What downtown Hendersonville looked like a century ago
A little over a century ago, Main Street in Hendersonville had not only shops, theaters, banks, hotels and a few canteens, but also private residences, boarding houses, a commissary, cart, livery stables and a harness shop.
Poultry and cattle pecked and grazed in some of the fenced yards flanking the vast expanse, and the ubiquitous road apples kept street cleaners busy.
Main Street windows featured butchers, dry goods and seed and feed stores, bakeries, grocery stores, teahouses, drugstores, undertaker and barbers. It was the era of penny candy, vaudeville acts, burlesque performances and traveling minstrel shows.
The drinking troughs provided watering points for the animals that carried people into town. And the meat products and products did not contain GMOs, hormones or antibiotics.
Our first town hall, with its opera house on the top floor, was on Main Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Condemned and razed, the old lobby occupied a vacant lot from which the Curb Market operated in its early years, before moving to King Street and then Church Street.
JC Penney Co. subsequently erected a brick store on the site of the old town hall building, recently occupied by Village Green Antiques.
Downtown amenities also included furniture stores, millennials and haberdashery, luxury photography studio, newsstand, jewelers and optometrists, upholsterer, machine shops, blacksmiths and a tinsmith.
The Palace Theater once occupied the building on the northeast corner of Main and Fifth streets. At the time, entertainment likely involved burlesque performances and then silent films. The small bedrooms upstairs, it was rumored, had the services of ladies of the night. Renzo’s Ristorante and The Speakeasy now occupy these spaces.
The underground space under the northwest corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue housed a barber shop, beauty salon, and a men’s establishment known as the Eagle’s Club – a haven of peace later occupied by a canteen for adolescents. The men’s club supplied contraband cigars and spirits.
Upstairs, along the broad strip of the Main, the population finds the conveniences of the offices of doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants; a piano tuner and a music studio; a surveyor; and a justice of the peace.
In addition to the Eagle’s Club, one could secretly soak up one of Hendersonville’s blind tigers (also known as speakeasies) during the Prohibition era.
At the time, a single woman in her twenties was considered an old maid and didn’t dare to be seen alone on the street. (And God forbid, she was smoking a cigarette while walking or standing. Outrageous!) A gentleman would take off or at least take off his hat when bowing or walking past a lady in public.
Locals rocked to the sound of famous big band shows at the Skyland Hotel and Laurel Park Casino. At home, fans played recordings from favorite orchestras on their Graphonolas. Movies were picture shows or talking movies. And the prisons were slammers or remand centers.
A square meal could be enjoyed in a cafe for four pieces. And downtown Hendersonville boasted of a visitor center called the Rest Room where hosts served sandwiches and coffee.
A commercial laundry was in some cases called a pressing club. We have had two so-called operations in Hendersonville. In the early 1900s, John and Maxwell Potts, a biracial couple, owned one of these businesses, located at 515 N. Main St.
It was probably the first non-white business on Main Street. Another dry cleaning club, in the Ripley building on Main St. and First Ave. W., displayed “WHITE PEOPLE ONLY” in their advertisements. (No such decree at the establishment of the Potts.)
Only the envelope of the original building housing the tinsmith remains standing at the northeast corner of Main Street and Second Avenue. The Racket Store (clothing) then occupied this structure and the Blue Bird Ice Cream Co. then used the images for the production and distribution of its confections. Sinclair office supplies (affectionately known as the “SOS Store” by locals) were sold in the building for many years (after moving there from the Shepherd Building). The Shine restaurant currently occupies the structure.
Streetcar tracks spanned Main Street from Second Avenue to South Station, with branch lines to Columbia Park (Whitted and Spring Streets) and Laurel Park (to Fifth Avenue West). Mules, horses or oxen pulled the first carts later fueled with gasoline and then with electricity.
Main Street added department stores, notions stores, florists, a telegraph office and telephone exchange, car dealerships, taxi companies, a bus station, hardware stores, a five-and-dime, theaters. pool, bowling alley, bookstores and stationery, a camera store and two A&P stores.
Morphology of compounds
Early 20th century newspaper articles used open compounds compared to today’s closed versions (court, school, cooler, barber shop, etc.). “Out-house” has turned into an outbuilding, a facility also known as “penthouse” (today composed as “penthouse”, but with an entirely different meaning), and a few less terms. tasty. Publications of old open compounds liberally used.
Familiar expressions of the past
The lingo suggested that a bag was a hit and that lounges were lounges. Obviously, we had a shortage of “pest control houses” in Hendersonville because “Dad fell with smallpox and they took him to the pest control house in Asheville,” according to Leonard Huggins.
A pest control house was also known as the “plague house” or “fever shelter” – an infirmary where patients with communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, smallpox and typhus were housed until until they are healed – or expired.
Tuberculosis sanatoriums sprang up in Henderson County, easing the burden on Asheville as people from the deeper southerners flocked to these mountain sanatoriums for a hopeful cure. Unlike officials in some cities, Hendersonville allowed people with TB to disembark trains passing through them.
The late historian / author / columnist Louise Howe Bailey enjoyed telling the story of a woman who met her on Little River Road near the Bailey House. Hysterically, the woman begged, “Tell Dr. Joe to come quickly!” My husband needs his gallbladder broken!
And there was the story of a wallflower in a square dance. When a young man asked her to dance, she replied, “I danced until I was comfortable.” (She probably had blisters on the soles of her feet.)
Name municipalities and post offices
At one time, there were as many as 75 post offices in Henderson County. There are now 14, including the Hendersonville annex.
The more intriguing names of rural post offices included Uno (pronounced “you know” and purportedly named for a dog), Lead, Tin, Goodluck, Gypsy, and Splendor.
Lead and Splendor ranks among the post offices serving residents of the Township of Green River. Uno stood in Edneyville, Goodluck in Hoopers Creek, and Gypsy in Mills River.
Dana was named for the postmaster’s son. And a postmaster from the northern fringe of the county appointed a post office for his daughter. This office, first called Pump (inspired by the city pump) rejected the postmark because it had been misspelled as “Rump”. Postmaster’s daughter Gertrude snubbed the idea that the local office shares her name, so her father bribed her, inventing “Gerton”. The name stuck.
Horse Shoe was named for its establishment on the “horseshoe loop” of the French Broad River. Etowah (formerly called Money) comes from “etalwa”, a Creek / Muskogee word meaning “tribal town”. Etowah Township in Henderson County takes its name from a river of the same name in Georgia.
Other locally attributed Native American-derived terms include Oklawaha (also spelled Ochlawaha, of Creek origin, meaning “dark” or “muddy water”) and Osceola (derived from the Seminole-Creek dialect). And there was Opelika, an extinct post office north of Horse Shoe, taking its name from Tongue Creek for “great swamp.”
It’s time to wrap up now. Lead out of space.
Terry Ruscin is the author of several books on local and regional history.