Birth and Death of the West Asheville Streetcar Line

from Dr. Joseph Robinson, great grandson of E.G. Carrier

1885-1886.  E. G. Carrier arrives in Asheville, begins to acquire property in what will be West Asheville, and in 1886 begins building resort hotel.

1887. Carrier’s Asheville Sulphur Springs Hotel opens in June.

1889.  Asheville Street Railway Co. begins service in February, using power from Asheville Electric Co.; over the next six years, however, mergers and reorganizations occur and corporate names change and recur.

1889.  West Asheville Improvement Co. incorporated with a capital of $500,000; E.G. Carrier and J. D. Carrier are principle stockholders.

1889-1891.  West Asheville Improvement Co. initiates building of Carrier Bridge across French Broad near junction with the Swannanoa River, at a cost of $15,000, and a “low, wooden 40-kilowatt” hydroelectric power plant on Hominy Creek (the precise site of this dam is uncertain).

1891-1892.  West Asheville and Sulphur Springs Railway formed in April 1891 with A. R. Erskine president and J. D. Carrier secretary; the board of directors include E. G. Carrier, J. R. Bostic, and D. C Waddell.  Operations begin by summer of 1891 from hotel to Depot and by summer of 1892 to downtown, near what is now Pritchard Park – in the process crossing the tracks of the Asheville Street Railway Co.

1892.  Asheville Citizen [8/13/92] reports plans to build a new stone dam, 30 feet high and 250 feet long, on the “Stevens site” purchased “last spring” by E. G. Carrier, to be completed in January 1893. Hydroelectric power is to be used for street lighting and streetcars. The estimated cost is $200,000.

1892.  Hotel burns on August 24, eliminating a major source of West Asheville streetcar traffic.  To substitute for this loss of fares, the downtown line is extended to the Battery Park Hotel, linking it with the Depot.

1893.  Major flooding in the Hominy Creek valley occurs. Asheville Citizen (9/12/93) reports that flooding put out Asheville’s lights, with water backing up into the hydroelectric plant’s machine house, but notes that “Mr. Carrier [said] that he hoped to have the trouble remedied and the lights going by tonight”. Carrier family histories describe destruction of hydroelectric plant – with resultant lawsuits for damages – at roughly this time; however, the Asheville Citizen noted that reports of the “big dam” having broken were mistaken.

1894.  Asheville Citizen reports in October that absence of rain has caused “a lack of water at the power house of the West Asheville Improvement company…. It was impossible to run all the lights, so it was decided to run the inner circuit…. J. D. Carrier, of the lighting company, says that he hopes that the water in the dam will…rise in a very short time.”

1895.  Series of calamities – Loss of hotel by fire in 1892 (underinsured), Panic of 1893, Florida Freeze of 1894/95 destroying Carrier’s orange orchards, and possibly impending lawsuits over flooding from new hydroelectric plant – force into receivership Carrier’s streetcar line and a few hundred acres around the hotel site.  The streetcar service ceases.  A syndicate headed by D. C. Waddell takes over a portion of the line in December 1895 for use by their Biltmore line.  The Asheville Electric Co. takes over the power plants on Hominy Creek.

1896.  Asheville Citizen (3/16/1896) announce a $5,000 verdict against the West Asheville Improvement Co. brought by D. M. Gudger because in building “the large dam across Hominy Creek” the company had caused water to overflow onto the lands of the plaintiff.

1896.  Asheville Citizen (4/3/1896) reports removal of a mile and a half of track from former West Asheville and Sulphur Springs Railway to complete Waddell’s Biltmore line, and that “power for this line is now furnished by the plant at the station used by the W.A.&S.S. company before the big dam on Hominy was built.”

1907.  Asheville Citizen (2/2/1897) describes sale to O. B. Schoenfeld for $30,000 of the ruins of the Asheville Sulphur Springs plus land totaling 330 acres, with plans for building a new resort hotel on the site.  The architectural partnership of Smith and [Heath] Carrier design a hotel but it is never built.  No further attempts to restore a resort on this property follow.

Note:  A biographical sketch of E. T. Weaver, written by his grandsons, notes that E. G. Carrier built the first hydroelectric power plant but that in 1892 two generators on the upper Hominy Creek produced 250-kilowatts for the rapidly expanding railway and street lighting requirements; these were incorporated into Weaver’s electric company in October 1897 [after the Carrier receivership].  Weaver constructed his major power plant on the French Broad in 1904; after his death, his Asheville Electric Power Co. was acquired by the Carolina Power & Light Co.  [This sketch does not specify just who built the two dams/generators on the upper Hominy Creek.]  (from:  W. S. Powell, ed, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 6: 142-143.)

Any corrections or additions would be appreciated

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