Americanization Classes at the Grove Park Inn–1920s

The Buncombe County Community (Night) School’s literacy program was a forerunner in the state to help teach literacy to adults. We wrote about it in a post two years ago, which covered rural Buncombe County citizens being taught to read and write. A not-as-well-known part of the Community School’s program was the Americanization Classes that were held to teach the English language to foreign-born persons. In the early 1920s Asheville was home to Italians, Russians, Greeks, Roumanians, French and Poles. Americanization classes were held in the Orange Street school, and interestingly enough, also at the Grove Park Inn, where many foreign-born people were employed as chefs and other grounds workers.

This photograph shows the teacher, Mrs. Knight with three of her pupils, all Italian cooks at Grove Park Inn, 1924-25. They are identified as L to R: Pasgreale Moschio, Lugi Cantarella and John Cantarella.

MS247_002G Photo O copy

John is listed as a chef at the Grove Park Inn in the 1925 Asheville City Directory along with cooks, Sidney, Lewis (probably refers to Lugi) and Antonio Cantarella. The Cantarella family was from Moasco, Italy. John appears in New York City in the 1930 census.

MS247_002G Photo T copy


Mr. Ferucio Paganin, pictured below, according to Naturalization papers was born in 1894 in Taibon, Italy and came to Asheville at the age of 31, leaving his wife still in Italy.

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James Klomenous Karembelas pictured below in 1925, came here from Sparta, Greece, born 1899, and is listed in the 1926 Asheville City Directory as the proprietor of the Glen Rock Cafe located across from the Railroad Depot.

MS247_002G Photo R copy

Speranza Solary, a widow, immigrated from Italy and with her children, Emma (shown here on left), Leno (a stone mason), and Virginia lived at 10 Cherry Street in 1925. Speranza died in Asheville in 1958.

MS247_002G Photo X copyPost by Zoe Rhine, Librarian


photographer believed to be Bob Rouse

Photograph by Bob Rouse

I’ve driven by this house many times over the past 15 years or so on my way to a hike in Hot Springs or to a swim in the Laurel River. Sitting majestically on top of the hill with the green and white sign proclaiming “STACKHOUSE,” it always made me wonder what stories it had to tell. Thanks to a wonderful new donation to the NC Room, I found out!

The Stackhouses had a strong hand in the way Western North Carolina evolved and developed during the aftermath of the Civil War. The bulk of the collection is family (and some business) correspondence from the 1850s through the 1940s. While processing this collection it’s been fascinating to learn of everyday triumphs and struggles of bygone days through the lens of a tight-knit and influential family. But I must admit, before I was fascinated…I was CONFUSED.  Here’s why:

This is Amos Stackhouse…

Amos (1819-1909)

this is also Amos Stackhouse…


and this is another Amos Stackhouse…


last? but not least, this is Amos Stackhouse…


 Oh boy. I was in trouble. Thankfully I found Jacqueline Burgin Painter’s book: “The Stackhouses of Appalachia: Even to Our Own Times.” I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the chart of ancestors and descendants she provides. Painter’s narrative engagingly describes sorrows and successes of the family.

Amos Stackhouse (1819-1909) was the founder of Stackhouse, North Carolina. Amos, a Pennsylvania Quaker, wore many hats.  Beginning in 1870, he managed to build and run two stores, a drover’s business, a post office, and a lumber mill among other things. He accomplished all of this “despite the fact Amos Stackhouse was a Yankee and a stranger” (Painter, p.3). Ha!

Curious about others named Amos Stackhouse? Come check out our collection!

Stackhouse Manuscript Collection

Camp Dellwood

“A lovely spot among the hills,
A sky of blue above,
And trees that bend in graceful form,
These make the camp I love.”
 -Mary Mitchell Westall


Camp Dellwood was established in the 1920s to afford girls aged 9-19 a summer filled with outdoor sports, arts and crafts, socializing, and fun.  Under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. George Mason Swift, it was located near Lake Junaluska in Haywood County.  Among its enthusiastic campers was Mary Mitchell Westall of Asheville, whose relish of camp life is well documented in her poetry, journal, photograph album, autograph books, camp logs, and other camp publications. A study of these materials provides a complete picture of camp life during that period, 1928-1933.

Mary Mitchell Westall is pictured standing at left.

Mary Mitchell Westall is pictured standing at left.

The camp was constructed on the slope of a mountain at 3200 feet elevation, “insuring delightful days and cool nights.” It consisted of a lodge for group activities, a dining hall and kitchen, a craft building, and a nature den. Campers’ cabins, called kiosks, were lit with electricity. Modern plumbing with hot and cold showers was provided, along with “a splendid cuisine to assure the health and comfort of the girls.”

Campers in kiosks; note the electric lights.

Campers in kiosks; note the electric lights.

A spirit of friendly rivalry was encouraged among campers, who were divided into two teams named the Speedies and the Swifties.   They competed in sports activities, which included horseback riding, canoeing, archery, basketball, tennis, hiking, and swimming.

