FANS E-Newsletter
 December 2015 - January 2016
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About FANS

Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working for a strong and vibrant Swannanoa by encouraging active involvement, fostering community spirit, and honoring our unique history and natural heritage.  For more info and to find out how you can get involved, visit


FANS' Board of Directors:


Andrew Belz - Chair

Katherine Cross

Maureen Dillow

Sandy Drake 

Carol Groben

Doug Lebbon

Beth McKinney

Sophia Papadopoulos   

Robert Randolph  

Valerie Taylor  

Betsy Warren - Vice Chair

Melanie Wilder -Treasurer 

Kay Wise-Denty - Secretary


Please email us at We welcome and appreciate your input and ideas! 

Looking Back: Asheville Farm School for Boys

A recent "Today in History" column in the Asheville Citizen-Times focused on the Asheville Farm School for Boys (forerunner of the present-day Warren Wilson College), which opened its doors on November 30, 1894. The Swannanoa school was established under the auspices of the New York-based Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, "as part of its efforts to modernize and uplift poverty stricken Southern Appalachia."  The school could accommodate only 25 students its first year, but enrollment expanded as other Missions Board schools were consolidated with the Farm School. High school classes were phased out in the late 1950s, and after operating several years as a junior college, the school began offering four-year degrees in the late 1960s.

Today, the Warren Wilson College campus covers over 1100 acres, and is home to approximately 900 students from around the country and the world.
Swannanoa Library Sponsors Winter Reading Challenge 

The Swannanoa Library's Winter Snowflake Challenge is back! Are you up to the challenge? Your mission is to read six books or more each month during January, February and March. Bring your list of completed books to the library, and add a snowflake to the library windows for our "blizzard" of reading. On April 1, three names from the snowflakes  will be drawn for each of three age groups: Adults, Teens and Children. Prizes are gift cards from Barnes & Noble of $10, $15 & $25. "Books" may include audiobooks and graphic novels. 

For more info, call the library at 828-250-6486.  The Swannanoa Library is located at 101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont.
Affordable Care Act Information Sessions

Do you have questions about your health care options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?  A free 45-minute presentation about the ACA will be given at the Swannanoa Library (101 West Charleston Ave.) on December 17 and January 14, at 6 p.m. The presentations will address insurance renewal, how to assess plan features, no-cost preventive care, no denial due to pre-existing conditions, subsidies, tax penalty/exemptions for uninsured people, and how to navigate websites for additional assistance and information. 
The ACA open enrollment period ends January 15, 2016. Insurance obtained between December 16 and January 14, 2016 becomes effective February 1, 2016.  Enrollment can be done online at Locally, fr ee confidential assistance is available through Pisgah Legal Services at You can also call 855-733-3711 to schedule an appointment for a consultation at the Swannanoa Library. 
Federal law requires that individuals have health insurance for at least nine months in 2016 or have an exemption. Those without insurance may owe up to $695 in tax, due April, 2017. A family of two adults may owe twice as much, $1,390. For many, a subsidized premium for insurance will be less than that, and will include preventive care at no added cost.  Premiums were subsidized for over 90% of the people who got insurance via the ACA in 2015.
Comedy Improv Returns to Black Mountain Center 
for the Arts 

The Reasonably Priced Babies are bringing their comedy improvisation to the Black Mountain Center for the Arts for two nights only on December 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 with tax and can be purchased at or by calling 828-669-0930.

The Reasonably Priced Babies are Josh Batenhorst, Tom Chalmers, and married couple Mondy Carter and Karen Stobbe.  Musician Aaron Price will provide music during the show.

Hang on to your seats for some fast-paced action during this hilarious improv show.  Be forewarned that the content is usually PG13 or higher.
The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is located at 225 W. State Street. 
One-Man Performance 
of Charles Dickens' 
A Christmas Carol 
Step back in time on Sunday, December 20 at 3 p.m. at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, when actor and Dickensian scholar Jamieson Ridenhour steps into character for a Victorian-style reading of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Ridenhour will play the part of each character, as Dickens himself did. Charles Dickens was an inveterate performer of his own work, and toured throughout England and America during the 1850s and '60s. Ridenhour recreates the experience-bringing A Christmas Carol to life with the book and his voice.

Ridenhour, a recent Black Mountain transplant from North Dakota, has been performing this piece for the past seven years in Bismarck and is happy to offer it to his new community. The performance will last 90 minutes.

