Since April 2022, the City of Asheville and local nonprofit Southside Rising have been collecting input through surveys and at community events, meetings, and one-on-one discussions with Southside residents on their vision for this vibrant park and area of historic interest. Some neighborhood elders requested input from the larger community as many folks with a connection to Walton Street Park and Walton Street Pool no longer live in Southside.
In 2018, the City of Asheville began researching and documenting historic resources specifically related to African American heritage in Asheville. During the first phase of architectural survey (inventory), it was determined that the Walton Street Pool is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, since the determination of eligibility for listing in the National Register, the City has received an application from the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County to designate the pool as a Local Historic Landmark, which is currently under review by the Historic Resources Commission.
What is the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts deemed worthy of preservation for their significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, and culture. Listing of a historic resource in the National Register is primarily honorific in nature, although there are some protections afforded for National Register properties in the event that a federally funded project is occurring that might affect a national register property (for example: Riverside Cemetery and the effects from I-26 corridor project). The final decision to list a property in the National Register is made by the National Park Service.
What is a Local Historic Landmark?
The Local Historic Landmark program is managed by the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville & Buncombe County (HRC) in conjunction with the Planning & Urban Design Department. There are a total of 49 Local Landmarks in Buncombe County, 42 of which are located within the City limits. Local Landmark designation requires that a property have “special historic significance.” Designation is made by the City Council based on a recommendation from the HRC. Landmarks are subject to design restrictions, and any proposed changes to the structures or site require design review by the HRC (or City staff if it’s not a substantial change) to ensure that the changes are consistent with the historic character of the landmark.
What does it mean for the site if either designation occurs?
Historic designation, whether it’s listing in the National Register and/or Local Landmark designation, means recognizing and honoring the cultural and historical significance of a place that allows us to tangibly connect to our past, as well as to carry that legacy into the future. While Local Landmark designation would require that any changes to the pool and bathhouse follow a formal design review process, neither designation is intended to prevent reimagining how the pool and bathhouse can be used in the future. In fact, adaptive reuse is one of the most common ways historic buildings and places are preserved, honored and celebrated.
How can I share my thoughts about historic designation?
In conjunction with the Parks & Recreation Department, Planning & Urban Design staff will help facilitate a community input session during a community event currently being planned by Parks staff. You can find more information about these events here.
Additionally, Local Landmark applications require review by the HRC and City Council, which will both include opportunities for public comment. Please check back for updates to the following schedule for these public hearings.
February 2022 – City staff received a preliminary application from the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County for Local Historic Landmark designation of the Walton Street Pool
Spring 2022 – City staff engage the community on historic designation in conjunction with engagement around improvements to other areas within Walton Street Park
Spring-Summer 2022 – City receives draft Local Landmark designation report from the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County
Summer 2022 – Landmark designation report presented to the Historic Resources Commission for review and comment
Summer-Fall 2022 – HRC sends draft designation report to the NC State Historic Preservation Office (NC HPO) for comment; the HPO has 30 days to provide comment
September 15, 2022 – Landmark designation report presented to the African American Heritage Commission for review and recommendation
October 12, 2022 – HRC holds public hearing to make a formal recommendation to City Council
October 25, 2022 – City Council holds a public hearing to make the final determination on Local Historic Landmark designation
Please note that the City has not yet moved forward on making a formal nomination for the pool to the National Register of Historic Places, but may proceed with that initiative in the future based on community feedback.