The East End / Valley Street Neighborhood Association represents the oldest African-American neighborhood in Asheville. Once the center of African-American life in Asheville, the neighborhood was connected to The Block (Eagle, Market Streets) and Valley Street (now South Charlotte), which was the heart of the neighborhood. The neighborhood is one of the most historically significant places in the city. Located just minutes from the government center, it is bound by College Street, South Charlotte Street and Biltmore Avenue with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive running down its center.
The Association was re-energized in January 2010. Bylaws and a vision for the neighborhood were created. The Association meets the second Thursday of each month at St. James A.M.E Fellowship Hall, 144 Hildebrand St.
The East End is a wonderful community with rolling and steep hills and serene streets; homes are pre-Model Cities, homes built during and after 1960s Model Cities programs. Some residences command magnificent views of the mountains and city. The neighborhood consists almost entirely of residential and recreational areas.
During segregation, Stephens-Lee High School, a.k.a. the Castle on the Hill, was the only educational institution for African-American high school students in the city and Western North Carolina. Students traveled as far as 40 miles, passing white schools, to attend Stephens-Lee. The school and area were the center of civic and social life.
Once directly connected to the East End, The Block — home of the historic YMI Cultural Center, a pharmacy, law offices, other businesses and recreation — was once a draw for African-Americans from the entire region. Renowned celebrities and musicians from across the country performed on The Block.
In the 1970s, Asheville’s urban renewal projects changed everything. Long ignored by the city, the neighborhood’s infrastructure and many homes were in code violation. At that time a significant portion of the neighborhood was razed, not only changing the face of the neighborhood, but connections between families and friends were unalterably changed. Residents were dispersed all across the city — some never to return.
The neighborhood has recently seen a surge in development with infill building of apartments and single-family homes. For sale signs are popping up on parcels no one ever expected to be developed. That development, and closeness to town, has brought about a shift in demographics from predominately African-American family homes to many white families moving in. Located within a few minutes walk from downtown, the East End has become a location of choice for people looking for the “Asheville lifestyle.”
The Association had a successful Fall Family Festival with the goal of duplicating that effort every year — live music, a DJ, a barbecue pit, children’s activities, a community yard sale and REMAX hot air balloon. After friendly negotiations, we were successful in getting Just Brew It to move their event to Memorial Park from Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Just Brew It has become a great supporter of the Association with annual donations.
The Association has great potential to serve the neighborhood. Participation by new people, and more of the original residents, could help the community through growing pains and reach the goal of a friendly, welcoming neighborhood where history is honored and respected as we look to an exciting future.
Written and submitted by the East End Valley Street Neighborhood Association. Keep up with our community by visiting the East End / Valley Street Neighborhood Facebook page.