History Lesson

Friday, May 28, 2010

our favorite intern here! We just got finished listening to our Adult Programs Manager, Nancy Sokolove, talk about the history of the building in which the Asheville Art Museum currently resides. I am always a bit fanatical when it comes to history, and this city certainly has a rich past. I thought I would pass the knowledge along….

This building, originally a library, was built in 1922 by architect Edward Lippincott Tilton. It was called the Pack Memorial Library. He is known for having built more than one hundred libraries in the U.S. and Canada, many of which were Carnegie libraries, which were public libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. It is questionable whether or not this building was meant to be a Carnegie library. Although it seems to have met many of the strict requirements, we cannot find the documents proving this.

Tilton was heavily influenced by the Neo-classical style of architecture, which is extremely evident when you take a look at the outside of our building. We have several arched windows as well as large lamps attached to the walls. Nancy said these lights were meant to represent the “lamp of learning.”

When you enter our atrium the style continues. There are very large arched windows on all four walls just below the ceiling, closely resembling the architecture of Greek temples. There is also an impressive frieze. (A frieze is a horizontal band that runs along a wall or doorway). The frieze was designed by a famous Danish sculptor of Icelandic descent and was cast specifically for the use in this building. The sculpture tells a narrative that begins just above the door and moves clock-wise.

This beautiful building was a rich addition to the city and the likes of Carl Sandberg lectured here! (that’s him above) Very cool.

As far as the history of the museum itself…The Asheville Art Museum had humble beginnings in 1948 and was housed on Charlotte St. A group of local artists decided there needed to be an art museum. Over time, it moved to houses in Montford, the basement of the Civic Center and what is now the BB&T building. Pack Place was built in 1992 and the museum moved into the site of the old library.

We are currently working on expansion plans and hope to renovate the museum and expand the library to connect to a lending library system.

My how exciting History Preservation Month is!