Brown Bag Lunch “Hungry for History” Attendees Learn about Rafael Guastavino’s Life & Family

Local Asheville residents are hungry for history. Eighty-three people gathered in the Lord Auditorium, Pack Memorial Library to hear new research about the life and family of Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), the renowned Spanish architect known for his vaults and domes. Guastavino came to Asheville in 1894 for the construction of the Biltmore Estate. He purchased 1,000 acres near Black Mountain for his home, which he named Rhododendron, the current site of Christmount Christian Assembly.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015, Lord Auditorium, Pack Memorial Library.

Guastavino is most known in Asheville for his domes and vaults at Biltmore Estate as well as his “masterpiece,” the Basilica of St. Lawrence. He is also known for his domes and vaults at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in NYC, the Boston Public Library and Grand Central Station, to name only a few.

John Toms, in photo below, seated facing the camera, set the background and introduced the speakers. John researched and wrote the National Register documentation for the Basilica’s National Significance designation. Albert Czarnecki at the podium, contacted many of the newly found family members, and was given, with stipulations, valuable Guastavino business and personal letters, as well as Spanish clothing worn by Guastavino’s second wife, Francisca, who lived on at Rhododendron after he died in 1908, until her death in 1946.


Lori Doerr, a retired chemist and past docent at the Basilica, talked about the genealogical work she had done on both Rafael and Francisca (who took some 14 years off her actual age, making Lori’s research a bit difficult.) Diane Wright, tour coordinator for the Basilica, talked about the chance to meet and talk several times with Francisca’s friend and driver, Nancy Hyatt Frady, revelling more about Francisca and her 38 year period of being a recluse, mourning her husband’s death. Diane also invited everyone to come tour the Guastavino masterpiece.


Some of these items of correspondence and clothing and the result of the speaker’s research are currently on display through May 31 in the North Carolina Room at Pack Library, and have been donated as part of the permanent collection in the North Carolina Room. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the North Carolina Room.

MS264_001B PHOTO G

Ending the program, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Hall Fletcher Elementary School, and a parent of two students there, talked about plans for Hall Fletcher’s Outdoor Learning Center that plans to construct two Guastavino domes on the site.

Their project can be found at this link,


Thanks from the North Carolina Room staff to John, Lori, Albert and Diane for their passionate interest, detailed research, and for taking the time to share it with us.

Photographs taken by North Carolina Room staff, Lyme Kedic.

One of Asheville’s Firsts–You Probably Don’t Know About

The 1915 Asheville Board of Trade’s yearly booklet titled, Asheville North Carolina, America’s Beauty Spot, “Land of the Sky” boasts that “Asheville was the first city in the country–June, 1898–to pass an ordinance prohibiting expectoration on the streets, in street cars and public buildings. This ordinance has been copied by cities throughout the world.”


Spittoon on floor in front of teller’s station in postcard of the interior of the American National Bank in the New Sondley Building, #29 Patton Ave (corner of Church St. and current parking lot for Asheville Savings). Name changed from Blue Ridge National Bank in 1908.


When I read this, my first thought was, maybe people in other cities knew better than to expectorate in public places. But why would Asheville boast about an ordinance against it, even 17 years later?

A co-worker set me on track. It was all about tuberculosis, which was then thought by some to be spread by saliva. She was right.  The ordinance had been recommended by the Buncombe County Medical Society. Dr. J.A. Burroughs, the most prominent champion of the law, said it was necessary for two reasons: “For our own protection, and to give the physicians the country over assurance that we are doing our part in preventing the spread of consumption.” (Consumption was an early term for tuberculosis.)

But first, the ordinance was actually passed September 25, 1896. The fine was set at $1.00, and the clause requiring cuspidors in the electric cars was not made compulsory. Some alderman didn’t like the idea of having to get up to allow someone to expectorate, and there was concern that the ladies would be dragging their skirts over them. Not to mention that such a receptacle would, in general, be offensive.

And, so, we were praised across the country.


“Asheville Citizen,” October 30, 1896.

It took me awhile to realize that the expectoration ordinance was in regard to the spitting of tobacco, not the spitting of spit.

Mind you, one could still expectorate on the streets, which were washed down at night by the street cleaner, just not on the sidewalks. In 1898, as the ordinance had its effect on Asheville natives, they had a hard time of it in places like Washington, D.C. “The wide sidewalks there are tough on an Asheville man who has educated himself up to the expectoration ordinance to have to walk to the curbing to expectorate. (Asheville Citizen, March 24, 1898.)

Apparently, however, there were some problems enforcing the law, as “some people would spit or die.”

S.F. Chapman, city tax collector was on a business trip in 1897 to Virginia, West Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. In conversation with these residents, he was not surprised to find they all knew of Asheville, but it was a surprise to him to find that not only were these people informed of the fact that we had an expectoration ordinance but also of the fact that the same was not enforced. “They feared to come on account of the danger of contracting consumption because of the large manner of consumptives coming here.”  Chapman tried to explain that there was no real danger in contracting  the disease, but was met then with the question of, “Why do you have an expectoration ordinance?”

City officials were in somewhat of a bind. As one editorial stated in reply to S.F. Chapman’s experience, “The city has advertised to the world that they believe there is a danger in promiscuous spitting –and then we straightway leave the ordinance to enforce itself!”

In 1906 the fine was $4.15. In 1921 the ordinance was referred to as the anti-expectoration law and there were “safety zones” around the city, defined by painted white lines, where it was legal to expectorate at certain times.


