The Colonel’s Court & Cafe – Asheville, NC

Corbin, Kentucky’s claim to fame is the Colonel Sanders Museum and Cafe, the birthplace of KFC. But is it? What about that second city listed on this postcard – Asheville!

sanderscorbin 

 (from http://www.motelamericana.com)

sandersash

That’s right, Harland Sanders’ 2nd Motor Court, and Cafe, were located just north of Asheville, on Highway 25, which was a well traveled highway before the “future” Interstate 26 broke through town.

We’ll let Kentucky keep the title of birthplace, since they bestowed him with “Colonel,” but it is neat that Asheville once had a little piece of the Sanders’ Pie.

The first Cafe the Colonel started was in Corbin, Kentucky in 1930 after customers at his Shell Oil gas station were requesting something to eat. Sanders was 40 at this time, and had already been a farmhand, a streetcar conductor, a soldier in the Army, an insurance salesman, owner of a steamboat ferry company, secretary of a Chamber of Commerce, a railroad man, a lawyer, and probably a few more things in between.

By 1935 his Cafe, Motel and gas station was so popular he earned an honorary “Colonel” title from  Governor Ruby Laffoon. Sanders didn’t actually use the title until he needed better branding to sell his fried chicken on the road in 1949. After failing at starting a restaurant chain in Kentucky, Sanders built another motor court in 1939, this time in Asheville, NC!

This soon failed as well, but as we know, everything turned out fine for the Colonel.

The Asheville Sanders Court has lost the “s” at the end, but it still stands today, as an apartment complex just north of Asheville.

Sander 1 Sander 2

And, you can still follow 25 all the way from Asheville to Corbin; my sister and brother-in-law can attest to this, as we had to get a not-fast-enough for the interstate Jeep from Elizabethtown to Asheville. It takes a while, but its a pretty drive, and that’s what road trips are for – take your time, see some America, and get some fried chicken!

For more info, check out this guest post by author Terry Roberts:

Growing up in the Colonel’s Court

6 Comments

  1. 21 March 2015

    Hi Amy,

    I stumbled upon your site tonight and noted your account of Col. Harlan Sanders and his court and cafe located near Weaverville in the 1950’s. (Weaverville was my home town.) As a teenager, I worked for Bud Penley whose family owned the Weaverville Steam Laundry (long-gone now). I rode with Bud in a panel truck making pickup and deliveries of laundry to regular customers, including Saunders, who was always behind on payment. (We did the court’s laundry – sheets, towels, etc.) When the court and cafe burned-down, Saunders was believed to have collected insurance and he did then go to Kentucky. Later, when he came out with his franchised chicken stores, he offered Bud a free franchise, which Bud told me was for the entire state of North Carolina as a “thank-you for carrying Sander’s debt for laundry in those previous years. Bud declined as he did not think the idea would last. Later, Bud and his wife Betty became operators of another franchised chicken operation — Bud could not bring himself to pay for a KFC franchise after turning down the freebie.

    If you revise your book in future, contact me if you want to include details. By the way, I do some writing and publishing myself and you can google my name for info/references for me.

    Wm. H. Nesbitt
    CrossingTrails.com

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