Road Trip – Asheville, North Carolina (May 2-3, 2020)

As I drove into Asheville, I immediately came upon Pack Square Park and right off loved the park setting. I was anxious to explore as I knew from my research that there was much history and historic buildings here. Due to COVID it was very quiet with not many people out and plenty of parking so I could park close to things I wanted to see and do. This historic public square has been a central focal point since the city’s creation in 1797, and lays at the intersection of ancient trading paths. It’s named after lumber baron and philanthropist, George W. Pack who donated the land to the county that allowed the old courthouse to be removed from the square and a new courthouse to be built. Pack’s offer required the county to dedicate the historic square as a public park forever. This park was renamed Pack Square in 1903. The park that is here today was a project established in 2000, which was to design and build a 6.5-acre park that opened in 2009. The park has a large open green space on a grassy slope overlooking the main stage, three water features including a splash fountain and original art by local artists.  

Pack Square Park is a really beautiful park inside the city with very unique historic buildings and a beautiful Veterans Memorial. I loved the outdoor amphitheatre and the art work in the surrounding brick work. I could picture people on summer days sitting on the lawn enjoying summer concerts and kids playing in the water fountain on hot, humid summer days.

Asheville’s City Hall

Asheville’s City Hall building was designed by Douglas Ellington in 1926, an architect who came to Asheville in the mid-1920s. The building is a colorful, massive and electric Art Deco masterpiece that is a 8-story building, which was completed in 1928. Originally the project was propsed as part of a joint city-county plaza development, city hall represents the progressive aspirations of the city in the 1920s.

Ellington designed other landmark buildings in Asheville which include the First Baptist Church, Asheville High School, and the S&W Cafeteria. Ellington stated that the design was “an evoultion of the desire that the contours of the building should reflect the mountain background” referring to the amazing scenery that surrounds Asheville and serves as the backdrop of City Hall.

The basic design of the building follows the Classical Architecture principle called “The Rule of Three” or “tripartite organization”. Vertically, City Hall is divided into three parts to represent the three parts of a classical column. The lowest floors which are clad in marble represent a column’s base, the middle floors, mostly done in brick represent the shaft, and then the seventh floor cornice represents a columns capital. This tripartite vertical division had been being utilized by modern architects since the invention (in the late nineteenth-century) with the skyscraper.

The “rule of three” was extended to the lower floor where there are three arched openings into the entrance, and on the second floor by three windows, each surrounded by marble columns and pediments. The name plate above the main entrance and steps to the entrace are also marble.

The unusual octagonal roof is covered with bands of elonagated triangular terra cotta red tiles. Between the two levels of roof are angular pink “Georgia” marble piers between which are precise vertical rows of ornamental green & old feather motifs.

Ellington viewed architecture as a “Fine Art”, and sought to integrate the Fine Arts into his design. He was also a proficient watercolor artist and ornamented his buildings with geometric and natural sculptured ornamentation with a striking use of color. He used naturally colored materials such as brick and stone to achieve the desired colors, highlighted with brightly colored tile and art glass. The main entrance to the building is a groin-valuted loggia, that is beautiful in detail and color. The vaulting and upper walls are covered in colorful mosiac tiles and there are two carved marble crests of the City Seal which are above the north and south entrance doors.

In place of ancient sphinx guarding the entrance, Ellington designed, at the north and south ends on the exterior of the loggia, monumental Art Deco lanterns set on plain marble bases. The copper and art glass lanterns suggest the feathers of an arrow.

Due to COVID-19 the building was not open and so I was not able to go in……my research from google is that the interior of the building is designed in typical 1920s office building-the central core contains the public elevators and an enclosed staircase with offices lie along the perimeter of each floor. The second floor houses the City Managers office and City Council Chambers, both decorated in Neo-Georgian fashion. The interior of the council chambers features murals that portray the story of the American Indians and early white settlers in the area. City Hall has changed little since the 1920s. The building captivates residents and vistors till to this day with its bold and colorful style. I myself thought it was amazing and beautiful building.


Asheville’s courthouse was completed in 1928 and is one of the most extravagent courthouses in North Carolina. In 1792, after its founding, Buncombe County built its first courthouse in what was then known as Morristown, renamed Asheville in 1797. Several log and brick courthouses were constructed during the 19th century, but by 1923, with the rapid growth of the county and Asheville, county court officials decided that a new courthouse was “imperative and essential.” The Washington, D.C. firm of Milburn, Heister & Company was chosen to design the new courthouse in December 1926. The firm had a national reputation for quality work in public buildings across the southeast.

The Courthouse was Milburn’s most opulently finished public building. The building’s complex setbacks, window groupings and overlay of Neo-Classical Revival ornamentation resulted in a distinctive building from this period, when courthouses were normally characterized by simple massing and conservative classical elements. Again due to COVID-19 I was unable to go into the building so I turned to the internet for more information……..The interior lobby has a sweeping marble staircase, bronze and glass screens, a coffered ceiling with ornate plasterwork and a mosaic tile floor that echoes the ceiling’s tones. The lobby is one of the best-preserved and most elegant Neo-Classical interiors in the state.

