Asheville and Baseball or Who the Sam Hill is Dan Hill?

A few weeks ago Dan Hill first made his presence known. His face smiled out of a 1922 photograph from the recently-donated Gallatin Roberts Collection. The men in the photograph were  identified by their signatures below their feet.
I knew Gallatin Roberts, the sober man second from right. He was Mayor of Asheville in 1922 and again during the Great Depression, when the Central Bank and Trust Co. failed, taking with it all the assets of the City of  Asheville. Roberts was indicted in 1931, along with six other public officials, for “conspiring to misapply and convert public funds.” “Wounded unto death,” Roberts shot himself in the washroom of his office in the Legal Building, above the failed bank. If you want to learn more of the tragic story of Gallatin Roberts, the NC Room is the place to come.

But WHO in the Sam Hill was Dan Hill?
None of us had ever heard his name, but he was determined to make himself remembered. He popped up again just a few days later in a photograph received from an entirely different source, the A/B Preservation Society.

The Asheville Kiwanis Club Celebrates Ladies Day May 18, 1923

The Kiwanis Club Celebrates Ladies Day May 18, 1923

In one of photographer Herbert Pelton’s amazing panorama portraits, the Asheville Kiwanis Club gathered to celebrate Ladies Day on the lawn of the old Battery Park Hotel. A brass band made up of club members formed the front row. As I scanned the faces in the photograph, I saw Dan Hill’s boyish, friendly face and those unmistakable glasses and shock of hair.

Drum Major

He was drum major for the band, and I soon discovered he was president of the Kiwanis Club at the time. I realized that I needed to find out more about Dan Hill, and went to the Biography Files, a valuable resource of the NC Collection. I learned from his newspaper obituary that Dan Hill was Asheville’s youngest Postmaster, popular with both Republicans and Democrats. “He never met a stranger.”  He was also an avid baseball fan. In 1924 he purchased Asheville’s first professional baseball franchise. When the Asheville team joined the Piedmont Baseball League in 1934, Dan Hill became president of the league.


But back to the photograph that started it all. With the help of the 1922 Asheville City Directory, I was able to decipher all but one of the signatures, that of the white-haired gentleman with the cane. Three of the men, including energetic Dan Hill, were officers in the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. These men in suits (plus the mysterious Major Miller in mililtary uniform) were gathered for some purpose important to the city of Asheville. Pelton always dated his photographs, but even with the exact date of April 25, 1922, I could find no information about this gathering in our newspapers on microfilm. What were these civic leaders up to? I guessed that the key to the mystery lay with the still-unidentified man with the cane.


A photocopy of the picture lay on my work table for several weeks, as I waited for further enlightenment. I knew that Dan Hill would speak again if he had anything more to tell me. Enter Phillip Banks. Phillip has been reference librarian at Pack Library for many years, and no one can match his knowledge of local personalities and happenings. He glanced at the photograph and immediately identified the man with the cane. Kenesaw Mountain Landis (actually his name!) was the country’s first commissioner of baseball. After the Black Sox scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series, baseball turned to this fierce federal judge to restore public confidence in the game. Landis was baseball commissioner from 1922 until his death in 1944. Our photograph of civic leaders hosting the commissioner of baseball undoubtedly commemorates the beginnings of professional baseball in Asheville.

posted by Betsy Murray

The Nichols Building, 62-66 Haywood Street.

My, how good the Nichols Building looks now that it has a little breathing room!

[This is a follow-up to a previous post about the razing of the Blomberg Garage which sat just to the side in this photo.]


Nichols Building taken by Zoe Rhine, April 2014.

The Nichols Building was built by Archibald Nichols (1875-1937) former secretary for eight years of the Asheville Merchants Association and proprietor of the Nichols Shoe Company that was on Pack Square for several decades. Mr. Nichols specifically erected the building for Robert Cecil, owner of Cecil’s Business College which moved to Haywood Street in April 1928. The school operated out of the top two floors with the ground floor space rented for shop use. The first shops in the building were Claverie’s Pharmacy, Pegasus for Books which was a circulating library, and the Mountaineer Rug Industry.

Cecil's Business College

From publication “Cecil’s Business College–In the Land of the Sky,” Not dated.

