913.  Since then and until today the inn has welcomed countless famous folks.

Grove Park Inn
Doesn’t it look like a big gingerbread house?

After the tour, we continued on our own and followed the Urban Trail.  This 1.7-mile-trail in the downtown area consists of thirty stations with bronze plaques and several sculptures. Each station illuminates a part of the very interesting history of the city’s development, and the various notable people who once lived here.

Strolling along the streets, we noticed the many styles of interesting architecture throughout the city, it’s incredible! In this walkable city we noted  remarkable collections of beautifully preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s and below are just a few fine samples.

As we rounded one corner, we were struck by the beauty of the Basilica of St. Lawrence Catholic Church.  It was designed and built by architects Raphael Guastavino and Richard Sharp Smith, who also worked on the Biltmore Estate project.

Basilica of St Lawrence, Asheville
Basilica of St. Lawrence
Basilica St Lawrence, NC
Decorative frieze of St. Lawrence

I had a hard time  praying here as the inside is so architecturally beautiful that I ended just sitting and looking around. This Spanish Renaissance-style church supports the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America, with a clear span of 58 by 82 feet.

Basilica St Lawrence, Asheville
Center dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence

Asheville is also a destination for art lovers.  Art galleries and studios abound, with artists, musicians and writers all inspired by the colorful downtown environment and the nearby mountains.

Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC

Curtain Call, Asheville

Mellow Mushroom
We had a yummy pizza for lunch here

Ashville’s additional bragging rights now include being named Beer City, USA.  If we had arrived a day earlier we could have sampled the latest handcrafted brews from 16 craft breweries during the Beer City Festival.  After being in the sun for several hours we needed to cool off, so we stopped at one of the popular local breweries.  It wasn’t exactly a tough decision, as we had noted several during our tour.  We ended up tasting at the Wicked Weed one day, and then at the Lexington Avenue Brewery the next time we were in town.

At the end of the day, the proof of Asheville being nature’s health spa is the fact that many people continue to be drawn to the magic of these mountains and the surrounding natural beauty.  For us, our Asheville stop showed us once again that each city we visit has its own unique charm and interesting people.




  1. We’ve long had a curiosity about Asheville. Thanks for the tour. Did you know Colorado Springs was also know as a healthy place for TB sufferers and thus became similarly popular?

    • Ingrid, no I did not know about Colorado Springs. Mountain air is really good for the lungs! If we visit Colorado Springs, then I can make a comparison of both mountain cities, then I get to choose my fave:) but i know now which one will it be.

  2. Really nice post about Asheville. I agree that a tour of a city is the best first thing to do. Gives you a good look. I love the Urban trail idea. They didn’t have that last time I was there I don’t think. I did several Frame Drum gatherings with Layne Redmond there. Zelda Fitzgerald died in fire in one of the Sanitariums in Asheville in 1948..

  3. We enjoyed Asheville very much when we visited last year. Did you get to enjoy any of the music? We saw and heard talented acts throughout the city on the sidewalk corners and in the park. Loved it!

    • Linda, we drove to Asheville twice but usually early morning so the talents were not at their stations yet. We did enjoy Asheville, its a cool town and the locals were really friendly and helpful.

  4. Taking a tour bus is a great way to get the overall flavor of any town or city. Then you can head out to revisit things of interest. Sounds like you are getting real acquainted with Ashville. I love the traveling bar!

    • Agree and narrated tours has more background stories that otherwise do not make it in print. We thought of hopping on those pub cycle but required a minimum of six pushers so we skipped it.

  5. Asheville is definitely on our list of places that we want to visit on the East coast — the architecture looks beautiful from your photos, especially the Basilica of St. Lawrence. And yes, Grove Park Inn definitely looks like a gingerbread house! Love the photo of you helping out the banjo player and Steve with the iron — ouch!

  6. We have heard so much about Asheville and wish we would have headed inland instead of hugging the coast when we traveled through NC. It is wonderful to see it through your lovely photos and great storytelling MonaLiza. Looking forward to your next post. 🙂

    • LuAnn, include Asheville in your list, for I know you will like the vibe here and timed it for fall if you can. Its beautiful here not to mention the hikings we had been doing around the area!

  7. We loved Asheville. We stayed for two days just walking that same trail and enjoying all the beauty of the area. Basilica of Saint Lawrence was amazing. We saw a ton of tie-dye clothes. What a hoot.

    We were then in October. The colors were so alive. Glad you stopped and visited that gorgeous area.

  8. We loved Ashville…have been there several times! It’s so pretty in the fall. Great photos…especially the dome.

  9. You’re certainly giving us some great ideas for our tour of the east next spring and summer. I just added Asheville to the list of “must see” towns.

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