The new courthouse was initially estimated at $1,000,000, but the final cost ran closer to $1,750,000, and the removal of the old courthouse required another $65,000. Upon completion in 1928, the 17-story building was the tallest local government building in North Carolina.


As I mentioned there is also a beautiful granite Veterans Memorial in Pack Square Park.

The memorial’s main feature is a bronze statue of a woman seated on a granite bench with letters to the “homeland” on her lap. The sculptor Jodi Hollnagel-Jubran was inspired by her own mother and thought it fitting to have a mother figure as the central point in the memorial to veterans, “because we all have mothers.”

On the outside entrance is written: WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA / VETERANS’ MEMORIAL



Before the Europeans arrived in what is now North Carolina, the land around Asheville was a part of the Cherokee nation.  After the American Revolution, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family received a land grant from the state of North Carolina to settle in the Swannanoa Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This early settlement in 1785 paved the way for the future of what would become the city of Asheville.

In 1792, Buncombe County was established with a city called “Morristown” as its county seat. In 1797, that city was renamed Asheville after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe

As a city in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville was an outpost in 1797. Frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett traveled through here in those days…..this area was a crossroad of Indian trails on a plateau surrounded by mountains and rivers on all sides. When the railroad arrived in 1880, it transformed Asheville and Buncombe County into a resort and therapeutic health center. Asheville became a destination for visitors who were looking for a mountain escape and the population of permanent residents increased to 10,000 by 1890.

As Asheville began to grow in the 1880s, it drew visionaries, poets and explorers. Among the most notable was George W. Vanderbilt, he came to Asheville in the late 1880s and bought 120,000 acres to build his grand estate on, “The Biltmore”. Construction took six years to complete. He hired a landscape architect to design the grounds and gardens, and a architect to help him plan the house. The Biltmore Estate has withstood the test of time and remains America’s Largest Home.

Author, Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900 and grew up in his mother’s boardinghouse, known as “Dixieland.” Wolfe is one of the giants of American literature, and Asheville is the backdrop for his autobiographical novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.” The boarding house where he grew up is still preserved in downtown Asheville.

There are many styles of architecture throughout the streets of Asheville. Asheville was called the “Paris of the South” in the early 1900s for establishing itself as an artisan city with unique style and architectural talent. In the 1920s Asheville grew as an urban center of government, commerce and tourism, more than 65 buildings were built in downton Asheville during the 1920s. The Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s hit Asheville hard, Western North Carolina’s largest bank, the Central Bank Trust Company, folded. Fortunes vanished, families lost their homes, and the city soon defaulted on its overwhelming debts. Rather than filing bankruptcy, the City of Asheville chose to pay off its debt, taking nearly 50 years to accomplish. Investment in new construction stopped. The absence of building activity in Asheville had the effect of preserving several buildings from the wrecking ball, allowing so many of these buildings to survive.

Basilica of St Lawrence

As I continued to drive around the city of Asheville I ran across this beautiful church, The Basilica of St Lawrence…….I really love these old churches with their amazing architecture and how well they are built to with stand years of time. I was not able to go inside, so the pictures from inside I have inclued here are from the internet, but I was able to walk the grounds and admire the architecture and craftsmanship. I don’t know if any of my readers are interested in the history and details, but I find it interesting and I don’t know a lot about the Catholic churches and the words they use to describe the various rooms and alters so I have used words that I am familiar with to narrate through the information that I have read or learned to try and make it user friendly. I also try to keep the information short so it’s not to boring, but still give at least some information and history. 

So what is a Basilica? I was curious to know as well……The title dates back to the early Greek and Roman times and referred to a type of public building. In the 4th century, Basilicas began to be used as places of worship. It was during this time that construction of the greatest Basilicas of Rome was started. Today, the term Basilica is a special designation given by the Holy Father to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as a place of worship. At the time of the designation of St. Lawrence (April 1993) there were only 33 other Basilicas in the United States. For a church to be considered a Basilica it had to meet a number of required elements which I won’t list or go into, but one of the requirments was that it should have special significance in the diocese. St Lawrence, with its unique dome, is the only church designed and built by the renowned Rafael Guastavino; and is considered the mother church of Western North Carolina.

St. Lawrence was completed in 1909 and is one of Asheville’s architectural treasures. Designed by Rafael Gustavino and Richard Sharpe Smith, who were renowned architects on the Biltmore House, this Catholic church has the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the country. The exterior style is Spanish Renaissance. The central figure on the main façade is that of St. Lawrence holding in one hand a palm frond and in the other a gridiron, the instrument of his torture. On the left of St. Lawrence is the statue of St. Stephen, the first martyr, and like St. Lawrence, a deacon. To the right is the statue of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a native of Spain as was St. Lawrence. The lunette over the main entrance is in polychrome terra cotta and represents Christ giving Peter the keys and appointing him head of the church. Immediately below this lunette is a stained glass window displaying the Basilica of St. Lawrence Coat of Arms.

The massive stone foundations and the solid brick super structure give silent testimony to the architect’s desire to build an edifice that would endure for generations. There are no beams of wood or steel in the entire structure; all walls, floors, ceilings and pillars are of tile or other masonry materials. The roof is of tile with a copper covering.

