Artist's depiction of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders attacking San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War // Library of Congress

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: What happened to the “WV1898” memorial in Aston Park? I noticed just recently it’s been removed. Also, do you know the history of that marker?

My answer: Raise your hand if you drove past this memorial and had no idea what it was for. 

Real answer: The monument, which dated to 1934, is indeed gone now. Christo Bubenik, marketing and communication manager with Asheville Parks & Recreation, explained what happened via email.

“The memorial in question was removed as it had fallen into disrepair, had become difficult to maintain, and held no known historic connection to the Aston Park site,” Bubenik said. “No agreement or documentation could be found in our records of who installed the monument or claimed ongoing interest in the stones.”

Asheville will continue to maintain veterans’ memorials at Memorial Stadium and Pack Square Park, Bubenik added.

Aston Park dates to the 1890s, and was “Asheville’s first truly modern public park,” according to the city’s website. 

Four score and nine years ago, Asheville residents celebrated the unveiling of Aston Park’s Spanish-American War memorial. // Source: Newspapers.com

Pack Memorial Library’s Special Collections room provided some help with the history component of the memorial in the form of a news article from May 28, 1934, titled, “Unveil Marker to Spanish War Veterans Here.” 

Not the snappiest of headlines, but you get the point. The short article states: 

“Approximately 300 persons attended exercises yesterday afternoon at Aston Park when a marker in honor of dead veterans of the Spanish American War was dedicated.

The memorial consists of stones hewn to form the letters U.S.W.V. 1898 and is located in a flower bed at the park.”

The article notes that several speeches were made, followed by the playing of “Taps.”

“Flowers later were taken to Spanish-American war veterans at Oteen hospital and graves of veterans of this war were decorated,” the article concludes.

The WV apparently refers to “War Veterans.”

The news article said the Thomas W. Patton camp, United Spanish War veterans, and the woman auxiliary of the camp, conducted the ceremony.

The Spanish-American war took place in Cuba and the Philippine Islands in 1898, and it’s probably most known for Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders’ much-hyped charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba. In an interesting side note, that news article notes that a letter from Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt was read at the ceremony, as she was unable to attend.

A little Woolsey Dip history: In writing about what we’ve christened “The Pit of Despair, North,” the vacant lot where a building collapsed after being struck by a car in 2005, I realized I forgot to explain a key piece of history. These buildings are in the “Woolsey Dip” along Merrimon Avenue, and I have had readers ask me several times where that name came from.

Once again, Buncombe County Special Collections has done the homework for me. A writeup notes this section of Merrimon Avenue begins descending in elevation near Brookstone Church (formerly Merrimon Avenue Baptist Church) and ascending once more once you reach Chatham Road. It’s at the intersection of W.T. Weaver Boulevard and Merrimon Avenue, right near Luella’s Bar-B-Que. 

The article also notes this area “feels essentially a part of the central part of the city” but back in the late 1800s was a suburb. It goes on: 

“The people of this posh residential suburb of Asheville had declared themselves an altogether separate entity and embarked on self-governance. Initially the tiny town was called Ramoth after the large estate of James Mitchell Ray. In the 1890s, the townspeople of Ramoth voted to change the name to Woolsey to honor Charles W. Woolsey who at one time owned an elaborate and eccentric home, called Witchwood, in the town.”

Ramoth, by the way, was named for Col. J. M. Ray, “who sometime around 1875, had moved back from Tennessee to his hometown of Asheville, NC.”

The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County also wrote about Woolsey Dip, noting the town was named for “Col. Charles W. Woolsey, a prominent nineteenth-century property owner and citizen of Woolsey.”

Woolsey, according to the Preservation Society, “was born in 1840, the youngest child and only son of Jane Eliza Newton and Charles William Woolsey of Marlborough, Massachusetts. He entered the service of the United States in the Civil War in 1861, following his commencement at the University of the City of New York.”

The family lived in Westchester, New York. Sadly, they lost two of their three children before moving to Asheville in 1886 or 1887. 

“Woolsey had first purchased land in 1887 in Asheville, but on the deed he was then listed as a resident of the ‘City and State of New York,” according to the Preservation Society. “However, by March of 1888, the Asheville Citizen-Times announced that ‘Mr. Woolsey, a northern gentleman … has begun erection of a magnificent dwelling in North Doubleday.”

That was a suburb of Asheville laid out by Ulysses S. Doubleday, the brother of baseball’s putative inventor, Abner Doubleday, in the town of Ramoth.

“Woolsey had purchased an entire block of lots at the northwest corner of East Street (now Mt. Clare Avenue) and Hillside Street,” the article continues. “Upon completion of his heavily shingled house with its steeply pitched roofs (one looking like a witch’s hat), he named the estate ‘Witchwood.’”

The cost: in excess of $5,000. Try that today!

Ray, a former Confederate general officer, and Woolsey, a Union officer, had a nice little rivalry, and the town changed names several times. Woolsey became mayor of the town, and in 1895, Ramoth changed its name to Woolsey. 

The name is long gone, but Woolsey Dip perseveres.


Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941.