I’ve been thinking a lot about tourism in Asheville in the 1920s in preparation for my lecture at UNC Asheville on the 19th. Last year I picked up a book called “Azure Lure” from the Captain’s Bookshelf, right across from the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville (they’re very helpful if you’re looking for obscure old books).
Azure Lure was printed in 1924 as a “souvenir” booklet, sponsored by 33 partners, including: the Kenilworth Inn, The Manor, New Battery Park Hotel, George Vanderbilt Hotel, Langren Hotel, the Southern Railway, E.W. Grove Investments and the Biltmore Estate Company (this was before Biltmore was opened to the public in 1930).
This promotional novel, advertised as a “Romance of the Mountains” follows the main character, John, through Asheville and the surrounding area, to different hotels, restaurants, neighborhoods and attractions, marveling at the beauty and wonder of it all as he tries to mend his broken heart after being spurned by his true love, Miriam; a beauty who lives in the Grove Park neighborhood, has a best friend living at the Manor, and for promotional reasons does a little stint at Ambler Heights sanitarium.
I love this book.
It is blatantly obvious in what it is trying to do, but the descriptions are more in the 1920s than any history book could ever take you. I’ve been trying to figure out if this was something that was done in other cities during this time – so far Azure Lure is the only promotional novel I’ve found put out by businesses and individuals.
But, Azure Lure was’t the first novel to promote tourism in Asheville. In 1875 “Christian Reid,” the pen name of Frances FIsher Tiernan (whose father was a senior official of the Southern Railroad) published The Land of the Sky as a serial in Appleton’s Journal. It later was published as a novel by D. Appleton and Company in New York. This novel popularized Asheville as “the land of the sky” – terminology still in use today in promotion of the city. But rather than being purely promotional, The Land of the Sky was part of a “larger body of travel novels written by women after the Civil War,” according to Richard Starnes Creating the Land of the Sky. It not only serves as a travel guide, but it also gave a female voice to the literary scene of Victorian America.
Azure Lure on the other hand, is seemingly written by multiple individuals. The forward was written by Harvey Holleman who won a contest conducted by the Asheville Daily Citizen. Mr. Holleman also came up with the title of the novel. Rev. Louis Joseph Bour wrote The History of Sr. Lawrence Catholic Church, and Maud Mooney Turpin writes about John’s excursion to Lake Junaluska.
So, did Azure Lure contribute to the boom in 1920s tourism in Asheville? I’m still working on that answer, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.
Today there are still books that promote tourism. I know from living in Savannah that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil turned things around for that city. But Midnight wasn’t written to specifically do that. There is an open question on amazon.com right now about creating a category for “Tourism Fiction.” I think that’s an interesting question – as is – what would be put under that category? Novels specifically written to do that? Or books that just happened to make people want to go to a place because they felt such a special connection to the story?
What do you think? Have you traveled to a city, or country, because of a certain book?
There is a lot more to explore here – but I’ll wrap it up for now. Stay tuned for part 2, and possible 3…