Asheville’s curative powers are not a recent discovery. Native American Indians had long brought their sick and injured to the area to recover. So, it is not surprising that when tuberculosis became the scourge of the American landscape that physicians would send their patients to these healing mountains. By 1900, the disease had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived! Consumption or tuberculosis patients sought “the cure” in sanatoriums where it was believed that rest and a healthful climate could change the course of the disease. Medical professionals at the turn of the century identified Asheville as having an optimum combination of barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and sunlight believed to be conducive to healing tuberculosis.
With the arrival of the railroad in 1880, the “Asheville Cure” was suddenly only a day’s travel away from cities on the East Coast and the hot humid cities of the South. The train opened the floodgates and tourists poured into the healing city to improve their health, prompting the development of hotels, boarding houses, bed and breakfast inns, and sanitaria.
Many of the country’s rich and famous came to Asheville. Some seriously ill. Many just because of the area’s reputation for improving one’s general health and wellbeing. Some of those visitors stayed. And those that did contribute to its architecture, culture, and its sense of place. George Vanderbilt, who accompanied his ailing mother, fell in love with the area and built the fabulous Biltmore Estate, reclaiming eroded lands and advancing the science of agriculture and forestry. The Grove Park Inn was built by Edwin W. Grove who came to Asheville as a patient. By 1930, Asheville had 20 tuberculosis specialists and 25 sanitaria with a total of 900 beds.
The town is still a health center where people come for specialized treatment. Mission Hospital, pictured above, and the many specialists located nearby have made Asheville the prime medical center for Western North Carolina. The City’s emphasis on the quality of life led many therapists, acupuncturists, and other alternative health care practitioners to set up shop in the city. Asheville was, and continues to be, a place to heal the mind, body, and soul.