Cecil’s “contained one part set aside as a replica of a bank for the students to practice daily banking business.” (From Old Buncombe County Heritage, Vol. 1, p. 112.)

Cecil's interior bank

From publication “Cecil’s Business College–In the Land of the Sky,” Not dated.

Photo below is of the 1939 parade of 12th annual Rhododendron Festival shown along Haywood Street. View is from just above street level from the curve in front of Cecil’s Business College (#66) toward Patton Ave. Few other buildings clearly visible: Dixie Stores (#62) and Vick’s Grill (#64-66) on ground floor of Cecil’s building. Cecil’s remained at this site until they moved to Broadway in 1947.


12th annual Rhododendron Festival of 1939 shown along Haywood Street. Print donated 1998 by John F. Barber of the Chamber of Commerce.

Later in life, the building didn’t look so great, but then neither did downtown Asheville.

In view in photo below, at far left in the Haverty Building is Jared’s Restaurant, which served a Classical French menu (which I tend to think of as Asheville’s first restaurant), next is HFC Loans, and right side has Booth-Barfield Realty For Rent signs in windows.


Print acquired from Historic Resources Commission, David Black photographer, 1977.

Haywood Street #62-66, housing HFC Financial Center and Craig Culberson and Otto Hauser’s Stuff Collectibles & Antiques, 1985. Note Jared’s Restaurant still at this location in the Haverty Building.

MS184_001D Comp K-10

Photo from MS184 Allan Butterworth’s Real Estate Appraiser Collection, 1985.

Next door to the Nichols Building, on the south side is the 4-story, former Haverty Furniture Building at #60 Haywood St. In 1986 Roger McGuire and Associates, City Assets Corp. turned the historic Haverty building into luxury apartments, adjoining it to the Nichols Building. Jim Samsel was architect for the project with Allen Roderick of Heartwood renovations and Building Inc., general contractor.



Haverty Building designed by William H. Lord; converted into #60 Haywood Street Condominiums including the Nichols Building just in view to right. Photo taken for documentation by Zoe Rhine, 1995.


Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Miss Price’s Guest House

As I began to create a record for this postcard purchased recently on eBay, I got that funny sensation that comes when one of the photos begins to speak. AD271

The Craftsman Style bungalow was built around 1907 and featured the cedar shingle exterior popular until the 1930′s. I know from my own home how hard the big old house must have been to heat. There probably wasn’t any insulation in the walls or attic, and the coal-burning stoker heat Miss Price advertised proudly on her postcard was no longer the latest thing. One by one, the remaining old homes on Merrimon Avenue were being replaced by new, more energy efficient commercial structures. In the early 1980’s, Miss Price’s Tourist Home was torn down and replaced by a one-story three-unit office building. Since then many businesses have come and gone in the space.

333 Merrimon in 2014 - Enjoy pizza and a beer while you do your laundry.

333 Merrimon in 2014 – Enjoy pizza and a beer while you do your laundry.

I was curious about Miss Leone Price and followed her in Asheville city directories from 1925 when she moved to 333 Merrimon Avenue, until 1968 when she was no longer listed, leaving the house temporarily vacant. For more than forty years, Miss Price’s home provided not only shelter, but also a lifetime income. Over the years she transitioned from a boarding house offering furnished rooms to a tourist home she called “Holiday Inn,” probably after the 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire musical of that name.

Because I was in the right place at the right time, I was able to save two things from the old house… a couple of faded old signs that I found in a trash heap at the back of the property. For years I have displayed these signs proudly in my home, a reminder of the days when a dollar bought so much more than it does today. The signs are also a reminder of times when homes in some Asheville neighborhoods had no indoor bathroom, and a private bath in a boarding house would be quite a luxury.


The NC Collection is full of reminders of the old saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” On the other hand, home owners in Miss Price’s old neighborhood continue to rent rooms to supplement their incomes. Maybe some things haven’t changed so much after all. The new wrinkle is that many current Asheville residents are turning to Airbnb and similar online sites to offer vacation rentals in their homes. Would the enterprising Miss Price have learned to use the Internet?