This special reading of A Christmas Carol is a gift to the community; donations are appreciated. The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is located at 225 W. State Street. For more information visit or call 828-669-0930.
Hit the Trail in 2016 
with Swannanoa Valley Museum's Popular 
Hiking Series 

Learn about the Swannanoa Rim Hike Series and Valley History Explorer Series during a free informational meeting on Thursday, January 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State Street. Meeting attendees will get an introduction to the program offerings, details about the individual hikes, advice for hikers, and information about scholarships. 

The Swannanoa Valley Museum's exclusive Swannanoa Rim Explorer Hiking Series consists of 11 hikes that take place each month over the course of a year. Hikers who complete all 11 hikes will navigate the entirety of the 31-mile rim of the Swannanoa Valley. 

The Valley History Explorer Hiking Series offers seven moderate hikes that focus on the history of the unique communities that make up the Swannanoa Valley. 

Hikers may register for a single hike or an entire series. The cost of a single Rim Hike is $30 for museum members; $50 for non-members. The e ntire Rim Hike Series is $280 for members, and $500 for non-members. A single Valley Explorer Hike is $20 for members; $30 for non-members. The  Entire Valley Explorer Series is $140 for members, and $210 for non-members. Proceeds benefit the Swannanoa Valley Museum.

For more info, call the museum at 828-669-9566.
Financial Planning 
Lunch & Learn 

The Swannanoa Library presents a free Financial Planning Lunch & Learn session on Friday, January 8 from 1 - 2 p.m.  Bring a bag lunch and arrange your finances for the New Year with advice from a financial planner. 

The library is located at 101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont.  For more info, call 828-250-6486.
Calling All Book Lovers! 
Come be a part of the oldest continual book discussion group in the Buncombe County library system.  The Swannanoa Library book group gathers every 4 - 6 weeks for a lively discussion of a fiction or nonfiction book selected by the group.  The next meeting is on Thursday, January 14, at 6 p.m. at the library (101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont) to discuss All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Newcomers are always welcome, so don't be shy!  For more info, call the library at 250-6486.
Coloring for Grownups
Coloring is no longer just for kids! Come to the Swannanoa Library on Wednesday, January 20, at 4 p.m. for Coloring & Conversation. E njoy some hot tea and cookies, meet new friends, and participate in the relaxing art of coloring. Coloring pages and crayons will be provided, or you may bring your own. This free program is for adults.

The Swannanoa Library is located at 101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont.  For more info, call 828-250-6486.
E-Newsletter Sponsor  


The FANS E-Newsletter currently reaches over 800 subscribers (plus many more through social media and our new print edition), and our distribution continues to grow.  Sponsorships are available for as little as $25.  It's a great way to promote your business and show your support for our community.  To learn more about newsletter sponsorship opportunities, please send us an email at or call 828-581-9848.
Answer to Swannanoa Trivia Question
Roberta Flack was born in the Swannanoa Valley in the late 1930s (sources vary on the exact year). She went on to become an iconic star in the music industry, winning multiple Grammy Awards. 

Flack was the first to win the Grammy for Record of the Year in two consecutive years -- for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in 1973, and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" in 1974. She remains the only solo artist to have accomplished this feat. Flack was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999.
This award-winning newsletter is a publication of Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS).  We hope you'll find it a useful source of information about happenings in our community, news of local interest, and Swannanoa history and heritage.  Help us spread the word about all the great things that are happening in Swannanoa by sharing this e-newsletter with a friend.

If you have ideas for newsletter content, please send us an email at  We'd love to hear from you!   

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Happy New Year from Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa!
Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) is grateful for all the community support we received this past year as we pursued our mission of "working for a strong and vibrant Swannanoa by encouraging active involvement, fostering community spirit, and honoring our unique history and natural heritage."  From the individuals, organizations and businesses that supported our fundraising efforts, to the many volunteers who participated in FANS' projects and special events, we're fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful community.

FANS would like to give a special shout-out to Davidson Homes for their generous sponsorship of the new print edition of this FANS community e-newsletter.  Their support has enabled us to extend the newsletter's reach to hundreds of residents without ready access to a computer.  Thank you!

