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Black Mountain Town


Black Mountain Town Hall is located at 160 Midland Avenue, Black Mountain, NC 28711; phone: 828-419-9300.

Beginnings [1]

The town of Black Mountain began around 1880 with the completion of the Western North Carolina Railroad (WNCRR) over Swannanoa Gap and into Asheville, the county seat of Buncombe County eighteen miles to the west. Known as Grey Eagle since the time of its earliest settlers, the town began developing in the 1880s around the depot, which the WNCRR named "Black Mountain Station." (The town's name was officially changed to Black Mountain when it incorporated in 1893.) With the establishment of regular rail service, Black Mountain grew primarily as a tourist destination. The lavish Mount Mitchell Hotel, erected in 1882 and destroyed by fire around 1905, stood just west of the depot and was operated by Mont Stepp and his wife.

Mount Mitchell Hotel presaged the importance of the town as a gateway for Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and the Black Mountain range, which attracted a variety of naturalists, scientists, and excursionists to explore the region. The Black Mountains had gained notoriety in the 1830s and 1850s through the explorations of Elisha Mitchell and Thomas Clingman, who sought to establish the elevation of the highest peak in the eastern United States. Mitchell died tragically in 1857 while exploring the high peaks of the Black Mountain Range. Excursions to Mitchell's grave and the summit of Mt. Mitchell attracted the first hearty travelers to the area in the late nineteenth century.

Following incorporation in 1893, the town aldermen ordered a survey of Black Mountain's existing streets as a small commercial district was beginning to take shape around the depot. One of the town's earliest businessmen, Silas F. Dougherty, operated a general store and post office from his home, located along present day State Street, where the mail was received by stagecoach. After the railroad assumed the task of distributing mail, Dougherty moved his store to Sutton Avenue (former Depot Street) nearer to the depot. James McKoy operated a general store with boarding on the second story on the south side of the railroad tracks opposite the depot and, in 1890, replaced his original frame building with a two-story brick structure, one of the earliest remaining buildings in town. E. W. Queene and the Savage brothers also established themselves as merchants near the Black Mountain depot, and a drug store and hardware store were added to the growing commercial district. Although the new businesses contributed greatly to the settlement of the town, it was the popularity of Black Mountain as a destination for travelers in the region that drove the development of the town.

The railroad connection helped to open the North Fork Valley, located to the northwest of town, to the timber industry and established Black Mountain as the point of shipment for a significant amount of lumber. The railroad enabled a sawmill to operate in North Fork, with weekly mail delivery from Black Mountain. By 1883, three lumber dealers—Burnett and Company, Dougherty and Walker, and J. M. Stepp and Company—had offices in town. The timber industry continued to expand through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with as much as 100,000 board-feet of lumber delivered daily by rail to Black Mountain from the surrounding areas. In 1903, the city of Asheville purchased the upper North Fork valley for its watershed, re-routing traffic that had traditionally passed through the valley more directly into Black Mountain.

  1. Clay Griffith, Acme Preservation Services, LLC, Dougherty Heights Historic District, Buncombe County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2010, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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