As I had mentioned I was not able to go inside and so much wish I had been able to, so these pictures and information are from the internet. When entering you can easily see the solidity of the structure. The steps to the organ have no wood or nails. The stained glass window to the right is Bishop Haid’s coat of arms and the one to the left is the coat of arms of Pope St. Pius X.

From the start of the main aisle inside the church, one can realize the beauty of the ellipse and the wonder of the dome. It has a clear span of 58 x 82 feet and is said to be the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America. The four statues in the wall niches are from the Daprato Statuary Company, Italy. On the left, St. Cecilia and St. Peter; on the right, St. Rose of Lima and St. Patrick.

The Main Alter and the Crucifixion table is the main focus of this room. This grouping is rare and a fine example of Spanish wood carving of the middle seventeenth century, and represents Mary, the Mother Jesus, and St. John, at the Crucifixion. The fresco of the Last Supper and the flanking square panels made up the lower facade of the main altar until 1968. At that time they were separated from the base of the altar, moved forward and topped with a 1,800-pound block of Tennessee marble to form a new altar table.

The ornamental partitions that fill the entire wall above the altar are made of polychrome terra cotta. Two archangels, St. Raphael (with the fish in his right hand and a sword in his left) and St. Michael (grasping a sword in both hands), stand on either side of the altar. To the left of St. Michael are the evangelists Matthew and Mark; to the right of St. Raphael-Luke and John. The figures are more than seven feet high; the partitions on each side measure 11 feet by 18 feet in length.


Asheville has a self-guided tour called the Asheville Urban Trail which is a 1.7 mile walking tour through the streets of downtown. Asheville’s history is told through 30 stops, each with public sculputures landmarks. The trail highlights five distinct time periods that are indicated by pink granite markers in the sidewalk; the feather represents the Gilded Age, the horseshoe represents the Frontier Period, an angel for the Times of Thomas Wolfe, the courthouse for the Era of Civic Pride and an eagle for the Age of Diversity. I did not walk the tour but did run across some of the stops as I made my way driving around town.

Station #2 – Crossroads

This sculpture represents a bed of a road (The Buncombe Turnpike) that was once traveled by Native Americans and later, by drovers who herded livestock across the mountains from Tennessee to southern markets, taking turkeys, pigs and cows as far as Charleston. The embedded rails (former Asheville Trolley tracks) represent the coming of the railroad (1880) and the electric trolley (1889).

Station #26 – Past and Promise

This sculpture of a girl in bronze drinking at a fountain represents a simple moment, and one of the trails most cherished stations called “childhood.” She represents both the promise of youth and the reminiscence of times past when children came to play in Pack Square; the freedom of discovery and the promise of accomplishemnt comfortably bound together.

Station #25 – Ellington’s Dream

This granite etching portrays Douglas Ellington’s original working concept of two art deco buildings of government, sitting side by side. Only one followed the plan – the intricately layered city building on the right, controversial at the time. Feather ornamentation throughout the structure honors the history of the Cherokee indians in these mountains.

First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church was dedicated on March 6, 1927, and was another of Douglas Ellingtons designs. He incorporated traditional Beaux-Arts, the early form of Christian church architecture, and fashionable modern Art Deco details in the new church. This building was the fifth house of worship for the First Baptist Church since its organization in 1829. Membership grew from 37 in 1874 to approximately 1,500 in early the 1920s. The new church provided seating for 2,000 in the main sanctuary and space for another 3,000 in the surrounding educational buildings.

A slightly bellcast dome capped by a copper cupola sits atop the octagonal main auditorium and a full height hectacstyle portico greets visitors at the entrance. Although the outward form of the church is generally Neoclassical, the decorative patterns and surface ornament reflect the Art Deco style, which became popular in the 1920s. The primary exterior materials, brick and marble, are composed in a variety of patterns and low relief planes that enrich the wall surfaces with variations of texture and color. Terra cotta molding forms alternating bands of chevrons and nail head designs, while geometric star patterns set in low relief panels accentuate the entrance doors. The large, open sanctuary is richly detailed with geometric stars, stylized floral and feather motifs, diamond-shaped panels and abstract diagonal fretwork.


Since the mid-19th century, Church Street has been home to a number of congregations. The Central United Methodist Church met in a frame building beginning in 1837, but the current building was not erected until 1902. Designed by Richard H. Hunt of Tennessee and built by James Madison Westall, the imposing limestone church presents Romanesque Revival style massing and forms, but the detailing more closely reflects the Gothic Revival style. A five-bay loggia, set between two pinnacled towers, fronts the large, gable-roofed auditorium. A Sunday School was added and ready for use in 1904 and the first service was held in the auditorium on November 5, 1905. In 1924 a renovation and expansion (costing more that $200,000) included a larger Sunday school additon.


Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a redbrick late Victorian Gothic church, is home to one of Asheville’s largest congreations of African Americans. In the spring of 1880, a new African American Baptist church was established in Asheville, nine blocks west of the current church. Shortly after the church was established a revival was held. At the time the members had not decided on a name for the church, so when the Reverend came to conduct the revival he decided to call this church Mt Zion because he had never known a Mt Zion that did not thrive.

