A Postcard Memory

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Skyline Cooperative Dairies post card from the Terry Taylor Collection.

 

“Skyline Dairy was clean, modern, and cool. We would have cones of lemon sherbet after a Sunday afternoon drive.  Most often we ate in the car, probably because it kept my brother and I quiet and contained for a few minutes.  Always loved that facade — another example of short-lived good modern architecture, now just a postcard memory!” Ed Gunn, New York City

 

I’ve collected postcards for many years. A good portion of my collection of linen cards from the 1940’s and 50’s was purchased in the late 1970’s from The Asheville Postcard Company on Carolina Lane. Several years ago some 200 of the Asheville and Western North Carolina cards were added to the NC Collection. I’ve never stopped adding to my collection. Thank you eBay.

 

This past spring I bid on and won a card of an Asheville building I’d never seen before: Skyline Cooperative Dairy. A quick search of the NC Collection website led me to a single black and white photograph of the building. The brief citation noted that Anthony Lord designed it.

 

The NC Collection is fortunate to possess architectural plans from the architectural firm Six Associates that Anthony Lord helped found. In one of the many dusty tubes are the initial structural plans and elevations of Skyline Cooperative Dairy. As you enter Pack Library to attend “Let’s Talk About Anthony Lord” on August 28 at 6 pm, look for the glass case on your right containing the original elevation and a black and white photograph of the Skyline building.

In the late 1920’s a modern tunnel was bored through Beaucatcher Mountain providing direct access to downtown Asheville from the east via US 70/ US 74A.

In the spring of 1946, Anthony Lord began designing a modern cooperative dairy to be located on a plot of land in the Haw Creek Ward of Buncombe County. The plot is described as bordering a “concrete highway”, backed up by Ross Creek and the “Hildebrand estate”. Driving from downtown on Tunnel Road you will pass on your left The Cornerstone Restaurant (in the 1960’s it was a Shoney’s) and the exit/entrance to I240. This was the location of Skyline Cooperative Dairy at 110 Tunnel Road.

 

Skyline Cooperative Dairy was a project of The Farmer’s Federation. According to an article in Farmer’s Federation News in May of 1948 the cooperative received milk from local farmers and pasteurized the milk in 16 seconds in stainless steel equipment. At that time milk was delivered in large cans from the farmers. An innovation in the new building was a mechanized can washer. It washed and sterilized a can, replacing the lid as soon as the milk was removed. The milk, the article rhapsodizes, “is entirely enclosed in stainless steel pipes and tanks until it reaches the bottle.”

 

The dairy bar portion of building was “constructed of structural glass with chrome trim” and seated about 80 people. Alas, there is no description of the interior décor. In my fevered imagination I picture chrome chairs and stools padded with shiny, red or perhaps green patterned vinyl. In addition, an “open air terrace” seated an additional 80 customers.

 

The first City Directory listing for Skyline Cooperative Dairy on Tunnel Road appears in 1947. Listings appeared in 1948 and 1949; in 1951 the address changed to 110 Tunnel Road. In 1953 the listing is accompanied by a small ¼ page ad. There was a full-page ad in the City Directory in 1954 extolling the famous terrace and late night summer hours on Friday evening!

 

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Skyline Dairies Ad from the 1954 Asheville City Directory.

Listings in the City Directory for Skyline run through 1958. In 1959 the listing at 110 Tunnel Road changed to Coble Co-operative, Inc. and in 1960, the Coble Dairy Bar at 112 Tunnel Road appears. By 1968 when I got my driver’s license, the spot on Tunnel Road had become a Shoney’s with a Big Boy statue in front.

 

The purchase of a single postcard led me on a serendipitous search to discover a small part of the history of Asheville, a vanished building by a talented architect, and sparked my imagination thinking of what the interior of the building might have looked like. If you remember what the interior looked like, please let me know. And if you recently purchased a brownish-photo postcard of a Southern Engineering Steel Building on Haywood and Walnut Street in Asheville (drats), please consider donating it to the NC Collection. Just like I’m donating my postcard of Skyline Cooperative Dairy. They’re postcard memories of an Asheville that no longer exists.

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Skyline Cooperative Dairies, Architectural Drawing, Sheet 5, Pack Memoial Library, Special Collections Architectural Drawings Collection, ARD0207, partial view.

Post by Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member Terry Taylor.

