The Literary History of Asheville

Written by Zachery Adam

September 16, 2019

The Literary History of Asheville 

Everyone knows about the beer in Western North Carolina. And people flock to our mountains to admire the leaves once fall rolls around. But, whether you’re new to Asheville or a life-long resident, you may not know the deep literary history of the city. Asheville Lit Tours is a small tour company that takes visitors and locals on a walking tour of Asheville’s rich literary history in Downtown. Here are just a few of the things you should know about the authors and poets who have lived in the area.  

Thomas Wolfe 

You probably know him best from the phrase “you can’t go home again.” He wrote the book You Can’t Go Home Again after his first novel, Look Homeward Angel, made waves in the Asheville community in 1929.  

See, Wolfe wrote this fictional but autobiographical story and many local residents at the time were unimpressed with his portrayal of them. For a long time, Wolfe’s book was banned from Asheville area libraries.  

Today, you can visit the Thomas Wolfe House near the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville 

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

The first flapper and her husband had a dark history in our mountain town. F. Scott spent two summers in Asheville, staying at the Grove Park Inn, while he suffered from tuberculosis. But while he was staying in the opulence of the historic hotel in 1935 and 36, his wife Zelda was having a very different Asheville experience.  

She was a resident of Highland Hospital, which still stands in Montford. Even after F. Scott left the city, Zelda remained. She suffered from depression and was given a number of diagnoses, including schizophrenia.  

Tragedy struck in 1948 when a mysterious fire broke out at the hospital. Zelda and eight other patients died when they were unable to leave their locked rooms.  

O. Henry

William Sidney Porter was best known by his pen name O. Henry. Though originally from Greensboro, he moved to New York to build his writing career. A rekindled relationship with a childhood friend living in Weaverville led to his relocation back home. He lived in Weaverville for a time and then moved his office to downtown Asheville before returning to New York.  

He is probably best known for his story The Gift of the Magi, which has been retold countless time and is now a holiday staple. In fact, Jim Henson used the story as the inspiration for his 1977 special, “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.” which is still a favorite today.  

Carl Sandburg 

Just south of Asheville in Flat Rock, you’ll find the Carl Sandburg estate. Though he was born in the Midwest, this Pulitzer prize winning poet made his home right here in Western North Carolina where he lived from 1945 until his death is 1967.  

You can visit the Carl Sandburg home, tour his farm, and learn more about his contributions to modern literature. It’s been named a national historic site.  

If you’re looking for a fun way to get to know the city, consider the Asheville Lit Tour. This local tour shares stories about these authors and many more connections of literary history to our city.  

Do you want to live in a city with a rich literary history? Zachery Adam and GoPrime in West Asheville can help  

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