Black Mountain, originally called “Grey Eagle,” was a tiny agrarian village in the Blue Ridge Mountains until the coming of the railroad in 1879, an event that changed the face of the community forever.
The Railroad Brought Many Changes
Trains brought visitors from hotter climes to the cool mountain air of the Blue Ridge, and Black Mountain quickly became a popular tourist destination. Inns and boarding houses sprang up to serve the new visitors, many of whom, when they discovered the haunting beauty of Black Mountain and the surrounding valleys and coves, decided to buy land and relocate to the Swannanoa Valley.
Among those investors were people who developed the many religious retreats and conference centers, such as Montreat, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and Ridgecrest. Today the Swannanoa Valley is home to seven such major conference centers.
Black Mountain College
Black Mountain College, a progressive arts and educational institution, was located in Black Mountain between 1933 and 1956. Black Mountain College was experimental in nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach to education, with the study of art seen to be central to a true liberal arts education. The school, founded by John Rice, attracted a faculty that included people who became many of America’s leading visual artists, composers, poets, and designers.
A Child’s Recollection – Mini documentary about growing up on the campus of Black Mountain College. Credit: Kevin Boggs, Duncan White, and Drew Glover. Photo Credit: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
A Distinguished Architect
Raphael Guastavino, distinguished Spanish architect who came to the area to work on the Biltmore Estate and who designed and built the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, had an estate of his own in Black Mountain called “Rhododendron.” It is now the campus of Christmount Conference Center.
Black Mountain Today
Visiting Historic Downtown Black Mountain is like taking a step back in time to a simpler era. A disastrous fire in 1912 burned many of the original wooden buildings which were replaced by the sturdy brick structures seen in town today that house quaint shops and restaurants, favorite destinations for today’s visitors.
Parks, Museums & Art Centers
Lake Tomahawk Park is the “jewel” of Black Mountain’s Parks & Recreation Department. Here families bring kids to the playground, weddings and family reunions take place in the gazebo and beneath the pavilion, runners and walkers follow the path around the lake, and the “Black Mountain Yacht Club” holds regattas of remote control sailboats. In summer, it is the site of “Park Rhythms,” a free concert held every Thursday between June and August.
The Swannanoa Valley Museum is Buncombe County’s primary museum of general local history, with collections and exhibits that tell the story of the development of the Valley and Western North Carolina.
Nearby, the Presbyterian Heritage Center preserves the history of Montreat and tells the story of Presbyterian outreach throughout the world.
Black Mountain Center for the Arts provides lessons, gallery exhibits, concerts, special programs and a pottery studio. It also hosts the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in Buncombe County.
Festivals & Events
Park Rhythms Concert Series–Every Thursday evening from late June through mid-August, Lake Tomahawk.
Sourwood Festival–Second weekend in August. Includes “Black Mountain Idol” talent contest, vendors, food, and music throughout the weekend. Free.
Holly Jolly Night and the Black Mountain Christmas Parade, first weekend in December. Friday night walkabout in local stores creates a festive kickoff to the holiday season and encourages participants to buy local. Saturday afternoon’s parade is small town fun for everyone, those who choose to join the parade and those who line the streets to watch.
Lake Eden Arts Festival, held bi-annually in May and October at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, draws an international audience.
Tailgate Farmers Market
The Black Mountain Tailgate Market operates mid-May to late October, Saturday mornings, 9 am to noon, on the grounds of the First Baptist Church on Montreat Road.
Black Mountain is located at Exit 64 of I-40, fifteen miles east of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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