05 May 2012

Lost City: Asheville Edition: Mountaineer Inn

Asheville, North Carolina, is a beautiful town. Though a boho center of liberality today, it came into being through the efforts of millionaires like George Washington Vanderbilt III, Edwin Wiley Grove and George Willis Pack, who fell in love with the remote area enough to fill it with some of the most beautiful art deco architectural monuments in the country, as well as a few mansions for themselves. (Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate is the largest private home in the United States.)

The Mountaineer Inn is not one of those monuments. But it is a marvel in its own right, mainly due to its wonderful use of old-school neon. The shotgun-toting neon hillbilly seen above stands about 30 feet tall, and keeps watch over Tunnel Road, a strip of hotels and restaurants on the other side of a mountain to the east of Asheville.

The Mountaineer was founded in 1939, and is family owned and operated. The rooms are very cheap (under $50 a night), and you basically get what you pay for. But the place has a homey charm and the woodsy architecture has an appeal that harkens back to the postwar way of American family vacationing.

The unusual figure below is an actual neon rendering of Mammy Yokum, the character from the "L'il Abner" comic strip, which hasn't run in a paper since 1977. I doubt many people who stay here or pass by recognize Mammy.

The office building itself is a lovely sight, a round fieldstone hut topped with a birdhouse.

The oddly shaped pool stands in front of the motel, perched high above the highway. It's a lovely vantage point, if you don't mind drivers being able to see you swim.


Peter said...

You don't see many of these quirky independent motels any more. Today most motels are part of franchises such as Motel 6 or Days Inn or Super 8, and they're all pretty much the same.

Kent said...

If you stray a little more off the beaten path about 25 miles west, you'll find Maggie Valley, where I was stunned by the number of Mom and Pop restaurants and motels that were still alive. Quite refreshing.

briteness said...

There was a motel in my town with a sign in the same basic style as that mounaineer. It featured a neon Rip Van Winkle. It was one of the later holdouts; they took the sign down in the mid 80's, as I recall. But I can still see it there when I go by, along with the Howard Johnson's that used to be across the highway from it...

Just Sayin said...

Nice modern twist with the "wi-fi" on the sign. Used to be "ICE" or "Air Conditioning" or "Color-TV" or "HBO" - progress!