In 1919 a new Mt Zion church was built in its current location. The church is two and one-half stories from the stone foundation to a tin-shingled roof where three towers are topped by ornamental sheet-metal finials. There are large Art Glass windows that ornament the towers walls. The massive church has a cornerstone that reads, “Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Rebuilt 1919, Reverend J.R. Nelson, Pastor,” reflecting the building’s long history and importance to the community.

Vance Moument

Zebulon Baird Vance was Governor of North Carolina during the American Civil War and a United States Senator from 1880 until his death in 1894. He also lived in Asheville. George Willis Pack donated $2000, or two-thirds of the cost towards the design and construction of the monument. Originally, only the word “Vance” appeared on each side. Construction of the 65-foot obelisk honoring him began December 22, 1897, with a band playing “Dixie” as the cornerstone was laid. The location of the obelisk was present-day Pack Square, on land owned by the city of Asheville. The inscription on the plaque read:

MAY 13, 1830 — APRIL 14, 1894

Places like the Vance mounment have been controversial particulary in light of today’s events and the history of slavery in the United States. Zebulon Vance’s family owned slaves and he was a product of the times. During the “Reconstruction era” he opposed allowing African Americans to have equal rights. Vance is also known for and often praised for his famous speech, “The Scattered Nation,” where he calls on society to demonstrate compassion and tolerance for Jews.

Zebulon Vance’s leadership helped the people of North Carolina survive after the Civil War ended. His role as governor and then in the senate helped North Carolina continue to thrive and flourish.

The Vance monument is impressive with its towering height, as an obelisk it was modeled after Egyptian obelisks and the most famous U.S. obelisk, the Washington mounument. The Vance obelisk is constructed of rough cut stones unlike the smooth separate blocks of the Washington monument. Zeb Vance was a 33rd degree Freemason and there are 33 rows in this monument.

Update 2021

Vance Monument is now gone as of May 2021. After standing tall for more than 120 years, the Vance monument has been taken down, stone by stone. The Monument had stood in the middle of downtown Asheville since 1897. The city council voted to remove the obelisk in March 2021, following the recommendation of the Vance Monument task force. The task force was created in June 2020. From there, appointed members discussed the monument’s fate for weeks before deciding removing it was the best course of action. Then in March, the final say from city council came down. Demolition began May 18, 2021 and was completed except for the pedestal by May 30, 2021.

Jackson Building, Downtown Asheville

The ornate Jackson Building is the most beloved skyscraper in Downtown Asheville. The 13-story Neo-Gothic style skyscraper was completed in 1924, the first skyscraper in western North Carolina. It was also the tallest skyscraper in all of North Carolina!

Real estate developer L. B. Jackson commissioned the Neo-Gothic style skyscraper to promote his faith in the continued strength of the 1920s local real estate market. Fitted with a searchlight to draw tourists to the city, the Jackson Building has been a visual landmark since its completion.

The Jackson Building was constructed on a tiny 27 by 60 foot lot that many believed to be too small to build on. This steel-framed brick and terra-cotta structure is adorned with dramatic stone gargoyles near the top. In its early days, one of the buildings most unusual uses was as a “clean-air lookout”. Many of Asheville’s buildings were heated with coal, and every morning the city inspector stood at the top of the Jackson Building to watch for excessive smoke as building furnaces started up. If heavy smoke persisted for more than 5 minutes a citation to clean the furnace was issued.

Asheville High School

When I first gazed up on this building I thought it was the most amazing, beautiful building I had ever seen for a high school. I have always admired the craftsmenship and beautiful designs and materials that the early archictects put into their buildings.

After the railroad reached Asheville in 1881, the population grew from 2,000 to 10,000, so due to the increase in population, Asheville began a public school system in 1888. The new public school system developed and grew over the years until in 1926 when the school board agreed that a “large, central high school” was needed. A committe was formed to locate a suitable location and out of seven architect proposals Douglas D. Ellington (Ellington is also the architect who designed Asheville City Hall) was selected by a majority vote. With a cost of $1.3 million (18.8 million in 2016 dollars) Asheville high school opened on February 5, 1929. When the Asheville High School opened it had a wide variety of vocation programs including automotive mechanics, a full print shop (all yearbooks, newspapers, and magazines were printed on campus), mechanical drawing and photography, including a dark room. When the stock market crashed in September 1929 some schools were forced to close and the city’s economics hit rock bottom. For a time Asheville High School was closed and students were moved to David Millard and Hall Fletcher which were two structures built in the early 1920’s which formed what was the former Asheville High School. In 1949, another vocational facility (known today as the ROTC building) was built by students in the vocational program, as a real world example of construction. In the early 1970’s a media center addition was added to the main building. In 1973, a new gym and atheltic facility was added to the old vocational building. In the early 1990’s, a $3.5 million cultural arts building was built. In 2006, a new $3.1 million cafeterial was added to the campus. In 2016 the city identified $25 million in needed repairs. The biggest problem was the roof, with thousands of clay tiles which would all have to be removed (an possibly replaced afterwards). The executive director of the Preservation Society of Ashville, called the building “a master work of Ellington.”