Water sports at Camp Dellwood

Water sports at Camp Dellwood

Campers also participated in craft projects, interpretive dancing, dramatics, and nature study.  Camp fire meetings were held for singing and storytelling and to give the leaders a chance to speak.  “Tonight we had a pajama party in the lodge,” Mary Mitchell Westall wrote in her journal on July 15, 1930.  “I hope that everyone is getting as much out of camp as I feel I am and that they love it as much.”

Ready the camp log and singing a few songs before bedtime.

An evening gathering in the lodge

Walpurgis Night was a much-anticipated annual event held near the end of the summer session.  Costumed campers portrayed Peter Pan, a Fairy Queen, witches, brownies, and more fairies who sang, danced and play acted in a carnival atmosphere.  This photo montage appeared in the Camp Dellwood publication sent to prospective campers.

Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night

Summer camp is all about fun and friends, “like a lovely big family,” wrote Mary Mitchell Westall.  Her autograph books also testify to the importance of friendship among campers, many of whom returned to Camp Dellwood year after year.   Photos such as these from her album show the jokes and hijinks that filled their days.




“Because it is a lovely place
With friends so kind and good,
Because it gives me all things fine,
 I love dear Camp Dellwood.”
 -Mary Mitchell Westall

Mary Mitchell Westall, later Mrs. E. K. Large Jr., was the daughter of Jack and Mary Westall of 44 Westall Drive in Asheville.  The North Carolina Room is grateful to her daughter, Katherine Large Wetstein, for the donation of the Westall family collection.

-Blog post by Laura Gaskin, volunteer




Do You Know the Cultural Origins of Southern Appalachian Music and Dance? And How Isolated Were the Southern Appalachians?

Here’s a hint: Do you know the cultural origins of the banjo?


Phil Jamison begins his program by playing the banjo. September 28, 2015, Pack Memorial Library.

The banjo comes to us from Africa, having been brought to the New World by slaves. This was news to me, although several people in the audience of Phil Jamison’s talk were able to answer the question correctly. What about Southern Appalachian music and dance, especially clogging or flatfooting? Are the origins, as often thought, from the Scots-Irish?


Phil Jamison, a musician and dancer and author of the new book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics argues that these distinctive folk dances are not the unaltered jigs and reels of the early British settlers, but hybrids that developed over time by adopting and incorporating elements from other popular forms including English and Native American roots, but also, and predominately from an African American heritage. He sets history straight as he shows the significant role of African American dancers, musicians, and callers and their influence on Appalachian dance and music.

Which raises the question of how isolated were the Southern Appalachians? It has often been written that Appalachia was a remote and isolated place, and that “the retention of eighteenth-century British culture in the mountains was due to the lack of contact with the modern world.” Jamison suggests that while some areas are certainly remote and isolated, “the region as a whole has never been completely cut off from the outside world.”

To make his point, he introduces us to the tradition of black fiddling, which did not originate in the New World. “West African fiddlers have accompanied singing and dancing with one-string gourd fiddles since the twelfth century . . .” During the times of slavery in the 1800s, the role of a dance musician was that of a servant, true both for the North and the South. He told us that in all of his research, he did not find one white fiddler, until quite contemporary times–they all were African Americans.

Jamison uses the 1867 Harper’s Weekly engraving below, one of many such illustrations he has gathered, showing a black dancer and banjo player entertaining a racially mixed crowd during a voter registration at Asheville.


Engraving from September 28, 1867 Harper’s Weekly, showing blacks registering to vote. Engraving by A.W. Thompson, and titled, “Registration At the South-Scene At Asheville, North Carolina.”

And for his major second point, other than the Great Wagon Road (“the path to North Carolina”) where immigrants traveled from the Northern colonies to settle in the Appalachian area, he calls attention to the magnificent water system in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, where goods of trade were sent on large flatboats and barges down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers all the way to New Orleans. He calls it the “Back Door to Southern Appalachia.” Jamison records in his book that one publication in 1787 reported more than 120 boats passing by Pittsburgh to New Orleans during a single week.  The crews on these boats typically hired a fiddler, typically African Americans, who played for the crew as well as played music for people along the shore. Add to that, “as many as fifty Appalachian counties (in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee) were accessible by the navigable tributaries of the Ohio River.” I hope you see where this is going–the transmission of music and dance through the commerce that flowed along the “Back Door of Southern Appalachia.”

A lot of information to try to give a sense to in a blog. It’s best to read the book. Even if you’re not terribly interested in Appalachian music and dance, you will want to read this book for the vast cultural history of the Southern Appalachian area, not to mention the due he pays to the African American influence of the American folk tradition.

After the program, I realized how invigorated I felt, having been shown that something was very different than the way I thought it was. Very, very different. And, it is kind of fun to be turned upside down on your head.

