One of the most haunted streets in Asheville is only five minutes from the Applewood Manor by car and just a little over 20 minutes on foot. It is just off Woodfin Street. It is actually an alley, Chicken Alley, a narrow walkway between North Lexington Avenue and Carolina Lane. As you approach the alley, you will pass by building number 6 on Woodfin Street with its tiny mouse doors. But the landmark that will announce your arrival will be the giant Chicken Mural painted by Asheville artist, Molly Musk. While the mural celebrates the area’s rich agricultural heritage, it is the ghost of Dr. Jamie Smith that attracts many of the alley’s visitors.
In the late 1800s, Ashville had a rough and raunchy side. Asheville’s nearby forest and a navigable French Broad River fostered a growing logging industry in the area, and Asheville was where loggers went for entertainment and “good times.” And the Broadway Tavern at Chicken Alley was one of their favorite spots. Asheville’s Dr. Jamie Smith was one of its prominent physicians, although on the side he is said to have counted many of the loggers among his clients for treatment of injuries and social disorders. He too enjoyed the “good times” and was a regular at the tavern. Dr. Smith stood out from the other men in route to and from the tavern for his unusual attire—a wide-brimmed black fedora hat and long duster style coat with a silver topped cane in one hand and a medicine bag in the other. On his last visit to Chicken Alley’s Broadway Tavern, Doctor Smith met his end. He arrived just as a bar brawl raged and while trying to stop the fighting, he was stabbed in the heart and died instantly. A year later in 1903, the tavern was destroyed by fire.
People say that things died slowly in the quartz laden mountains—especially those who meet a tragic or untimely end. So it seems with Dr. Jamie Smith—his sprit lingers. Late at night (since his death in 1902—now well over 100 years) those who live in Chicken Alley and people passing through it have reported hearing a cane tapping on the pavement or seeing a man lurking in the alley—a man in a long coat and wide brimmed fedora and a silver topped cane.
[Author’s Note: Some say Doctor Smith’s sprit is staying around for revenge, but most locals say he just wants another drink before departing his earthly bonds. As for the mouse doors, they are the subject of another story, TINY DOORS, in the book, Stories from Applewood Manor.]
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More about the mural from www.muraltrail.com/asheville-murals.htm:
Completed in 2011, Asheville NC. 200 square foot mural with a 10-ft. rooster welcomes you to Chicken Alley. Designed and painted by Molly Must. The design of this mural interprets the history of the chicken-processing plant owned by Sam and Argie Young of Asheville, for which the alley is named. Sam and Argie’s granddaughter, Sandra Gudger (the only remaining family member with memories of the business), contributed stories and photographs to the project. Sandra’s memories are a testament to the rich agricultural heritage of not just her bee-keeping, poultry-raising family, but also of South Lexington Avenue, where a Asheville farmers market and many farm-supply shops used to be. Sandra is depicted in the mural as a young woman holding a jar of honey out to her viewer, with her pet black snake named “boy” at her feet. Molly collaborated with the Sandra in writing a poem further illustrating her visual memories, which is painted on the chicken alley mural.