Located in the heart of Downtown Asheville sits a building that is the perfect embodiment of everything “Asheville”. Blending art and history, the Woolworth Walk is both a time capsule into an Asheville of old, and a look into what makes (and will continue to make) Asheville such a thriving arts community today. Let’s explore what makes the Woolworth Walk such a fun and special place to visit.
Opening its doors in 1938, the F.W. Woolworth building has played a large role in the city’s ever-changing history. In the 1960’s, racial tensions were raging, and the Woolworth building experienced Civil Rights firsthand through sit-ins and boycotts, the first of which happened in Greensboro…which caused a chain reaction throughout the country. (Click here to read more about the initial Greensboro, NC Woolworth’s sit-ins.)
Downtown Asheville was going through a rough stretch from the 1980’s all the way to the late 1990’s…and the Woolworth building had also seen better times. Renovations of the old building began in the year 2000, and took the new owner over a year to complete…which consisted of getting rid of over 19,000 sq. ft. of asbestos covered flooring and the reinstallation of the main center stairwell. A new soda fountain was also installed in the original place the old one had once stood, adding to the nostalgia the building is known for. But amidst all the history, shines a gallery of what Asheville was becoming…an art mecca. About 170 local artists and crafts people currently have booths and wall space, covering over 20,000 sq. ft. and two stories in what is now the Woolworth Walk…making it the area’s largest art gallery. The diversity of the art is extremely vast, featuring jewelry, photography, fine art, decorative crafts, paintings, and pottery. There is something for any occasion and something for everybody’s tastes.
Sure, art galleries are a dime a dozen in Asheville. But what makes this art gallery stand out, and give it that unique flair, is The Soda Fountain. A popular fixture dating back to the original Woolworth’s, The Soda Fountain continues to serve classic favorites like the BLT, the fried bologna sandwich, and the reuben…as well as more modern fare such as the black bean burger, the hummus sandwich, and veggie dogs. And of course, they still serve those classic milkshakes and floats. It truly is a pleasant step back in time, with the 50’s flair only adding to the ambiance of all the art that surrounds it.
The main goal of the Woolworth Walk is to provide an avenue for local artists to connect with and to share their passion with art lovers. Art should enhance the area it is placed in, and artists at the Walk make sure that the piece that you purchase is unique and will always enhance its new home.
I’m curious to see what the future holds for the Woolworth building. Will it continue to thrive as an art gallery with a flair for the nostalgic? Or will it progress into something completely different (I hear beer is a big thing here), as Asheville is always ever-evolving and adapting? Either way, today the Woolworth Walk excels in what it’s meant to be…an art lovers paradise, and a retro blast from the past. And it definitely is worth the walk!