Interior of the Langren Hotel lobby showing spittoons at every chair grouping. Photo published in “Azure-Lure A Romance of the Mountains,” 1924.


Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Hiram Lindsey, Grocer–1901


Ad, “Asheville Daily Gazette,” November 25, 1902.



Hiram Lindsey Groceries

Hiram Lindsey’s General Store was on the east side of South Main Street, (#450 then, later #458), now Biltmore Avenue, near Victoria Road.  Mr. Lindsey standing in front. Note advertising placards for Ivory Soap and Toasted Corn Flakes.

Hiram, born in 1876, moved to Asheville with his mother, Sarah and at least two of his younger siblings by 1892, after his father Jacob Lindsey died in Greenville, South Carolina. He was an industrious young man, the first to deliver milk for the Biltmore Dairy Farms. In 1898, being a member of the Asheville militia and the military band, he was the first man called to serve from this section in the Spanish-American war. After the war, Hiram returned to Asheville and established his vegetable market. Industrious, Hiram also had a good-humored persuasiveness when it came to business. He had a nice turn of phrase.


Ad, “Asheville Daily Gazette”, November 2, 1902.

 Hiram Lindsey also contributed stories and a “column” to The Asheville Citizen, dealing mostly with farming, dairying and the tourist business.

In 1908 Hiram Lindsey moved to Seattle, Washington. Many other proprietors operated this grocery before it was demolished in the late 1940s.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian


Asheville Photographer Tim Barnwell Speaking at Pack Memorial Library

Please join us for this very special event! Tim will discuss how his 5 year effort of photographing and researching these vistas culminated into his beautiful and insightful new book.

It’s a human characteristic to want to know where we are in time and place. Mr. Barnwell’s book satisfies this natural curiosity and brilliantly connects us with our surroundings. As a ready reference to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s bountiful scenic views and cultural history, this book will predictably become dog-eared and well used.” – Dr. Houck Medford, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation







 Some eye-catching advertisements from a stack of

old Asheville newspapers I happened across.





N.C. Citizen: 1879

We’ve always been foodies.





N.C. Citizen: 1879

Oh how we love our spirits…even if we don’t have a “stomachic.”





Daily Citizen: lost the date, but still looking

Water seems to always be an issue.

And look…”wind-mills!” Sustainable energy source pre-solar panels.




Looks like Asheville may have struggled with drawing quality entertainment to town.

Not exactly sure how to take this:


The Register. March 31, 1894

Their big claim to fame: “the ONLY show coming this year.”

Perhaps Colonel Hall is saying he’s in too high demand to come back through town. Even so, not the best word choice.




Before we had an abundance of acupuncture, homeopathy, and massage clinics

we had Walker Hill: Medicine Man. To be precise, the men had Walker Hill.

The ladies had Mrs. Walker Hill: Medicine Woman.


State Register. May 21, 1897




Too much turtle soup and corn whiskey causing a toothache?


Asheville Daily Advance. March 26, 1887

Judging from the pictures, I would definitely go with Dr. Reevs. No question.




No medicine man, medicine woman, or dentist can save us from the inevitable.

On the upside: custom coffins made in just six hours’ notice!


N.C. Citizen. Dec. 4, 1879


posted by Lyme Kedic

“Seaweed Soup on a Mountain Slope”

Long, long ago (in the 1960’s) Western North Carolina was not known for its culinary landscape. The Jarrett House in Dillsboro and the The NuWray Inn in Burnsville were about as close as one could find “fancy food”. And truly, their country hams and family style meals were wonderful. Even the big city of Asheville was not the foodie’s dream it has become. The Paradise—Chinese-American—Restaurant located at 19 Broadway was as well-known for Southern Fried Chicken as Egg Fu Yung and egg rolls.

Much to my surprise one afternoon, I ran across a postcard of Geisha Gardens in Maggie Valley. Geisha Gardens in Maggie Valley? My fingers flew across the keyboard to enter my bid. Several days later the card arrived in the mail. And a search was on.

Color-King Natural Color Card. W.M. Cline Co., Chattanooga, Tennessee

Color-King Natural Color Card. W.M. Cline Co., Chattanooga, Tennessee

A quick search led to an address—985 Fie Top Road—and a link to an article in The Miami News by Herb Rau, published on August 22, 1965. One of my favorite lines in the article is “North Carolina is as far apart from Japan as Candy is from Mother Goose.” (Terry Southern’s erotic spoof had appeared on the NY Times bestseller list in 1963 and was a common cultural reference for several years thereafter.)

Mr. Rau writes that the owner Hal Jenkins “took his bankroll and came to Maggie Valley” to open Geisha Gardens. In his directions, Mr. Rau explained that the road to Geisha Gardens was at the entrance to Ghost Town, a tourist draw built in 1961. Hal Jenkins’ enterprise included a teahouse, restaurant, gift shop, and garden.

In the evening hours, a “Japanese feast was served by kimono-clad Oriental girls”. Mr. Rau’s writes that the menu included teriyaki and sukiyaki. When he visited he was served “seaweed soup with a slice of raw squash and raw carrot and a ‘snippin’ of cucumber rind. He noted that the dish was decorated with a sprig of pine. And that there was “plenty of tea all through dinner.” For dessert there were fortune cookies as well as “chilled Mandarin orange wedges topped by a green cherry. “ Authentic?

For a few more contemporary views of Geisha Gardens (from 1975) visit the JC Raulston Arboretum website at

Post by Terry Taylor, Friends of the North Carolina Room board member