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The foundations of Hendersonville were laid with the creation of the Buncombe Turnpike, which opened the long-isolated region to European settlement and trade. Built between 1824 and 1828, the road follows the French Broad River from the Tennessee-North Carolina border to Asheville, and then follows what is today U.S. 25 through the Saluda Gap and into South Carolina. At the time, Buncombe County was significantly larger than it is today, and the entire 75-mile route was contained within it. As more people flooded into the area during the 1830s, the North Carolina General Assembly decided to create Henderson County from a portion of Buncombe that sits between Asheville and South Carolina.

Henderson County became a distinct entity in 1838 and Hendersonville, the county seat, was established two years later. The original city was cut into a grid bounded by King and Washington streets to the east and west, respectively, and Caswell Street and Seventh Avenue to the south and north, respectively. Running through the center of the grid was Main Street, which continues to be the most important commercial artery of Hendersonville to this day.

For several decades, the city remained an important stop for travelers along the Buncombe Turnpike and attracted merchants, lawyers, and innkeepers as permanent residents, but didn’t see significant growth until the arrival of the railroad from the east in 1879. In 1886, Asheville and Hendersonville were finally connected via rail line and the city became both a vital distribution hub for livestock and produce, as well as a destination for tourists from the south who were eager to escape the summer heat by coming to the mountains.

In the decades following the introduction of the railroad, many of the brick buildings that continue to line Main Street were constructed, while the original antebellum courthouse was replaced by a new one built in the Classical Revival style between 1904 and 1905. Similar structures were built downtown during this time in Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and Colonial Revival styles that symbolized Hendersonville’s growing wealth and its citizenry’s civic pride. To the east of Main Street cropped up an assortment of factories and warehouses close to the railroad tracks, as well housing for the people who worked in these facilities. Wealthier families, both local and from out of town, tended to build larger and more luxurious homes to the west of Main Street, particularly along West Fourth and Fifth avenues. Many of them remain standing to this day.

As the automobile became the primary mode of transportation, development spread further and further away from Main Street. Some of the developments of this era include Osceola Lake, Mountain Home, Grimesdale, and Druid Hills, which became permanent suburban neighborhoods. During the early 1920s, a significant amount of development was also fueled by land speculation and unrealistic expectations about Hendersonville’s potential as a major tourist destination, eventually leading to a major bust that was only exacerbated by the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression. Though Hendersonville went through several lean years, it eventually recovered and created an economy that was not only reliant on tourism.

Today, Hendersonville continues to be the primary hub of Henderson County. Similar to other cities in Western North Carolina, its thriving downtown is filled with new restaurants, breweries, cafes, unique shops, and live music venues. Meanwhile, it is just a 20-minute or 40-minute drive up I-26 to the Asheville Regional Airport or the center of Asheville, respectively, and even closer to some of the most gorgeous sites in the vast Pisgah National Forest.

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