We hope to see you Thursday, August 28th 6:00-7:00 at the Lord Auditorium, lower level of Pack Memorial Library, 67 Haywood Street, Asheville, N.C.

The event is free and open to the public.

 

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BERNARD ELIAS

A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate to receive a donation of Bernard Elias material. Bernard was a photographer, filmmaker, world traveler, avid hiker, and a fierce advocate for nature conservation in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  Bernard was born in 1918 and grew up in Biltmore Forest. His family home provided a great vantage point for him to take in the natural beauty of places like Mount Pisgah. Evidently taking in the scenery wasn’t enough. According to author and hiker, Danny Bernstein, at age 14 Bernard and a buddy had a real hankering to walk to the top of Mount Pisgah. Age, gear, and land access limitations be darned!

From Danny’s article published in the MountainXpress in 2006:

The boys didn’t have sleeping bags so they took army blankets, a pup tent and cans of food — there were no freeze-dried meals back then. They jumped the fence into Biltmore Estate — the place was not as heavily patrolled as it is now — and managed to get someone to row them across the French Broad River. From there (this was before the Blue Ridge Parkway, mind you), all they had to guide them was the Shut-In Trail, a route originally built by George Vanderbilt to get him from his estate to Buck Spring Lodge. The boys took two days to reach Mount Pisgah.

Now that’s pretty impressive in my book. It’s staggering to think of the effort it took to just get to a trailhead, much less hike the thing. Anyone hiking the area in the pre-Blue Ridge Parkway days had to REALLY want to hike.

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Pack Memorial Library NC Room Collection: AB590 W.M. Cline

 

The young Elias survived his Mount Pisgah stint and went on to graduate from Duke University, be a Scoutmaster, work as a Navy photographer during WWII, and hold positions with Ecusta Paper Plant and Ball Photo.

Bernard Elias was the longest tenured member of the Carolina Mountain Club. He worked tirelessly to stop the Transmountain Railroad through the Smokies in the 1960s. His map The 100 Favorite Trails of the Great Smokies and Carolina Blue Ridge, first published in 1966, is highly regarded and still in demand today.

Here’s some publicity all the way from Indiana in 1989:

100 Favorite Trails

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His knowledge of Southern Appalachian trails was much sought after within the community.

I got a good giggle out of this one:

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He could also wear a hat with great panache.

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Printed in MountainXpress May 2005: Photographer unknown

Bernard Elias

1918-2010

Post by Lyme Kedic

Special thanks to Danny Bernstein for her work in facilitating this donation.

Plantation Dance Team & the Plantation Band Perform at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, 1942

The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival:

“Since 1928, mountain fiddlers, banjo pickers, dulcimer sweepers, dancers, balladeers and others have come to enjoy themselves “along about sundown” the first weekend in August at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This year marked the 87th festival.

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The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival moved into the new Asheville Civic Center for the forty-eighth show in 1975. Sixteen cloggers from Buncombe County High School, the Erwin High School Dancers hit the big platform on Thursday night with Tommy Sheppard and Linda Beckerwerth as lead couple. Also identified in this festival photograph are Richard Gentry and Renee Player, couple number two, and Lee Huntsinger and Cindy Perry, couple number three. Photograph courtesy of Daniels Publications.

1928: Asheville, North Carolina. Well-known musician and folk historian Bascom Lamar Lunsford organizes performers to present traditional mountain music and dance to the public in this first iteration of what will become the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This first festival was held at Pack Square as part of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Rhododendron Festival. Prize money was offered for the best dance group and the best band and the great tradition of the festival was born. Cecil Pless and Sam Love Queen organized the dancers for Lunsford.”

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A group dancing, early 1960’s, in the living room of the home of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, South Turkey Creek in Sandy Mush, Buncombe County. Digital scan made of copy loaned by Joe Bly. Bly identifies himself, center back; Bascom Lunsford on the left of the circle, James Kesterson on the right of the circle, and Walter Puckett with his back to the camera. Charlie Hardin is standing in the doorway. Two of the children sitting on the left are identified: Billy Laughter, second from left and Debbie Daniels, third from left. Hardin, Kesterson, Puckett, Laughter and Daniels were all members of Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, a group which won the Lunsford Cup at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival five years in a row, 1961-1965. James Kesterson of Hendersonville, NC was leader of the group. Photographer Robert H. Lindsey worked for the Asheville Chamber of Commerce 1964-1975.

Some of the more well-known performers included people like buck dancer Bill McElreath (1904-1974), who is accompanied here by fiddler J. Laurel Johnson.

