Edwin G. Carrier: Early Developer in West Asheville
Edwin G. Carrier is arguably the person most responsible for the development of West Asheville. Passing through Asheville in the mid-1880s on his way to Florida, the Michigan lumber baron was struck by the region’s beauty and natural resources.
In 1885 Carrier moved to Asheville and bought up 1,200 acres in what is now West Asheville, including the Sulphur Springs and a large section of land between Haywood Road and the French Broad River—property encompassing what is now Carrier Park.
In 1886 Carrier began construction on a large hotel at the sulphur springs.
In 1887 he formed the West Asheville Improvement Company, which began laying our streets and selling lots.
In 1889, Carrier brought electricity to West Asheville when he constructed a dam and powerhouse on Hominy Creek. This was the first power plant in Western North Carolina. Carrier used the power to operate electric lights and the first electric passenger elevator in the South located in the Sulphur Springs Hotel. The plant also powered a commercial streetcar which ran from the hotel to Asheville along what is now Amboy Road, crossing the French Broad on Carrier Bridge, also built by Carrier in 1889.
During this period, Carrier constructed a large horse-race track and grandstand, approximately on the site of the present Asheville Mellowdrome. Horse-racing was popular, attracting as many as 1,500 people for a race. An article in the Asheville Citizen in 1952 reported that jousting tournaments were also held on the field inside the track for the amusement of hotel guests.
“If it is hard to imagine the young men of Asheville, superbly mounted on blooded chargers, bearing down, lance poised on a series of doughnut-like rings hung in mid air, just remember that those were the days the gallant gesture,”
said the article. The hotel at the springs burned down in 1892, but the racing remained popular and horse and bicycle racing continued there until 1900. The field was also used for baseball games from 1892 until about 1905.
Carrier sold the property in 1905. An amusing sidelight to the sale was the discovery that Carrier and his partner JP Gaston were trying to include the French Broad River bottom as acreage in the proposed sale. Prospective buyers Gay Green and PH Thrash objected; a threatened lawsuit was dropped when it was revealed that the French Broad River bottom at this location had previously been purchased from the State of North Carolina by Mr. BJ Alexander, who paid 15 cents an acre for 12 miles of river bottom in 1891.