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Standing on One Corner in Asheville, Part Two

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An eight-story, skeletal form of poured concrete reinforced with steel (upper right) stood on the corner of North Main and College Street for about 6 years as infighting among the Smith Estate’s heirs halted construction. An original drawing of the hotel (RSS0709) is dated January 1906. This was quite an embarrassment to the architectural firm of Smith & Carrier. Once the estate was settled, two prominent business men—John H. Lange and Gay Green—purchased the site to finish the building.

John H. Lange ( 1868-1924) was raised in the Avery Creek area. He moved to and worked in Spartanburg, S.C. before coming to Asheville in the late 1890’s.  Lange first appeared in the City Directory as the manager of the Glen Rock Hotel in 1896-97, as well as the proprietor of a saloon at 15-17 West College street in 1899-1900.  In 1909 Mr. Lange organized the Western Carolina Auto Company and was prominent in real estate and development activities in town.

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Gay Green (1870-1951) was once described as an “Asheville Capitalist”. He was born in the Newfound section of Leicester. Around 1890 Green established a grocery store at the corner of Roberts and Buxton Street. He sold the store and moved to Watsonville, California to enter the hotel business.  He returned to Asheville in 1902 and founded a furniture business with his brother on Patton Avenue. In 1905 he founded the Imperial Life Insurance Company. He was a prolific buyer of land and properties.

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In November of 1910, Lange and Green purchased the uncompleted building—then called The Miller Hotel—standing on the corner of North Main and College Street. The combination of the new owners’ surnames formed the name for the soon-to-be-completed building: The Langren Hotel.

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Concrete blocks with 60 different patterns were made on the third floor of the hotel. A blacksmith shop was also set up there and all the iron braces to be used in the roof were made there. (Asheville Citizen May 20, 1911) In May of 1912 the following headline appeared in the Asheville Citizen.  Prominent businessmen, including the photographer H. Taylor Rogers, wrote effusive praise for the new hotel which would open soon in Asheville.  business men opinion head 5 25 1912.jpg

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The Langren opened its doors for business on July 4, 1912. The Social Happenings column in The Asheville Citizen that day described the banquet and ball to be held in the evening. Prominent local names such as Rankin, Lipinsky, Coxe, Westall, Moore, Wells, Westall, Barnard, Reynolds, McBrayer, Ray, and Haynes were just a few of the attendees that evening. The music and dance programs were described in culinary terms: Red Pepper Rag, Chicken Reel, Clam Chowder Rag, Absinthe Frappe, and Rock and Rye Two Step! All followed, of course, by cigars and cigarettes.  Tickets for the ball could be purchased up until the starting hour of 8:30 p.m. And because many gentlemen were “engaged in business…the occasion will not necessarily be full dress.”

The eight story hotel possessed all modern amenities including a roof top garden, a drug store, and a sanitary soda fountain.

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General Passenger Department of Southern Railway on the rooftop garden on July 5, 1912. J.H. Lange sitting in center, holding his hat.  Photo by Herbert Pelton.

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By 1924 both the New Battery Park and George Vanderbilt hotels presented competition; in 1926 The Asheville-Biltmore Hotel opened its doors as well.  In those years, Asheville was not short on rooms for tourists or conventioneers coming to the mountains.

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Rooms: single $1.50 to $2.50  Double $2.00 to $4.00

After WWII almost everyone had a new automobile and tourism was no longer just for the rich.  An explosion of  motor courts and motels dotted the outskirts of town. Tourists weren’t as interested in staying downtown as they drove from one vacation spot to another. In the 1950’s The Langren Hotel was leased to the the Stiles Hotel Corporation.

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By the late 1950’s the Langren, like the once proud Buck Hotel, saw a slow decline in business and began to rent rooms by the week or month.

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The Asheville Citizen, January 17, 1962

The Langren’s cachet  was fading and it’s business was faltering. New development was planned for the opposite corner of Broadway and College Street. The small parcel of land for “the tallest building in Asheville” needed space for customer parking.

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The Asheville Citizen, January 10, 1964

A new parking garage for the new Northwestern Bank Building  (later known as the BB&T Building) opened in 1965. It stood on the corner until 2014 when it was razed to make way for another hotel.

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Photo by Rob Neufeld, 1992

The corner of Broadway and College Street has come full circle with the opening of the new AC Hotel Marriott.  I’ve “heard tell” it has a rooftop garden as well.

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A rooftop garden is on the left. Now a skeletal form is on the opposite corner. Photo by Terry Taylor   October 17, 2017

Click here to read: “Standing On One Corner in Asheville, Part One.”

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

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