Pack’s Tavern is a modern tavern in a historic/vintage building with over 35 rotating taps, live music and food that sits in the heart of downtown Asheville’s Pack Square Park. Pack’s Tavern has quite the history……the historic Hayes & Hopson building has served the local community for many years. The building was built in 1907 by a local lumber supply company and remains one of the oldest buildings in Asheville. As the demand for lumber grew, the supply company built an additional building to the north. Erected in 1912, this same building is the location for the main restaurant and bar area. The second-floor is an event center, called the Century Room. In its early years it is rumored that the Hayes & Hopson building operated an illegal liquor distribution hub that served most of Western North Carolina during the 1920’s. When Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, the story goes that a lucrative distribution center for moonshine was established in the basement. Using the lumber supply as it’s front, its “load dock” on the side of the building and a underground passageway enabled the business to thrive. For the next 12 years, large quantities of while lightening were coming and going. Historians say the tunnel or passageway lead directly to the police station right across the street…..the cops were some of the biggest boatleggers……..”The police would raid a still or a barrom and take all illegal liquor dowstairs to what would be the evidence room, impound it, and smuggle it through the passageway to the lumber company, never to be seen again.”

In 1932, the Democratic Party promised, if elected to repeal Prohibition. Nine days after Franklin Roosevelt took office in January 1933, the sale of beer was legalized. Prohibition was fully repealed in December of that year with the ratification of the 21st amendment……the theme of Pack’s Tavern is 1932 – a tribute to the beginning of the end of Prohibition. Taking great care in the design and renovation of what is now Pack’s Tavern, the owners won a prestigious “Griffin Award” for period restoration to the post-Prohibition Era. The 1932 A Ford Truck called “Pack’s Yellow Truck”, has become one of the most photographed icons in downtown Asheville.


The Asheville Fire Department was formally organized in 1882. After a fatal fire on Vance Street, a group of citizens demanded action from town officials. A hand truck and equipment were purchased and the volunteer Hook and Ladder Company #1 was born. Two years later, Hose Company #1 was formed, also hand-drawn.

The Municipal Building/Headquarters directly across the street from Pack’s Tavern at 10 Court Plaza officially opened on March 8, 1926. Over 15,000 people attended the ceremonies at the $100,000 structure. The building housed the fire and police departments, a police court, a city jail, and the City Market in the rear. The fire station first housed four fire companies, two engines, an aerial ladder, and a service ladder. The living areas included dormitories (with 28 beds), reading rooms, a club room, and a kitchen.

In the late 1930s, the City Market relocated to another location, and in 1941, the fire department expanded into part of the old market. Personnel built a maintenance garage with a vehicle entrance on the Market Street side of the structure. By 1956, the remaining old market area was used by the county welfare department.

The interior of the Municipal Building was extensively remodeled beginning in 1998 and completed in 2000. The $11 million project expanded and improved facilities for both the fire and police departments. The emergency communications center was also moved from its basement location to the third floor.


Road Trip – Shelby, North Carolina (May 2-3, 2020)

I had booked a really nice Airbnb room from a older woman named Mirna in a nice housing subdivision for a month in Dallas, North Carolina, a little town outside Gastonia. She was originally from Hondorus and came to the United States as a young girl at the age of 13. Her husband passed away a few years prior and so she rents out one of the spare rooms for extra income. It was a large room with a King size bed, a chair and foot stool to sit on and my own private bathroom. We shared the kitchen and she gave me a couple of shelves in the fridge to use for my personal food. I also had rented a car for a month, so one of the weekends I was staying there I decided to take a road trip. We were in the midst of the COVID-19 panademic and so many places were closed so about the only thing I could do was siteseeing in nature and viewing places from outside among some of the towns I passed through.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about North Carolina is the history. So I hope you won’t be too bored but as I made this trip and passed through several small towns with all their history, which was and is the making of our great country I am sharing what I saw and learned with……. you my readers.

I left Dallas, North Carolina traveling on Hwy 74 to the town of Shelby…………In 1841, Cleveland County was named for Colonel Benjamin Cleveland who was a Revolutionary War hero at the Battle of Kings Mountain. In 1842, the county seat was established and named after Colonel Isaac Shelby who was also a war hero at the Battle of Kings Mountain. James Love and William Forbes donated land for the city. James Love had visited Washington D.C., and liked the design with the wide streets. He asked the city planners to adapt the same ideas for Shelby. Shelby’s main streets are named for Revolutionary War heroes. Shelby was home to several important political leaders in the first half of the 20th century. A powerful group know as “The Shelby Dynasty” that included two brothers James and Edwin Yates Webb, Oits Mull, Max Gardner who was elected to governor in 1928 and Clyde R. Hoey also elected governor in 1936. Shelby is also the birthplace of country music legends Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson.

James L. Webb began his career in government as a state Senator, then in 1882, he served as District Solicitor, and in 1894 was appointed as a Superior Court Judge. Edwin Yates Webb, James’s younger brother, served in the State General Assembly and then moved to Washington, D.C. were he served as Congressman for North Carolina’s Ninth District for 26 years. He became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and his legislative efforts included helping draft the constitutional amendment for prohibition, introduced the bill to charter the Boy Scouts of America, promoting regulations for food and drugs and co-authoring an antitrust bill. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Edwin Webb as a Federal Judge. He served in that capacity for 28 years.

