Thomas Wolfe at the east Asheville cabin.
Asheville’s famous native son Thomas Wolfe had a cabin, a place of retreat near what is now Azalea Park in east Asheville. Built in 1926, it was the last place Wolfe called home in his hometown. He spent the summer of 1937 at the cabin.
Wolfe’s summer at the cabin marked his first return to Asheville following the success of his book “Look Homeward, Angel.” He died a year later of tuberculosis in September 1938. He was just 37.
Built by friend Max Whitson in 1924, the cabin served as a quiet, remote place where he could work. It was very primitive, with no electricity or water.
In a letter to his friend Hamilton Basso in July 1937, Wolfe described the cabin as “a really a good place and I hope to do a lot of work here…” He noted that the cabin was so near Asheville’s Recreation Park that he could occasionally hear faintly hear the park’s merry-go-round and a the whistle of a distant train. “Of course I love the train, and I don’t mind the park a bit,” he wrote.
After Wolfe’s death, several unfortunate additions were made to the cabin by a subsequent owner. It then fell into disrepair.
In 1982, Asheville City Council designated the Thomas Wolfe Cabin as a local historic landmark. In 2001, then-owner John Moyer sold the property to the City. The property also includes a larger structure called the Moyer house.
Since that time the City has worked with the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County and the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County to stabilize the cabin, with the goal of a full renovation.
Community invited to share ideas
The community has for years wanted to see the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Thomas Wolfe Cabin. Now the City is ready to embark on a master plan visioning process for the Thomas Wolfe Cabin, in partnership with the community. To kick it off, two meetings will be held to gather ideas from the public:
- 5:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 27, Thomas Wolfe Memorial, 52 N. Market St.
- 3 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28, Murphy Oakley Community Center, 749 Fairview Road
This process will help the City determine the next steps for rehabilitation and site design for the proposed reuse. The project will also help to identify funding needs and potential funding sources for site redevelopment.
This is a master planning process only — no money has been set aside for site development.
One goal of the project is to rehabilitate the cabin and consider additional uses for the surrounding property that could make it a destination for residents and tourists. There will also be an assessment of the connectivity from the site to surrounding destinations, trails and the planned Swannanoa River Greenway. The master plan will also include recommendations for the rebuilding of a treehouse present on the site during Thomas Wolfe’s stay in the cabin.
Based on public input, a design consultant will identify and examine opportunities based on two primary conceptual ideas identified by the City of Asheville — a potential public park and a writer’s retreat.
That could be an appropriate use for Wolfe’s then-rural retreat. After all, during his life, the Asheville author wrote four novels, including his famous “Look Homeward, Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again,” as well as plays and other works. He is buried in Asheville’s historic Riverside Cemetery.
Find more information on the City of Asheville website.