The town of Marshall sits within the Asheville metropolitan area but is located deep in the mountains of Western North Carolina, not far from the Tennessee border. It is the seat of Madison County, which was created from parts of Buncombe and Yancy counties in 1851. Initially known as Lapland, the town was renamed Marshall in honor of U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall in 1857.
Like much of Western North Carolina, Marshall is experiencing a renaissance as it attracts new businesses and new residents. Despite these changes, Marshall still has a small town feel, largely because it is home to fewer than 1,000 residents and its primary commercial artery, Main Street, only contains two stop lights as it snakes its way along the northeast bank of the French Broad River and makes up Downtown Marshall.
At the eastern end of Main Street is the town’s rail depot, which was constructed in the 1890s. Though passenger service was discontinued in the 1970s, the building has been reborn as The Depot, a live music venue that features bluegrass and acoustic music and overlooks the river. Traveling west along Main Street brings you into the center of town, which is home to dozens of historic buildings that were constructed at the turn of the 20th century. Though many of these buildings may feel as though they still belong to another time, they are becoming populated with new life as cafes, bakeries, restaurants, unique shops, and artists’ galleries move in.
Architecturally, the centerpiece of Main Street is the Madison County Courthouse, which is topped by a domed roof and a statue of Justice that was built in 1906 in a neoclassical style by famed architect Richard Sharp Smith. Less than a block away from the steps of the courthouse sits the Old Marshall Jailhouse, which was the state’s oldest operating jail when it was closed in 2012. It has since been reborn as a hotel with a trendy bar and restaurant. Steps away from the hotel is a bridge over the French Broad River and a road to Blannahassett Island, where visitors will find a park and artists’ studios within what was once the local high school.
Downtown Marshall is just a mile from U.S. 70, which offers easy access to the city during the week and the mountains during the weekend. From the steps of the iconic Madison County Courthouse, it’s approximately 25 minutes to either Downtown Asheville or the rustic retreats of Hot Springs, a Madison County town that sits along the Appalachian Trail. Besides Hot Springs and Marshall, the only other town in the county is Mars Hill, which has a population of approximately 2,000 permanent residents, as well as more than 1,000 students who attend Mars Hill University. Most of Madison County continues to be unincorporated communities and secluded homes dotting what remains a vast wilderness.
This combination of breathtaking terrain, history, and the arts is what continues to draw people to Marshall and the surrounding communities. Come see it for yourself!
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