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Pack Square

Photo courtesy of City Development, City of Asheville, North Carolina

The public square has been a central feature of Asheville since the town's creation in 1797. The county court ordered that lands for a public square be procured in the "most convenient and interesting" place. Lying at the intersection of ancient trading paths, the site chosen encompassed the important existing public and commercial buildings of the young town and established, in essence, a focal point for Asheville's future growth.

The city as a whole and the square in particular benefited from the generosity of George W. Pack, who offered property for a new courthouse on the condition that the former site become part of the public square, and donated two-thirds of the cost for a monument to Buncombe County native and Civil War governor Zebulon Baird Vance. Local architect Richard Sharp Smith designed the Vance Monument, erected in 1896. The new courthouse (no longer standing) was completed in 1903, and in an expression of civic gratitude, municipal authorities renamed the newly enlarged square in Pack's honor.

[photo] 1890s buildings on southwest side of Pack Square
Photo courtesy of City Development, City of Asheville, North Carolina

The earliest surviving buildings on the square occupy the southwest side and date from the 1890s. This group of buildings, which include examples of the Romanesque Revival style, suffered extensive damage following a fire in 1895 and most were subsequently rebuilt and enlarged. The three-story brick building with a projecting corbelled cornice known as the Adler Building at 9 Pack Square anchors the corner and adjoins the former Western Hotel, which is capped by a richly ornamented pressed metal cornice.

Along the south side of the square, a fine collection of early 20th-century commercial buildings survive including the Neo-Classical Commerce Building (1904) and the reinforced concrete Legal Building (1909) designed by Smith and Carrier in the Renaissance Revival style. In 1925, New York architect Edward L. Tilton designed the former Pack Memorial Library also in the Renaissance Revival style. Ronald Greene's unusual eight-story Neo-Spanish Romanesque style building for prominent builder and businessman William H. Westall is superceded visually by the adjacent 13-story Jackson Building, also designed by Greene. Real estate developer L. B. Jackson commissioned the Neo-Gothic style skyscraper--the first in western North Carolina--to promote his faith in the continued strength of the 1920s local real estate market. Fitted with a searchlight to draw tourists to the city, the Jackson Building has been a visual landmark since its completion.

[photo] Current and historic views of Pack Square's south side
Photos courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina and City Development, City of Asheville, North Carolina

Pack Square has evolved and expanded over the years, yet still remains the symbolic center of Asheville. Although dating later than the defined period of significance for the Downtown Asheville Historic District, two distinctive modern buildings also border Pack Square: an 18-story steel-frame skyscraper (1964-1965) clad in bronze colored anodized aluminum and glass in the style of Modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, and I. M. Pei's concrete and glass office block (1978-1980).

Pack Square is located at the intersection of Patton, Biltmore and Broadway aves. in the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The square is host to numerous festivals and free activities throughout the year. Government buildings, museums, restaurant and businesses are open to the public. Hours of operation and admission vary accordingly. For information on the revitalization of Pack Square visit the Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department website.

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