And ballad singer Rilla Ray made a special contribution to the festival.

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Asheville Chamber & Commerce photo announcing Bill McElreath, old time buck dancer, who has never missed a Mountain Dance & Folk Festival. He will be dancing at the 43rd Festival [1970] at the Asheville City Auditorium.

K708-8“Old-timers like Rilla Ray (1886-1978) of Madison County made a special contribution to the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Mrs. Ray picked the five string ‘banjar’ and sang ballads at the festival until after she was ninety. Her son, Byard Ray, is known in the area as King of the Old-Time Fiddle for the devotion he has given to the preservation of old-time music. Photograph courtesy of Daniels Publications.” Photographer Robert H. Lindsey

We recently received this post card donated by Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member, Michael Reid.

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“Round and Square Dancing Each Night – Mon. thru Sat. / Music Furnished by the famous Plantation Combination Band.”

Coverage from the Asheville Citizen of August 9, 1942 explains the “world’s champion” designation: “The Plantation Dance team, winning over all competition for the third consecutive night, was declared ‘champions of the world in square dancing’ as the climax of the annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, at McCormick Field last night. This team is directed by Bill Green and dances to the music of Grover Stewart and his Sunset Ramblers.” Over the “Place Stamp Here” spot someone has written the date 9/07/1943 and the name Schwartz. The Plantation dance hall is first listed in the 1943 Asheville City Directory. Managed by George M. White, the dance hall appears to be located in the warehouse of The Frank Silverman Salvage Company.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Anthony Lord: Artist, Architect, Craftsman

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Special Exhibit in the North Carolina Room
August 1 through 31
Anthony Lord: Artist, Architect, Craftsman
In conjunction with the month long Anthony Lord exhibit,
Pack Memorial Library will present
“Let’s Talk About Anthony Lord” on
Thursday, August 28th at 6pm
The North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library remembers the many talents of Asheville native Anthony Lord with an exhibit showcasing his paintings, architectural drawings and iron work. The exhibit will run from August 1 through August 31, 2014. There will also be a program on his life and work at Pack Library on Thursday, August 28 at 6pm. The library thanks the many gracious people who have loaned their Anthony Lord pieces for the exhibit.
Anthony Lord was born in Asheville in 1900, the son of Helen and well-known architect William H. Lord. After graduating from Yale University in 1927 he spent a year travelling and painting in Europe, bringing home with him more than seventy sketches in watercolor, ink, and pencil, and hundreds of photographs.
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Fishing Boats, Le Grau-Du-Roi, Bouches Du Rhone Watercolor, 1927 On loan from Miegan and Chan Gordon

Returning from Europe he joined his father’s firm in 1929, it becoming Lord and Lord. During the depression, Anthony opened Flint Architectural Forgings and produced metalwork for the National Cathedral in Washington and Yale University as well as for area homes.
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Partial view of wrought iron gate for a door on home in Biltmore Forest. On loan for the exhibit from the collection of Peter Austin.

In 1933 he resumed practicing architecture. In 1941 he helped found Six Associates, a leading Southeastern architectural firm. He designed the Asheville Citizen Times building in 1938 which is still in use today by the company.
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Asheville Citizen-Times Building shortly after construction, circa 1939-40

Lord also designed the Dillingham Presbyterian Church and the D. Hiden Ramsey Library at UNCA and other buildings at UNCA, Warren Wilson College, Western Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro.

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Dillingham Presbyterian Church, Dillingham, NC

D. Hiden Ramsey Library on the campus of UNCAsheville, 1963.

Anthony Lord also designed the Kenilworth Doan Ogden/John Cram residence and the Biltmore Forest Charles D. Owen home. Lord retired in 1971.
Seeing urban design as a source of wellbeing and comfort, he was an early advocate of trees in cities, siting a single Sycamore tree at the entrance to Wall Street. As early as 1956 he had a letter published in the Asheville Citizen-Times stating that if the city council would approve replanting trees in the business district, he would give two trees for Pritchard Park.
Anthony Lord was many things. An architect, an ironworker, a community activist, a leader of the public library, a flutist, a lover of nature, water-color painter, photographer and traveler. He earned the designation Anthony Lord, Renaissance Man. Lord died in Asheville in 1993 at the age of 93.
In conjunction with the month-long Anthony Lord exhibit, Pack Memorial Library will present “Let’s Talk About Anthony Lord” on Thursday, August 28th at 6pm. A few of Anthony Lord’s friends will speak briefly about his work and what he gave to Asheville. Light appetizers will be served.
The speakers will be:
  • Peter Austin — The ironwork of Tony Lord
  • Dianne Cable — A look at the watercolors and sketches of Tony Lord
  • Elizabeth Kostova — Working with Tony on the book, “1927: The Good Natured Chronicle of a Journey”
  • Terry and Cathy Davis — Photography and the influence Lord had shaping their careers
  • John Rogers — Anthony Lord the architect
 For more information on either of these programs, contact North Carolina Room staff at 828-250-4740, or email packnc@buncombecounty.org.

