No history of Applewood Manor can be complete without telling the story of the mountains. They are the soul of Western North Carolina and Applewood’s home city, Asheville. As the continental plates moved closer together about 270 million years ago the continents that were ancestral to North America and Africa collided creating majestic mountains once taller than those of the Rockies and within them stores of immense wealth in mineral resources. Huge masses of rock including those from the ocean floor were pushed westward along the margin of North America and piled up to form that we now know as the Appalachian Mountains. The building of the mountains continued for millions of years as blocks of continental crust rode across one another, some rocks becoming so hot that they melted. There were volcanic eruptions and quiet lava flows, and as the molten rock cooled deep below ground, it crystallized to form granite. Some cooled slowly forming coarse-grained veins that became the source of minerals, such as quartz and mica, and gemstones, including emeralds.
Eventually the building up of the mountain range ceased, and the continents began drifting apart. For the last 100 million years, erosion and weather has been carving away the mountains. Eroded rocks and soil spilled into streams and rivers becoming the building materials for North Carolina’s coastal plain and its beaches and barrier islands. What remains is only the core of the original majestic mountain range; yet they remain the tallest mountains in the eastern U.S. What they lost in height they have gained in beauty and mystique that draws millions to them yearly from all over the world. The have become healing medicine for the soul and body, dispensing calming tranquility together with healing sun and high mountain air—perhaps aided by the power of their quartz laden soil.
While the mountains’ rocks are billions of years old, people came only recently to the land. About twelve thousand years ago, ocean levels dropped due to the ice age. Native American ancestors walked on a newly exposed land bridge from present-day Siberia to Alaska. As their population grew, they spread into Canada, the Great Plains, and the Eastern Woodlands including the area we now call North Carolina. By 1600, more than a hundred thousand Native Americans made the mountains their home and the area became known as the Cherokee Nation. As the population of Europeans and their descendants expanded in North America, they migrated to the mountains to buy, settle, and farm the fertile bottomlands and hillsides in the region. The journey was difficult. They came by foot, wagon, or horseback, entering the area through gaps such as Swannanoa, Hickory Nut, Gillespie, and Deep Gaps. Others came south from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The completion of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1827 which followed the French Broad River opened the area to commerce and tourism. Farmers could now use their wagons to transport crops and livestock to market. As wagons, carriages, and stagecoaches replaced foot and horseback traffic, Asheville was on track to become a popular tourist destination.
The city was settled soon after the American Revolution at a crossroads of trails and on hunting grounds of Native American Indians along the French Broad River. The area benefited from the mountains’ protection against weather extremes. That favorable climate may have contributed to the area being a place the American Indians sent their ill and wounded to heal. Its popularity grew rapidly–first from the discovery of gold in western North Carolina in the 1820s and 1830s. It was, however, the coming of the Western North Carolina Railroad in 1880 that really gave Asheville its biggest boost. The start of regular rail service ushered in a cycle of economic boom. The region’s reputation as a haven for those seeking better health, became the main driving force behind Asheville’s growth. That was only accelerated as “psychics” from around the world became interested in the power of the mountains’ quartz and their belief that it had many energy and paranormal vortexes.
Modern times for Asheville really began in about 1888 when George Washington Vanderbilt commissioned architect, Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, to create Biltmore House and Estate. Builders and artisans brought from Europe to build Biltmore stayed on in Asheville to work on other structures, and downtown Asheville. The result was a unique distinctive architectural character that continues to this day. Likewise, Asheville’s unique qualities and the lure of its quartz laden mountains brought the mystics and gifted, the poor farmers and the gold rushers, the rich and famous, the talented and artistic, the sick and the healers, the builders and dreamers—all to become its citizens.
This is where our story of Applewood Manor begins—with Captain John Adams Perry’s retirement from military service in 1903 and his arrival shortly thereafter in this mountain city called “the weirdest, happiest, quirkiest, mot haunted place in America” to make it his home.