Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Bit about the History of the Former Town of Victoria, Asheville, NC


   The former town of Victoria is right in Asheville and just off Victoria Road, very centrally located within the I-240 beltway that surrounds the three distinct downtown areas of Asheville, including Biltmore Village, Historic Downtown Asheville and the River Arts District.  Biltmore Village is about one mile south of the former Victoria, Historic Downtown Asheville is just one-and-a-half miles north with the River Arts District about a half mile West and about a half mile off Biltmore Avenue.  Vernon Hill is the highest point in the Victoria neighborhood, affording wonderful vistas westward, and overlooking the confluence of the Swanannoa and French Broad Rivers, where one of the boundaries of the Biltmore Estate's 8,000 acres is located.

Fernihurst Circa 1876

Asheville Buncombe Technical College (A-B Tech) now occupies most of what was once the little town of Victoria, with the Fernihurst Mansion (circa 1876) atop Vernon Hill at the highest point, and now home to AB-tech offices and culinary school.  Just a short and enjoyable walk from Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, guests are welcome to sit on the front porch of Fernihurst, in one of the white rocking chairs.  Often special events may be enjoyed at Fernihurst, including the Lighting of the Green Christmas series, open and free to the public, held on several evenings throughout December.  Westerly views are particularly good from front veranda of Fernihurst.  View the Blue Ridge Mountains and in particular, striking views of Mount Pisgah, an iconic landmark for Asheville.  Glimpses of the French Broad River and Carrier Park are also visible from this 
vantage point.  

Sunnicrest "Summer Cottage" circa 1895
The story goes that  George W. Vanderbilt himself visited the Fernihurst mansion and tried to purchase it.  In reaction, Victoria was shortly thereafter incorporated.  The Vanderbilt's consequently bought all of the land across the Swanannoa and French Broad Rivers, where the Biltmore Estate ended up being built.  And although the Vanderbilts were unable to buy Fernihurst itself, George Vanderbilt bought as much adjoining property to it that he could and later built several "summer cottages."  Sunnicrest is the only surviving model cottage, built in 1895 and may be seen just several hundred feet down the hill from Fernihurst.  Sunnicrest was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, supervising archichect to the Biltmore estate.  R.S. Smith is also given credit to the design of many homes in Asheville, including Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast.  If you are visiting Oakland Cottage, notice the fireplace and corner inglenook in the main front room, both trademarks of R.S. Smith.
Smith-McDowell House and Museum circa 1840

Also on the AB-Tech Campus is another home of great interest and now a museum - the Smith-McDowell House and Museum, allegedly the oldest brick home in Asheville.  The Smith McDowell House and Museum is about 2 blocks and a 5 minute walk from Oakland Cottage.  Enjoy a self-guided or guided tour.  Inquire about Children's activities and "scavenger hunt" designed to help children also enjoy a glimpse of Asheville history.  The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am to 3pm.