Asheville’s Landing Strips

We recently returned from St. Petersburg, FL to Asheville on Allegiant Airways. One hour and twenty minutes. No stops. Lovely.   We had a clear day and were able to identify a number of landmarks as we came in for our (on-time) landing. It made me wonder about the earlier days of flying in this mountain city, and the North Carolina Room was again a font of information, particularly pictorial.

 

Asheville’s first landing strip was on what was known as Baird’s Bottom, the land that was later flooded to create Beaver Lake which is owned and maintained by the North Asheville residents of Lake View Park.

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Henry Westall preparing to take off from Baird’s Bottom June 19, 1919

Above, on June 19, 1919 Henry Westall prepares to take off from Baird’s Bottom in his plane the Asheville. Westall was an army Signal Corps pilot in World War I and started a commercial aviation business here in 1919 with shares selling for 50 dollars each. He purchased a surplus Canadian training plane and some parts, and “voila” the Asheville Aerial Corporation was in business. Rides over Asheville were available for 15 dollars, a hefty sum at the time. Also in 1919 Westall was the first aviator to fly over the Blue Ridge. It took him less than an hour to fly from Asheville to Morganton, NC. The rest of the story, is hearsay, but interesting. Henry Westall only flew for about 18 months, and on his last flight, after landing, he kissed the wing of his plane, and never flew again.

The second landing strip was Dillingham Field established in 1920 when Scott Dillingham turned a cornfield in Haw Creek into an airfield. Dillingham bought Henry Westall’s plane, hired a pilot, and also went into the passenger flying business. His organization flew people over Asheville for two dollars (which is a pretty serious reduction from Westall’s charge of 15 dollars).

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3-passenger (AVRO British) plane on the ground

Here Scott Dillingham and others stand in and around a three-passenger British built plane. The pig (in the center of the photo) was a present for the Asheville police force from the Waynesville police force (another day’s story).

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Emma Air Park with Mrs. Vance Spivey in aviator’s clothing.

Our next “airport” was Emma Air Park a 14 acre tract of land located about a half mile west of Emma. Mrs. Vance Spivey in aviator’s clothing looks to board one of the small planes to her left. On January 24, 1928, Harry Brooks, Henry Ford’s test pilot, attempted to fly from Ford Field in Dearborn, Michigan to Miami, Florida. This first long distance attempt in the Ford Flivver landed short in a forced landing at Emma Air Park in Asheville although Brooks did set a non-stop distance record in his small, single seat, 36 horsepower plane. The Detroit craft flew 790 miles on 20 gallons of gas. Harry Brooks was killed in a crash in 1929 and his death, along with the depression, caused Henry Ford to pull out of the business of manufacturing airplanes.

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Taken from a Piper J2 Cub NC 17984 (40 hp), which is landing at Owen Field in West Asheville, 1940s.

Owen Field in West Asheville was our next airport. Owen airport was originally called Carrier Field from the days when it was used for horse racing. It was renamed for Dr. James E. Owen, a local dentist and old-time barnstorming aviator. After the airport closed, the Asheville Speedway was built on the site opening as a dirt track in 1961 and paved for the 1962 season. The Speedway closed after the 1999 season and the land was converted to a city recreational place that we enjoy today as Carrier Park.

As early as 1925 the Asheville Chamber of Commerce recognized the possibilities for tourism and appointed a committee to research areas for a future airport. In 1936 a government consortium (Asheville and Hendersonville) purchased the land for a commercial airport. From 1943-1947 The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers operated the airport. During this time, the Federal Works Progress Administration spent $170,000 to build runways. Known as the Asheville/Hendersonville airport or sometimes “Lakeside Airport” it was located in the Arden/Fletcher area where larger tracts of flat land were available. Delta, Capital and Piedmont Airlines all flew into this air field.

