Dance Through Time: PSABC’s Time Traveling Gala is Set For Sept. 23

The soul of Asheville is in our rich cultural diversity and community. To honor that diversity, The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County’s annual gala on Sept. 23 will feature locations that represent not only different eras, but the variety of different people who have made this historic city what it is today.

Asheville’s foundation was built by immigrant artisans, inspired entrepreneurs, farmsteaders and scholars.

Asheville’s foundation was built by immigrant artisans, inspired entrepreneurs, farmsteaders and scholars. This year’s gala will kick off at the YMI Cultural Center followed by visits to Zealandia Castle and Sondley Estate. Buildings like these epitomize PSABC’s 41-year long mission of protecting, preserving and promoting the historic resources of our region that contribute to Buncombe County’s unique heritage.

Historically, the cultural and business center of the African American community in Asheville has been The Block, located just south of Pack Square. The heart of The Block is the Young Men’s Institute, better known today as the YMI Cultural Center, one of the country’s oldest African American Institutions. This beautiful pebbledash and brick Community Center was funded by George Vanderbilt, designed by Richard Sharp Smith and completed in 1893 by African American craftsman, and has served the Asheville community for over 120 years.

When it opened in the mid 1890s, the YMI was utilized by employees of the Biltmore Estate and the larger African American community as a Center for education, religion and community. The Sunday afternoon song services were particularly popular and it was also home to a gymnasium, residence rooms, shops and one of Asheville’s first African American doctors.

The historical and cultural relevance of this building cannot be overstated, making it the perfect location to kick off the festivities. At the YMI Cultural Center, guests will be treated to a speakeasy era jazz band, hors d’oeuvres and drinks before being whisked away for visits to the Belle Epoch era at Zealandia Castle and the Arts and Crafts movement at the Sondley Estate.

Zealandia Castle on Beaucatcher Mountain was first built in 1889 by John Evans Brown. The name Zealandia was an homage to New Zealand where Brown had spent over 20 years as both a rancher and a government official. The current structure, a Tudor Mansion, was built for Philip Henry, and completed in 1920. Here guests can fill their dance cards and have a sip of bubbly in a ballroom that was frequented by the Vanderbilts.

At the once remote Sondley Estate, guests will get a feel for elegant country living with the sounds of a bluegrass band and Contra dancing. Located in Haw Creek, the estate was designed by Richard Sharp Smith and built in 1902 for Foster Sondley. A lover of books, he housed all 30,000 of his collection in the home and also wrote a history of Buncombe County while living there.

Please join PSABC at the 2nd Annual Time Traveling Gala, A Dance Through Time, as it showcases three distinct locations that have added to the cultural fabric of Asheville’s historic past.

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About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for seven years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.