Phil ended his program with his flatfoot dancing. This was not a choreographed piece, but a dance where he listened to the music and interpreted it with his feet.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

An Evening of Local History

Phil Jamison Talks About Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics

The Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance

Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 6 pm–7pm

Pack Memorial Library, 67 Haywood Street

Lord Auditorium, lower level

Come hear Phil Jamison when he will journey into the past with stories – and a little music and dance– telling the history of southern Appalachian dance from cakewalks to clogging, and from the Shoo-fly Swing to the Virginia Reel. 


Phil Jamison

Phil Jamison is an old-time musician, flatfoot dancer and square dance caller, as well as a professor of mathematics and Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College. His flatfoot dancing was featured in the film, Songcatcher, for which he also served as Traditional Dance consultant. From 1982 through 2004, he toured and played guitar with Ralph Blizard and the New Southern Ramblers, and he also plays fiddle and banjo. Over the last thirty years, Phil has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and has just published the book, “Hoedown, Reels and Frolics,” 2015, which tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia.

Square Dance at Soco Gap NC copy

This event is sponsored by the Friends of the North Carolina Room and is free and open to the public.


Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian




Casino at Overlook Park

Overlook Park on Sunset Mountain was a popular 19th century retreat for Asheville residents and tourists. The views were magnificent, especially on the overlook tower, and a boardwalk and paths made for pleasurable walks. A pavilion at the park provided space for a cafe, orchestral performances, dances, a theater, a beer garden and a casino.

MS283 page 23

Few photographs exist of the pavilion. The one above came from the 1908 photograph album highlighted in last week’s post.  The album was recently donated to the North Carolina Room by Chan and Miegan Gordon.

MS283 page 23 two

One of the views from Overlook from 1908 photograph album.



Architectural drawing of alterations to pavilion at Overlook Park by Smith & Carrier, 1910.



Interior of pavilion at Overlook Park on Sunset Mtn. dated 8/4/1904. The pavilion was built by Richard Smith Howland for the Asheville & Craggy RR.


Overlook Park ad

“Asheville Citizen” July 30, 1902

The postcard below shows streetcars on the Sunset Park Railway going to Overlook Park. The streetcar was a lot faster than getting there by carriage.



Postcard view of people enjoying the paths and views from overlook, circa 1910.


Overlook Park became the site for Fred Seeley’s home completed in 1917 and called Overlook, as well as Seely’s Castle.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Horses Crossing the French Broad River on a Ferry

Before there were bridges across the French Broad River, there were ferries. And then there were no bridges across the river, according to F.S. Sondley in A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, when in “1865 the Yankee invasion up the French Broad River burned the bridges at Alexanders and at what is now Craggy. For years thereafter between Asheville and Warm Springs ferries were the only means of crossing French Broad River.”

So how would one who lived in Montford in 1908, get their horses across the river to the Riverside Park Horse Show?

MS283 page 06

Well, by ferry was one way, as evidenced by these incredible photographs.

This is a flat-boat ferry and Sondley goes on to say that to “set over” the ferry was “sometimes propelled across by a pole but usually pulled over the stream by a rope stretched at some feet above the surface of the water from an object on one bank to an object on the other bank and securely fastened at both ends. Sometimes the flat-boat was connected to the overhead rope by another rope fastened at one end to the boat and at the upper end to a large ring through which the upper rope loosely ran; then by turning the front of the boat so that the current of the stream would strike angularly against the boat’s upper side the boat would be impelled slowly by the force of the current from one bank to the other bank.”

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This photo shows the two men with their horses as well as the ferryman who appears to be using a pole as well as the overhead rope system. From Sondley’s description, he is probably using the pole to angle the boat against the current.

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Photograph showing the ferry landing on the other side of the river.

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The Sixth Annual Horse Show was held at Riverside Park April 28th and 29th, 1908. The pagoda-styled roof on building to far left is a familiar sight in photographs of Riverside Park. It was a big deal in Asheville, with city schools closing at 12:30 and city employees calling it an afternoon holiday. A parade of sorts was viewed from Montford Avenue homes as the procession of horses and traps proceeded to Riverside.

MS283 page 10

Would there have been other ways to cross the river? Pearson’s Bridge was constructed around 1893 and it was located roughly where today’s Pearson’s Bridge is off Riverside Drive, the first one having been lost in the flood of 1916. Photo below shows the 1893 bridge and the Riverside Park buildings and lakes. Riverside Park’s location was the stretch of flat land past the bridge at Pearson Bridge Road where Asheville Adventure’s Rental and Smoky Mountain Pallets is today.


Photograph by John D. Caldwell, circa 1905-1910, glass plate negative.

I wondered why they wouldn’t have used this bridge to take their horses over, but after studying the structure, I thought maybe it was too long and narrow for horses. But looking over further images in our collection I found this photo taken roughly around the same time of a horse and cart crossing Pearson’s Bridge, in view looking past the people in the foreground.

E826-DS copy

Can anyone help us figure out why the ferry–where they would have had to pay a toll–was used to cross the horses to the other side and not the bridge?

The North Carolina Room recently received this wonderful 1908 photograph album (MS283) from Chan and Miegan Gordon, owners of Captain’s Bookshelf in Asheville.

Post by Zoe Rhine