In 1900, Asheville was the third-largest city in the state of North Carolina, behind Wilmington and Charlotte and prospered in the decades of the 1910s and 1920s. During these years, Rutherford P. Hayes, son of President Rutherford B. Hayes, bought land to create the African-American Burton Street Community alongside Edward W. Pearson Sr. Edward was an African American entrepreneur who moved to Asheville, North Carolina in 1906 and became known as the "Black Mayor of West Asheville" because of his influence in African American neighborhood development and community life. Together, they worked to establish a sanitary district in West Asheville. West Asheville became an incorporated town in 1913 and merged with Asheville in 1917.
The Great Depression, the period of Asheville's history made world-famous by the novel 'Look Homeward, Angel', hit Asheville quite hard. On November 20, 1930, eight local banks failed. Only Wachovia remained open with infusions of cash from Winston-Salem. Because of the explosive growth of the previous decades, the per capita debt owed by the city (through municipal bonds) was the highest in the nation. By 1929, both the city and Buncombe County had incurred over $56 million in bonded debt to pay for a wide range of municipal and infrastructure improvements, including City Hall, the water system, Beaucatcher Tunnel, and Asheville High School. Rather than default, the city paid those debts over fifty years. From the start of the depression through the 1980s, economic growth in Asheville was slow. During this time of financial stagnation, most of the buildings in the downtown district remained unaltered. Therefore, Asheville has one of the most impressive, comprehensive collections of Art Deco architecture in the United States.
On July 15–16, 1916, the Asheville area was subject to severe flooding from the remnants of a tropical storm which caused more than $3 million in damage. In September 2004, remnants of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan caused major flooding in Asheville, particularly at Biltmore Village.
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