As we move into 2015, we look forward to sponsoring more community yard sales, expanding our community garden, increasing distribution of the FANS newsletter, organizing river and roadside cleanups, and working on improvements along U.S. 70, including bus shelters and new "Welcome to Swannanoa" signs.   
As you think about possible end-of-year donations, please consider putting FANS on your list.  FANS is an all-volunteer organization, with no employees, no offices and no overhead, so 100% of your donation will be put to work right here in Swannanoa! Checks can be made payable to FANS and mailed to PO Box 697, Swannanoa, NC 28778.  FANS is a 501(c)(3) organization; your donation is tax deductible.  
Thank you for your support, and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!
Beacon Mill History Presentation Draws Large Crowd
An enthusiastic overflow crowd of approximately 200 people turned out for a November 20 presentation about the history of Swannanoa's  Beacon mill. The event, titled "Beacon Blankets: Portrait of a Swannanoa Textile Mill ," was held at Asheville's Center for Craft, Creativity and Design. Participants were treated to an evening of film, music, and stories about the rise and fall of the Beacon Manufacturing Company, which was once the largest blanket manufacturer in the world, employing as many as 2,200 people. 

The program  began with mill-inspired music written and performed by Robert "Bert" Brown, a native of Swannanoa, whose grandparents worked at Beacon. Filmmaker Rebecca Williams showed clips from her ongoing documentary project,  Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Town , which uses the Beacon mill as the backdrop for examining the migration of the textile industry from England, to New England, to the American South, and, with the advent of globalization, overseas. The screening was followed by a lively panel discussion with former Beacon mill employees and local historian David Whisnant.

The Beacon mill program received significant pre-event coverage from the Asheville Citizen-Times. To read the AC-T's article about the history and legacy of the mill, please  click here.

If you'd like to learn more about the Blanket Town documentary, or make a tax deductible contribution to help support the film's completion, please go to  
This commemorative Beacon blanket was on display
at the Beacon history event at Asheville's
Center for Craft, Creativity and Design.

Major Hollywood Movie 

Filmed Partly in Swannanoa 

Gets New Release Date


You may recall the stir that was created two summers ago when a Hollywood film crew set up shop in the old downtown area of Swannanoa. The filming brought major Hollywood stars to Swannanoa's usually quiet streets, including Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson. Due to the studio's ongoing financial difficulties, the release of the film has unfortunately been delayed several times.  But with the recent announcement that a new release date of September 30, 2016 has been set, it now looks like Swannanoans may finally get the chance to see their hometown on the silver screen.


The comedy, titled "Masterminds," tells the true story of a pair of bumbling bank robbers who somehow pulled off a $17 million heist at the regional vault of Loomis Fargo & Company in Charlotte.  The movie was filmed in other areas around North Carolina in addition to Swannanoa, including Asheville and Old Fort. 


To read more about Masterminds and view a trailer for the movie, visit

Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis star in this scene from "Masterminds," shot in Swannanoa on Whitson Avenue.
Community Safety Tips
With all the travel, hustle and bustle, and distractions of the holidays, it's easy to forget about the simple steps we can take to keep ourselves and our community safer.  The following tips are offered by Larry Pierson, Deputy Sheriff in the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Unit. Pierson is also Deputy Chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department.

The best crime prevention advice keeps coming back to two key points:  "Own your 360" and "Situational Awareness".  "Owning your 360" refers to a 360 degree circle around your home, car, personal space, identity and activities. When we give up 1 degree and only own 359 degrees, criminals may use that 1 degree angle for a way to scam, steal or cause harm. The greater angle we give up, the more we're at risk. 

A case in point: When fueling at a gas station, we become very involved in the selection and payment process -- debit or credit, PIN numbers, enter a zip code, do I want a car wash, and so on. We're focused on a narrow 5-10 degree angle and the criminal owns the other 355 degrees. This opportunity has led to criminals sneaking to passenger doors and stealing purses from front seats without being noticed. Look around constantly.

"Situational Awareness" is very closely related, but encompasses an entire philosophy and state of mind. Be aware of what you're seeing and hearing, and what your gut is telling you about a situation. This awareness should be a part of your life at home, at gas stations and restaurants, on the highway or a hiking trail, and everywhere else you go. Actions as simple as not having both earbuds in while jogging or walking will greatly increase your awareness.

By combining "Owning your 360" and "Situational Awareness," we can maximize overall safety. Improving your security lighting, installing cameras and trimming bushes are just a few of the steps you can take.  Form a Community Watch program and now you have other people joining together to overlap their 360s, and the entire community becomes more "Situationally Aware".