An aerial view of the Asheville/Hendersonville airport taken in March of 1950. Note the crisscross runways and passenger building in center with a commercial plane pulled up in front. Numbers of small planes also dot the field.

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Bingham aerial photo of Asheville-Hendersonville “Airport, March 1950.” View from the west. Two strips, Airport & Fanning Bridge Rds. Rooftop advertising for Esso (fuel) and Stinson (planes).

The Asheville/Hendersonville airport runway as a plane taxis in. March 1950.

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Western North Carolina’s first Wing Scout troop at the Asheville-Hendersonville Airport, 1950

This is Western North Carolina’s first Wing Scout troop at the airport in a ceremony on March 12 of 1950 as the scouts received their pins. The troop was led by Ms. Anne Shields (second from right) who trained fighter pilots during World War II. Note the Capital Airlines plane in the background.

By the late 1950’s air travel was increasingly popular and there was need for a yet larger airport with longer runway capacity to handle the bigger, speedier aircraft. Another tract of land was purchased – this one about three miles to the west of the earlier Asheville/Hendersonville airport.

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Billboard announcing construction of the Asheville Airport to open in 1960.

A proud billboard announces construction of the new Asheville Airport to open in 1960.

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Asheville Airport main terminal under construction.

The airport under construction in 1960.

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“The new Asheville Airport, Showing the Terminal Building and a Delta Airliner, Fletcher NC”. Post card not dated.

In January 1961, just a few months late, the new Asheville Regional Airport opened. The airport continues to grow with its traditional carriers – Delta, United and US Airways and by adding new carriers like Allegiant.

Interiors are continuously updated and refurbished and as the Asheville Citizen Times reported on July 19, 2014 the airport is “poised for growth.”  During the next five years the runway will be replaced and a taxiway added.  As a spokesperson for the airport stated; “this is the biggest construction project since the airport was built and opened in 1961.”

Posted by Lynne Poirier-Wilson, Volunteer

 

 

THE OLD GERMAN CANNON ON PACK SQUARE

For nearly 30 years, a captured German cannon sat beside the base of the Vance Monument in Pack Square. Then one night in 1942, it mysteriously disappeared. Here is its story.

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In the early morning of Nov. 11, 1918, Company I of the 321st U.S. Infantry engaged in one of World War I’s final battles near Verdun in France. Veterans of the battle included Asheville residents Theodore Sumner and Leftwich Ramsey, who gave thrilling accounts of that day. They reported that three German machine gun nests targeted them; they threw themselves onto the ground to avoid the bullets of field rifles and cannon fire.   Forty-seven men were wounded and fifteen killed during the fight. But during the battle, two platoons crept through a swamp until they reached one of the cannons and took possession of it. This helped the soldiers hold their ground until, an hour and a half later, all fighting ceased. The war was over.

The commanding officer, Col. Dan Adams of Old Fort, ordered the men to lift the 3,000 pound cannon out of the swamp and onto a wagon. Mules pulled it across France until it was eventually dismantled and crated to be shipped home with the soldiers.  Army policy dictated that such equipment should remain in France. However, the cases went uninspected and so the cannon arrived safely at Fort Jackson, SC. The soldiers who brought it home were then mustered out of the army, leaving it behind. They didn’t forget the German cannon, though. When Col. Frank Halsted visited Asheville, former soldiers Sumner, Ramsey and Adams recruited him to accompany them to South Carolina to retrieve it.   According to reports, Col. Halsted used the full authority of his rank to humble the young lieutenant serving as officer of the day at Fort Jackson.  Subsequently, the cannon was transferred from a warehouse to a truck and then to the railroad car that brought it over the mountains to Asheville.

The men gave the captured German cannon to the city to serve as a monument to the heroes of the Great War. But how would the City of Asheville manage this unexpected gift? Clippings in the Pack Library Newspaper File Collection indicate that there was no consensus. An Asheville Citizen article from Aug. 19, 1920 reported plans were being made for a concrete base to support the cannon, but goes on to say that “details of the mounting have not been fully determined,” and “the exact location is yet to be decided upon.”   An article published on February 24, 1922 referred to discussion of the cannon “precipitating volleys and salvos of debate.” “A permanent foundation is to be built somewhere, somehow, sometime,” but meanwhile, “the old gun has been standing in the rear of the courthouse yard, having been forcibly ejected from the shelter of the county garage several weeks ago.”

