In the early days, the River Arts District was home to Cherokees; the estate of Asheville’s first millionaire, James McConnell Smith; and the Southern Railroad Depot. It was also known as Asheville’s first industrial district; one of the area’s most vibrant African American communities, which has since been decimated by urban renewal; and the base of prominent grassroots organizations such as RiverLink, Mountain Housing Opportunities, the West-End Clingman Avenue neighborhood, and the River District Artists. In 1989, Asheville’s citizens developed a long-range revitalization plan for the city. As Asheville boomed in the early 1990s, the River Arts District lagged behind. In 1995, fire destroyed the district’s most prominent landmark, the Asheville Cotton Mill, prompting a phoenix-like renaissance.
Author Bio: Author Rob Neufeld is an accomplished writer, having authored A Popular History of Western North Carolina and edited The Making of a Writer: The Journals of Gail Godwin. For several years, he has been both the local history and book feature writer for the Asheville Citizen-Times. He is also the director of Together We Read, Western North Carolina’s 21-county reading, discussion, and heritage program. Coauthor Henry Neufeld, a senior at Asheville High School, is Rob’s son. He is the photographer for the Western North Carolina Jazz Society and has done work for such groups as the Brittain Cove community.
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