Posted by Betsy Murray

The Changing Face of #68 Haywood Street







Harry’s Cadillac Pontiac Company, seen here on the right, is first listed at 68 Haywood Street in the 1938 Asheville City Directory. Harry Blomberg had opened Harry’s Motor Inns across the street in 1930, shown in this later view as Worth’s Fashion Mart, the present-day site of Pack Memorial Library. Mr. Blomberg chose his location well, as the north end of Haywood Street snagged the Battery Park and Vanderbilt Hotel tourist business. In the late 1920s, he had devised the idea of combining three services needed by automobile drivers of the time, fuel, service and repairs, and storage (most cars were open-topped).



View looking towards Haywood Street after the removal of the original Battery Park Hotel and the mountain it sat on.  The St. Lawrence Church is seen on left, the City Auditorium (1904-1937) in center right, and the back of the Christian Church in center. The Christian Church, moving from Church Street, built their new edifice on Haywood Street. It was formally opened February 10, 1901, and the congregation (now First Christian Church) met there until 1924, when they built a third church on Oak Street. Note the dwellings to the right of the church, and the absence of the Vanderbilt Hotel, which opened in 1924.



Rock Lodge, a boarding house at 68 Haywood Street, 1910. Note the original Battery Park Hotel in background.

And before Rock Lodge? I’m thinking farmland.

A former Ashevillian’s thoughts were recorded when he returned in 1938. He thought the most amazing transformation had been in the development of Haywood Street. He said, “Well I remember well when Jesse Yates’ grocery store was practically the only store on that street after you passed the Y.M.C.A.”  (Current site of the Woolworth’s building.) “There were men,” he continued, “who actually said they felt sorry for Jesse — wonder if he ever got down to wearing a hat? They said he was too far out from the business district.” In those days Patton Avenue was the “seat of Asheville’s business empire, and everybody believed that Mr. Yates had made a terrible mistake by going out into the Haywood wilderness.” Asheville Citizen May 12, 1938, History Files-65.

When we first discovered the Blomberg garage was going to be demolished, Nan Chase, local historian, author and Board member of the Friends of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library, had the idea during a board meeting to look at the site over time. Nan wrote the book Asheville: A History (2007).

Posted by Zoe Rhine, Librarian


Additional portrait of Exum Clement obtained since last week’s post

Portrait of Exum Clement obtained since last week’s post

The photographs of Exum Clement Stafford that we used in our online exhibit (see Last Week’s Post) came from several sources, and in some cases we did not have access to originals. We were scanning copies, and although the reproductions are remarkably good, we did not have access to any information that might have been written on the backs of the originals. (Everyone, PLEASE write names, places and dates on the backs of your photographs!)

Lacking such information can lead to erroneous conclusions and mistaken identities. Fortunately an observant visitor last week to the NC Room noticed such a mistake in our Exum Clement exhibit, and we were able to correct the error. We are grateful to Myra Grant for calling our attention to the fact that the woman we had identified as Exum in the photograph labeled “Graduation” bore an unmistakable resemblance to Exum’s sister Elizabeth.


Two portraits of Elizabeth Clement, sister of Exum Clement

If you haven’t yet visited the Online Exhibit, we think you would enjoy it.  Click Here! Our Exum Clement  experience also illustrates the fact that research is ongoing and is always subject to revisions and corrections and additions! During the past week, while processing the Biltmore Museum Collection (MS210), we found several additional photographs of Exum Clement that we wish could have been included in our exhibit.  Thanks to our blog, we can share some additional photographs.

MS210 Exum Car2tif

Exum Clement at the Wheel

Clement Sisters

Clement Sisters

We aren’t sure who-is-who in this photograph of two of the Clement sisters, but we love it and think it illustrates beautifully the fun-loving, affectionate relationship that existed between the young women of the Clement family.

Posted by Betsy Murray

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford: Pack Memorial Library Marks Women’s History Month


Photograph of Exum circa 1921 taken by H.W. Pelton.

Note: Click here for an indepth online photograph exhibit detailing Exum’s life. Then click on the first picture to start the slideshow.

Lillian Exum Clement Stafford (1886-1925) is quite worth remembering, especially as we celebrate remarkable women in Buncombe County.