Although Otis Mull did not hold any major public office like the others did, he was still an influential figure in state politics. He served six terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives–one as speaker of the North Carolina House–and he was Chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee for six years.

The Webbley House

Shelby has a rich historical district and is home to one of the most historical residences in the state. Webbley, also known as the O. Max Gardner House, was built sometime around 1852 to 1855. The original house was two-stories and is an example of the grandeur and grace of the old south’s architecture. Augustus W. Burton was the builder and original owner of the house. He sold it shortly thereafter and it changed ownership many times over the next 50 years. In 1905 J.A. Anthony a prominent local attorney bought the house and along with his wife, Ollie Gardner Anthony, did a drastic renovation to the house. The Colonial Revival drastically changed the appearance of the house to what it looks like today. They also added on to the house increasing its size from the original construction done in the 1850s. Anthony’s brother in-law and business partner was Oliver Maxwell Gardner, who had married into the politically influential Webb family. Gardner not only was a lawyer but he also owned a farm. Gardner’s father-in-law, Judge James L. Webb bought the house from Anthony. He moved his family and the Gardners in, and the locals quickly started calling the house Webbley. Webbley remained in the family and in 1993 O. Max Gardner III and his wife, Victoria Harwell Gardner, turned the home into a bed and breakfast with a political theme. The Inn at Webbly was one of the nation’s finest inns, but closed in 1998 due to an illness in the family which made operation of the inn difficult and the house was converted back to private use. Another interesting fact is that Thomas Dixon used Webbley as inspiration in his 1905 novel, The Clansman. The home was also used as a real life model in the movie based on the novel, Birth of a Nation in 1915.

When I visited it was not open to visit so I could only view from the outside and walk around the property. It appeared to me that no one lived there and was in need of some fixing up as it was looking a bit dilapidated.


The centerpiece of Shelby is the Cleveland County Courthouse, with its Neo-Classsical Revival design in a park-like setting was built in 1907 at the cost of $75,000. The North Carolina General Assembly created Cleveland County from parts of Rutherford and Lincoln counties in 1841. Before the first courthouse was built, court was held on the second floor of Williams Weather’s home southwest of Shelby. Courthouse Square became the site of the county government once the first courthouse, a log building, was erected here in 1842. In 1844, a committee was appointed to draft plans for a formal courthouse. A contract was awarded to George Smith to construct a red brick courthouse, that was completed in 1874. This courthouse was then replaced by the limestone building standing on Courthouse Square today. In front of the courthouse, facing Lafayette Street, is the Statue for the Confederate Heroes of Cleveland County dedicated on November 21, 1906. In 1974, the county court moved to the law enforcement center and in 1976 this building became home to the Cleveland County Historical Museum which closed in 2004 and became home to the Earl Scruggs Center in January 2014. The museum focuses on both the life of local musician Earl Scruggs and the music, history and culture of the American South. The museum also hosts concerts and music lectures.

Earl Scruggs Center

January 6, 1927 – March 28, 2012

Earl Scruggs was born in the Flint Hill community of Cleveland County, North Carolina. Here he learned a love for music and perfected the “Scruggs Style,” a distinctive three-finger style of playing the banjo.

Earl’s debut at the Ryman Auditorium led to the birth of Bluegrass and revolutionized the banjo across many musical genres. His work with guitar player Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys put Bluegrass in homes all around the world. Later, he formed the Earl Scruggs Revue with his sons, and continued to innovate, push musical boundaries, and reach a new audience of music lovers and fans.

Earl Scruggs left a mark on every project and person he touched throughout his legendary life and career. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, received four Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a National Heritage Fellowship. His legacy continues to influence countless musicians and music fans today.

When I was here so many things were closed because of COVID-19 so I was not able to tour the museum. I really enjoy museums and all the things one can learn from them, so I was bummed that I missed out on this opportutiny. From my research on the internet the museum is full of historical information about Earl Scruggs and the area. It is a simple museum that is a great tribute to a man who had a significant influence on music.

Shelby Cotton Mill

As I was driving around town I came upon this warehouse…..I knew it had to be some manfucaturing plant that had closed down years ago as evidence of overgrowth and vines growing up the walls, and the decay. There were no signs or markers indicating what this building/business used to be. I later was googling the town of Shelby and actually found only one pretty good source that told the story of this cotton mill.

The textile industry in Cleveland County, North Carolina was a major economic asset during the 1900s. The county had over 25 textiles mills and was the leading producer of cotton in the country, with over 80,000 bales in a year. One of the mills was the Shelby Cotton Mill. The first part of the mill was completed in April of 1900.

The first expansion of the mill was added in 1901 to accommodate for the 8,784 ring spindles, 250 broad looms, and 14 carding machines which were required for the rapidly growing industry. This expansion doubled the equipment previously at the mill. Another wing was added to the growing building in 1909.

By 1916, the company had 250 employees. Additional office buildings and other structures behind it were built in 1920. The mill remained one of the largest manufacturers through the early 1920s with materials such as yarn and “pajama check,” a lightwaieght gighman or plaid woven cloth.

