2016FallSymposiumURCreativityEngagement has ended
Tuesday, December 6 • 10:35am - 10:55am
The Blending of Public and Private Interests in Urban Development in 1920s Asheville

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Asheville, North Carolina experienced a boom in urban development in the 1920s as a result of the decade’s economic prosperity. Members of the city’s upper class sought to guide urban growth in order to bolster Asheville’s wealth as well as their own. This thesis examines two major development projects in downtown Asheville during the 1920s and analyzes the political and economic motivators of each. The municipal government’s experiment with professional city planning led to a number of major improvements for the city, but its proposal for a grand civic center caused conflict between Asheville’s elite and its mayor John H. Cathey. The upper class used Progressive Era values of interventionist government and civic virtue to pressure the city to erect a monument that promoted their own economic interests in the form of a civic center. As the city’s wealthy and powerful struggled to collaborate over the construction of Asheville’s city-county complex, tycoon E. W. Grove proved for one last time in Asheville the power of Gilded Age laissez-faire capitalists by creating an entirely new commercial district just a few blocks away. Unconcerned with civic ideals, his transformation of the Battery Park hill was more blatantly driven by modern consumerism. These major projects were fundamentally ideologically different, but both represented the common interests of the city’s elite, namely that of promoting Asheville as a prosperous modern city and travel destination.


Tuesday December 6, 2016 10:35am - 10:55am
014 Whiteside Hall