Updated: April 2019
Asheville’s Railway Station Since 1880
At the location, where Biltmore Village has been built, once stood the village of Best - as the Post Office called it. The name Best was derived from the owner of the Western North Carolina Railroad, William J. Best.
However, the Railroad Company called this settlement Asheville Junction, where the Spartanburg and Asheville Railroad met, 2 miles south of downtown Asheville.
The locals called this area Swannanoa Bridge for the bridge going over the Swannanoa River, which flows into the French Broad River a couple of miles south. Since the 1780s, farms, houses, and businesses had been established on both sides of the Swannanoa River.
The First Railway Station
The first railway station was constructed at this Asheville Junction in 1880. It was a small depot. Railway passengers traveling to Asheville and surrounding areas used this small depot for 15 years.
In 1888 George Vanderbilt started to buy several tracts of land including the village of Best from Samuel Harrison Reed. Using some of the proceeds from that sale, Samuel Reed built a substantial Queen-Anne style home in 1892 on 119 Dodge Street overlooking the village, the → Historic Samuel Harrison Reed House. Today, the house functions as the Biltmore Village Inn.
The Second Railway Station
In 1896, a symmetrical one-story building with half-timbered pebble-dash walls and a brick foundation was erected replacing the small depot. A covered carriage entrance (a so-called porte cochère) led to the interior of the station. All sides of the roof sloped downwards to the walls and had long overhangs held up by massive brackets.
The interior was typical of a railway station of that time. It had double waiting rooms and a ticket office at the center.
Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Biltmore House, designed the Southern Railway Depot as one of only four structures he ever architected for the Biltmore Village. The other three buildings were The Cathedral of All Souls, Parish Hall, and the Biltmore Estate Office.
It’s All About the View
When Richard Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect, designed Biltmore Estate, they intended for George Vanderbilt’s guests to be deeply impressed by the estate getting their first impressions as soon as they arrived at the Southern Railway Depot. It was about the entire experience.
Richard Hunt and Frederick Olmsted masterfully achieved what they intended. When visitors arrived by train and were about to leave the station towards Biltmore Estate, they had a picture perfect view of The Cathedral of All Souls. They strategically placed the church at the end of the central axis of the village, so arriving visitors had a direct line of sight of the church.
Once George Vanderbilt’s guests had boarded their carriages and left for Biltmore Estate, they had to follow Lodge Street to the end, where the monumental entrance to the Biltmore Estate was located. In the interim, they were looking at trees and shops lining the street.
Railway passenger service continued until August 1975.
The Historic Southern Railway Depot has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.
30 Lodge Street, Asheville, NC 28803
STREET VIEWING ONLY.
Free street parking.
Public bus stop: Lodge Street at Biltmore Ave.
Stop Gray Line Historic Trolley: 5 Boston Way (at the store Olde World Christmas Shoppe)