The next Shelby Cotton Mill expansion was in 1938. The finishing room was added during the 1950s. Two years prior in 1948, Cleveland County produced 83,549 bales of cotton for the year, turning it into one of North Carolina’s leading textile producers and the premier county for cotton production in the state.

The building was finished in the 1970s, after having gone through more than 15 expansions and renovations. In the 1950s, droughts, insect infestations, and government acreage controls resulted in the decline of cotton as Cleveland County’s primary crop. By 1975, the county was producing a mere 1,934 bales of cotton, compared to the peak of more than 83,000 bales. The decline in cotton was accompanied by a shift away from textile manufacturing in the city as competition from foreign exporters combined with Shelby’s inability to compete with larger, more modern mills. Many of the mills are still standing today, one of which is the Shelby Cotton Mill, but few are still in operation. Cleveland County has remained an agricultural environment supported by cash grains like corn and soybeans. You can still drive through and see cotton fields.

Shelby High School

Shelby High School was built in 1937 with assitance from the Works Progress Administration, a depression-era Federal Relief Program. The school was designed by a local firm of V.M Breeze who designed most of the significient commerical and institutional buildings in Shelby from the 1930’s through WWII. This building served as Shelby High School for almost 25 years. It looks like now it is used for the school district adminstrative offices. Breezes design for the high school was a blend of classical and modern elements. The 2-story building with a concrete basement contains large classrooms on all three levels. Like many schools designed during this time period, the entryway is recessed and flanked by fluted pilasters. A concrete panel above the entrance is inscribed with the initials SHS.

Irvin-Hamrick Log Home

The Irvin-Hamrick log home is located about 10 miles outside of town set back off a two lane country road in the woods. It is easy to miss and I actually did drive past it and had to turn around. The home is a small dwelling of half-dovetail notch construction, a type of building which once thousands of small farmers in Piedmont and Western North Carolina used to build their homes. This log home is a rare surviving example of the type of house most North Carolinianas lived induring the 18th and early 19th centuries, and this is one of the few that has seen consisent maintenance and the hope of continued preservation. The small rectangular gable roof house is built of hewn logs joined with half-doved notches, the dominant corner-timbering method in Western North Carolina for many generations. Weather boards cover the logs in several sections and the the entire house may have been covered at one time. One fireplace warmed the two interior rooms, and a small enclosed stairway that lead to an unfinished attic. James Irvin, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, proably built the house sometime after his purchase of 200 acres along Beauerdam creek in 1794. Irvin married Rebecca Hardin of Lincoln County, and the couple raised 10 children in the tiny house-five boys and five girls, providing for them through land deals and working farms. After Irvins death in 1845, the house and land passed to his children, who sold the property to Cameron Street Hamrick in 1850. Hamrick and his wife, Elmire Bridges raised 6 sons in the house. Hamerick was a disciplinarian who believed his sons should remain in the home until the age of 21 and consquently, the fmaily added to the present frame rear addition sometime after the civil war. All of the Hamericks sons raised large families and their descndants remain in great numbers in the Cleveland County and neighboring areas of the Western Piedmont of North & South Carolina. The house has never left Hamrick ownership. In 1951 it was acquired by the Cameron Street Hamrick Memorial Association, a family organization dedicated to the preservation of the homestead and the maintenance of the adjacent family cemetery. An annual Cameron Street Reunion is held at the house each year, the 4th Sunday in August.

Rogers Theatre

The Rogers Theatre Block has been a center of cultural, social and political activity for Shelby and Cleveland County since its construction in the late 1930s. Named for its original owner, Robert Hamer Rogers, the theater first opened in 1936 showing Love on the Run starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Built in sections through the early 1940s, the theater’s grey limestone façade exhibits Art Deco details and is the only example of this popular 20th-century architectural style in Shelby. Considered one of North Carolina’s finest historic theaters, it is now an historic building. The theater has been little altered, still retaining its original marquee and a signage mast above which reads “theatre” that was an early addition to the theater. The 1,000-seat theater was constructed with a working vaudeville stage, as this type of traveling entertainment was still very popular in the western part of North Carolina at the time of its construction. Between movies, live acts took the stage. The Rogers Theatre held live performances and showed films well into the 1980s. In the mid-1980s famous North Carolina movie producer Early Owensby used the building to showcase many of his productions. In 1985 Rogers Theatre closed. In 1999 the Rogers Theatre Consortium formed to lead the effort to restore the building and to bring back an important film and performing arts center. The National Trust for Historic Preservation singled out the Rogers Theatre in 2001 when it was included on its “11 Most Endangered Properties” list, as one of the country’s threatened independent movie theaters, and designated the theater as an official project of the “Save America’s Treasures” program. Although there have been groups and moves to restore the theatre, it awaits a new owner who will hopefully one day bring it back to its former glory.

Rogers Theatre when I visited in May 2020

Don Gibson Theatre

Originally known as “The State Theatre”, opened its doors as the area’s most beautiful movie house on October 27th, 1939. The local paper praised it as “one of the most strikingly beautiful building fronts of the modern day”

“The State” was a typical popular small town movie theatre, but in its later years (as The Flick) it encountered the same challenges that befell literally thousands of such film houses around the country. Retail stores moved to the malls along the highway… downtowns dried up, cable TV became a more dominant force in our lives and so many movie theatres went under…..But thanks to a dedicated team of passionate volunteers, a group called Destination Cleveland County was formed just a few years ago and it’s thanks to them this old movie house is coming back to life after having been dark for almost three decades.