One year later, veterans groups took this “point of controversy” to the city commissioners and received approval to place the cannon on Pack Square. They had collected $1,000 to pay for its mounting. On April 23, 1923, a plan submitted by architect Arnold H. Vanderhoof was accepted. His design put the cannon at the base of the Vance Monument and was “constructed from gray stone of similar texture.” The installation was completed but apparently some rancor persisted. An article that appeared on January 19, 1924 reported that the final piece, a bronze tablet commemorating the soldiers’ bravery, was placed beside the cannon. However, there was no ceremony to mark the event “owing to the length of time that it has taken to erect the monument and also owing to the fact that a small sum to meet the expense of the mounting had to be raised.” It seems that a payment of $73.00 was due.

The German cannon sat on Pack Square facing down Patton Avenue for nearly three decades. After the controversy concerning its placement subsided, newspaper stories retold its history periodically, celebrating the heroism of the soldiers who brought it home. The cannon was a familiar sight to Asheville residents. But then it disappeared, twice.

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The first time the cannon disappeared was in August, 1942. A newspaper article on August 26 reported that during the previous week, the cannon had been donated to the Buncombe County salvage committee. It was then taken to the army service command depot at Biltmore for shipment to a steel furnace.   Col. Adams protested loudly, sparking “widespread debate,” which resulted in the return of the cannon to its base on Pack Square. The reprieve was short lived, however.

The cannon’s second disappearance was reported on October 29, 1942. In the dark of night, it was removed from Pack Square, never to be seen again. Who took it and where it went remain mysteries. However, a note left in its place reveals its probable fate:

Dear Folks of Buncombe County:

You won’t find me in my accustomed place in Pack Square today. The time has come for me to bid you farewell. My life’s story of heroic adventure is now a glorious tradition in this community. You all know me well. I am the old German cannon of World War I that occupied this spot of honor in your beautiful city for 23 years.

Although made in Germany I became a loyal American citizen. This is a wonderful country—the home of the brave and the free—and I love it more than anything else in the world.

That is why I am leaving you—never to return. There is another World War on, fellow citizens, and this time I am on your side. I am made of iron and steel and Uncle Sam needs me.

I have gone to join your boys who are fighting to preserve your freedom and way of life. They need me and I cannot fail them in this critical hour.

If we all do our duty we can save not only America but civilization itself.

Goodbye and God bless you all.

THAT OLD EX-GERMAN CANNON

 

Blog post by Laura Gaskin

The audit of the Asheville Police Department’s Evidence Room, here for your inspection

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Jon Ellison in the North Carolina Room with the APD audit. July 2014. Photo by librarian Lyme Kedic.

The audit of the Asheville Police Department’s Evidence Room:

When news broke in early 2011 that a significant number of sensitive items — drugs, guns and money — was missing from the Asheville Police Department’s Evidence Room, a public-records battle began.

Now, more than three years later, that struggle has been resolved. A full copy of the extensive but incomplete audit of the room is finally available — in the North Carolina Room on paper, and online via digital copies published by Carolina Public Press [http://www.carolinapublicpress.org/19694/document-the-asheville-police-department-evidence-room-audit].

(Full disclosure: I work as a reporter and editor for CPP, an Asheville-based news service, and volunteer on the board of the Friends of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library.)

Asheville City Council commissioned the audit, a review of what might have been stolen from the room, soon after the scandal erupted. It cost $175,000 in public funds, and wound up finding that we’ll probably never know just how much evidence was pilfered, given the extent of the disarray in the evidence room.

We learned that only recently, as the audit was off-limits to the public for about three years. After the recent sentencing of former APD Evidence Room Manager Lee Smith, who pled guilty to stealing drugs and is slated to serve 10 months in federal prison, Buncombe District Attorney Ron Moore released the document.

Some backstory over the public-records issues: In 2012, a coalition of local media outlets, with CPP leading the effort, sued both the district attorney and the city of Asheville in an attempt to make the audit public. That legal challenge failed, except to the extent that it raised public awareness about the lack of official openness about a key local law enforcement controversy.

Now, the audit is available for all to see. It’s a lengthy, complicated document, spanning 15 volumes and some 4,000 pages. For those with an interest in what it reveals, I suggest starting with a close read of volume 1, which offers an overview of much of what’s in the audit.

Post by Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is a writer and editor for Carolina Public Press and WNC magazine.