“Exum,” as she was known, was the first woman in Buncombe County to receive a license to practice law, receiving her licence for the N.C. State Bar in 1916. She was just the fourth woman in the state to pass the examination, and the first woman lawyer in the state to practice law on her own.

In 1920, just prior to the ratification of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, the Buncombe County Democrat Committee nominated Exum for a seat in the North Carolina Legislature. She won in the primary, with an all-male constituency, beating out two male nominees. The Buncombe Republican Committee, in keeping with their policy of favoring woman suffrage, and out of deference to Exum, did not oppose her in the general election. However, attorney Charles Lee Sykes, a Republican, ran against her as an Independent. In the November 4, 1920 election, the first time in North Carolina where women were able to cast their vote, women in Asheville stood in hour-long lines in a cold rain.  Some held on to children at their side, others held babies in their arms. There was a noticeable absence of men drinking, usually conspicuous on election day. Instead, the men stood in line alongside their mothers and wives, with their hats in hand.  Exum took the election by a landslide, winning it 10,863 to 41.

Exum took her seat in the North Carolina General Assembly on January 5, 1921. She told a reporter at the time, “I want to blaze a trail for other women. I know that years from now there will be many other women in politics, but you have to start a thing.” Although her political career was cut short by early illness and death, during her year of representation she introduced 17 bills, 13 of which passed into law.


To find out more about Exum’s life and her political career, come to the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library, lower level, where we have a photograph exhibit on display.  A special part of this exhibit is a display of one of Exum’s suits, which was made from fabric crafted at Biltmore Industries, a local enterprise that gained worldwide recognition for its hand-loomed cloth. The suit is on loan from the Swannanoa Valley Museum, and will be on display through March 31. The exhibit is free and open to the public. The North Carolina Room is open Tuesday-Thursday 10:00-8:00, Friday 10:00-6:00, and Saturday 10:00-5:00.


Swannanoa Valley Museum (SVM) staff setting up the display. Executive Director Anne Chesky Smith and SVM board member and volunteer conservator Jane Reeves.


Jane Reeves applying the final touches. The suit was so small that the museum had to have a custom made dressform.

DSC_0004 (2)

Librarian Zoe Rhine has done too much research on Exum.

Click here for the indepth online photograph exhibit that details Exum’s life.

Remembering Artist Leroy Baxter

In our February exhibit at the NC Room we featured a mixed media collage by Asheville artist Leroy Neal Baxter. When he passed away in 2011 at the age of 85, his obituary stated simply, “He had a special artistic skill and would display artwork using a variety of materials.”


I am the proud owner of a Leroy Baxter original. It’s a collage made of hearts, diamonds, birds, and flowers, reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch, and signed simply “Leroy.”


When I looked for more information about the artist, I found a Mountain X-Press article (4/30/2003) that brought Leroy Baxter back to vibrant life. Author Mickey Mahaffey wrote about a morning ride on Asheville city bus #18. He wrote, When Leroy Baxter climbs aboard at Oakland and Hibernia, the sleepy passengers become more animated. [bus driver Jim] Valentine says it’s Baxter’s job to wake everybody up in the mornings, so they don’t miss their stops. Reminiscing about the old days, Baxter entertains us with lively vignettes of life on The Block, back before all the homes were razed. Trolley rides cost 10 cents, and 75 cents bought a big fish sandwich at Breeley’s Cafe. Baxter exits at The Mediterranean on College Street. ‘If the sun shines again, I’ll see you then,’ he promises Valentine, hustling into the restaurant before commencing the day’s list of odd jobs for assorted downtown residents and business owners.”


In 2008 Mr. Baxter showed eighteen of his paintings at UNCA Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery. Publicity for the exhibit stated, “Baxter began making his art a few years ago between jobs as a handyman. Originally he gave away his pieces but began selling them after interest in his work grew around Asheville and the local art scene. Mr. Baxter combines cut-out shapes, glitter, foil and paint to create pictures that make him happy. He is proud of the pictures depicting churches ‘from his mind’.”

His paintings make me happy too, and it makes me happy to remember this colorful Asheville character.


posted by Betsy Murray