The renovated theatre is now the “Don Gibson Theatre”, this 400 seat venue is primarily a very intimate concert hall. Their vision is to bringing the best in touring nationally known acts and musicians who have graced magazine covers, earned Grammy Awards and Gold Albums and “Best of the Year” Awards… people whose CD’s (and albums) you may already have in your collection. They plan to very carefully select the newest up-and-coming acts out of Nashville,d New York and Austin…..acts you may not have heard of yet.

So who is Don Gibson? Don Gibson along with a few others changed the sound of Nashville and country music. Even outside of country music circles several of his songs are instantly recognized by fans and musicians all across the globe, and across almost five decades of music cultural change. Don was one of the most influential forces in the country music industry from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Many remember Don’s two best known compositions, Sweet Dreams which became one of Patsy Cline’s most biggest hits, and the Ray Charles classic single I Can’t Stop Loving You, both were chart-crossing smash hits that shattered stereotypes.

Don’s third unforgettable country classic, Oh, Lonesome Me original recording was a revolutionary single for its day, as Don and producer Chet Atkins dropped the traditional fiddle and steel guitar for a new and more aggressive sound that featured multiple guitars, a piano, a drummer, upright bass and background singers. Although it doesn’t sound like a radical move today, it was then, and Don and Chet are given credit for having helped what became known as the Nashville Sound. Don’s recording of Oh Lonesome Me hit #1 on the national charts and stayed there for eight weeks, an almost unheard of feat in that era.

Don Gibson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973, an honor he shares with Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet and Johnny Cash. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Don Gisbon passed away in 2003, but he left behind a musical legacy that has touched the hearts of millions.

Central United Methodist Church

Central United Methodist Church is the oldest church in Shelby. In 1841 when Cleveland County was formed James Love and his wife Susan gave 147 acres that is now the heart of Shelby. William Forbes who later become a member of the church congregation, gave 50 acres to make up the western section of the city. The two gifts of land provided for schools, a city hall, court square, and a building lot for all recognized denominations – Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist.

By March of 1845, when Cleveland County was just four years old, the 25 member congregation needed a place to meet, so Dr. Thomas Williams, who was a Baptist let the group meet in his office. By summer the group moved into their first church, a one-room wooden structure. By 1878 the congregation had grown larger and needed a bigger meeting house, so the one-room wooden church was sold for $450 to start their funds for a new building. In 1884 their new building was completed but had no plumbing or water as these were not available to the city of Shelby until 1908 which was also when they added Sunday School classrooms. In 1922 the pastor at the time, Rev. Edgar Poovey decided it was time to build a new church after they started to have problems with the furnace and serveral other needed repairs. On January 11, 1925 the building that is standing today held its first sermon in the new building and became know as the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

During the 1930’s, one of Central’s Sunday School classes became widely known throughout the state. Its teacher was Clyde R. Hoey, who later became governor of Noth Carolina. The class membership exceeded 300 men, meeting in the “south pasture” where the present class still meets every Sunday morning as the Hoey Bible Class.

By the late 60’s a new Education Building was badly needed, and work was begun. The new building was dedicated in 1968.

First Baptist Church

I love the old churches and their beautiful architecture intrigues me, so as I was driving around the town of Shelby I happened upon the First Baptist Church. The first organized church began with 25 members on June 19, 1847. The church declined an offer of land from the county and instead paid $300 for the 130 foot square plot of land on North Lafayette Street on which the present church stands today. The first building constructed at this site was a white frame church. The Baptists became the largest and most influential denomination in Shelby. Reverend James Webb, of Shelby’s influential Webb family, was the first pastor. Shelby’s early families–the Loves, Blantons, Webbs and Gardners were all members of the congregation. In 1889, a brick church replaced the originial building, but the congregation soon became unhappy with its poor construction. In April 1904, an additional lot was purchased and the first of several additions were added.

The 1911 Gothic Revival church is the third Baptist church at this site. It is considered the most elaborate church in Shelby. The use of yellow brick for the church was a major change from the red brick that had been used since the 1880s for most of Shelby’s commercial and industrial buildings. It’s Tiffany stained glass windows were bought for $1,300 from George Hardy Payned of Petterson, New Jersey. The church’s three steeples rising from the top towers are prominent architectural features of the building.

Shelby City Hall

Shelby City Hall was constructed in 1939 also with assistance from the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era Federal relief program. This Georgian Revival 15,700-square-foot building was built in three sections, the two-story center section is set at an angle to the corner of East Graham and South Washington streets housed the city offices. Hyphens connected the central section to two one-story wings. The public library was originally located in the wing to the south, while the police and fire departments were housed in the west wing. Distinguishing features of the building include the octagonal cupola with arched openings and dome, and the scrolled pediment with central urn above the main entrance. Interior elements include marble floors, brass handrail, intricate wooden detail ceiling moldings and trim which all reflects the status Shelby enjoyed during this period.

Here are just some other miscellaneous pictures out and around Shelby, North Carolina