Call the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention unit at 828-250-4427 for more information about improving personal and community safety.
FANS and Swannanoa Valley Recognized for Contributions to Habitat Fundraising Campaign  
Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity recently celebrated the successful completion of the 5-year, $5 million Building a Way Home campaign. Building a Way Home enabled Habitat to triple the number of families served, acquire and develop land for 150 future Habitat houses, implement a Home Repair program, and  expand the Habitat ReStore, office and warehouse space. 

The celebration culminated with the unveiling of a donor recognition wall in the Habitat ReStore: a metalwork "quilt" created by local metal artist David Earl Tomlinson. Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) is honored to be recognized with a quilt panel (bottom center) on this beautiful work of art. FANS partnered with Habitat in 2014 to help recruit donors and volunteers for construction of the Sweet Home Swannanoa house, one of 17 homes in Swannanoa's new Habitat neighborhood in Beacon Village. Although FANS' name appears on the quilt panel, the recognition really belongs to the many "friends and neighbors" in the Swannanoa Valley, whose generous donations of money and time helped make the Sweet Home Swannanoa house a reality.  Thank you!
New Affordable Housing Options in Swannanoa
Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO), a private, non-profit community development corporation, has completed the construction of six affordable single-family homes on Get-Away Drive in Swannanoa, adjacent to the new Habitat for Humanity community. The homes were built under the auspices of the federal Self-Help Homeownership Program. MHO will begin construction of an additional six single-family homes on the same site this coming February. 

The Self-Help Homeownership Program makes owning homes affordable by allowing families to contribute "sweat equity" construction hours to reduce the cost of their homes. A group of future homeowners work together as a team to build their homes under the guidance of an MHO construction supervisor. All the homes are built simultaneously, and no family moves in until every home in the group is complete.

In addition to the Self-Help Homes, the Swannanoa development will also include two supported-purchase market rate homes under MHO's Turn-Key Homeownership Program. The supported-purchase homes include built-in financial assistance -- 0% interest deferred financing in amounts up to 30% of the purchase price of the homes. To be eligible for supported-purchase homes, households must earn less than 80% of the area median income (AMI), currently $40,250 for a family of three.

MHO is currently looking for applicants for these two affordable homes. If you or someone you know might be interested, please contact MHO at 828-254-4030 or visit

Swannanoa Trivia


Answer this Swannanoa Valley trivia question and earn bragging rights as a "Swannanoa Scholar" (scroll down to the bottom of the left hand column for the answer).


Q.  What legendary singer and musician born in the Swannanoa Valley has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame?

____________ ___________________________________
Do you have a Swannanoa trivia question you'd like to submit for possible inclusion in a future newsletter edition? If so, please send us an email at

Swannanoa Scenes  


The usually lazy Swannanoa River swelled to a torrent after six inches or more of rain fell on our area over a several-day period in late November and early December. The river flooded in low-lying areas near Biltmore, and Swannanoa River Road was closed for a time, but Swannanoa itself escaped significant flooding. The photos below show the rapids that developed in the river at Owen Park, and a tree that was engulfed by water when the river left its banks.


Swannanoa Stories

A Brief History of Swannanoa Schools 

Many of the first formal schools in the Swannanoa Valley were funded by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions in the mid- to late 1800s. Until the schools were consolidated in 1919, children who were able to attend school generally walked to the nearest one- or two-room schoolhouse. These small schools served communities throughout the Valley, including Bee Tree, Riceville and Christian Creek.

The consolidated school burned in the mid-1920s, and new schools were opened for students of different ages and grades. The above photo is the old Swannanoa High School, as it looked in 1953. Located on Old U.S. 70, the building still stands and is now home to Community High School, an alternative public school with students from all over Buncombe County.

In 1955, students from Swannanoa High School and Black Mountain High School began attending the new Charles D. Owen High School. Their mascot, the Warhorse, was created by combining Swannanoa's mascot, the Warriors, with Black Mountain's, the Dark Horses.
Editor's Note:  With permission of the author, the above is excerpted in part from the book "Images of America, Swannanoa," by Anne E. Chesky Smith. The book is available for purchase at the Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 West State Street, in Black Mountain. Cost is $22 ($20 for museum members).  Photo courtesy of the Swannanoa Valley Museum.
Please consider making a donation to help support FANS' work in the community.  Checks can be mailed to:  FANS, PO Box 697, Swannanoa, NC  28778.  Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization -- donations are tax deductible.  Every little bit helps. Thank you! 

For more info, call 828-581-9848, send us an email at  or visit us at  


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Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa  

FANS, PO Box 697, Swannanoa, NC  28778