When we went looking for an east coast home back in 2009, one thing that was a little unusual about our search was that we were seeking a brownfield site or a site that needed to be improved as part of our development process. In 2012, we purchased 18 acres along the west bank of the French Broad River in Asheville’s River District and remediated the brownfield to build our east coast home and address the environmental wellness of the place.
WNC Livestock Market circ: 1970 (courtesy: UNC-A Archives) (L) and same site circ. 2013 prior to New Belgium construction
(LEAP Aerial Photography)
We worked with Old Town Salvage Company and DH Griffin to deconstruct and salvage the old reusable materials from the former WNC Livestock Market buildings. The old barn wood is being reclaimed by area artists and turned into siding, furniture, bars and tables in the brewery and Liquid Center. More than looking cool, though, with hundreds of thousands of people coming to tour the brewery, these materials create entry points to share the history of this place, the people, experiences and memories that came before us.
Reclaimed wood from former stockyard circ. 2013 (L) and bar front made from reclaimed stockyard wood being installed in New Belgium's brewery
Over the last four years, we’ve had the privilege of working with community members, historians, non-profits, artists, neighbors and former property owners to start piecing together the history of our new home, what has been an agricultural and industrial hub for Asheville for the last 200 years. Dependent upon hops and barley as well as manufacturing to brew and bottle beer, our new use of the historic place no doubt nods to it’s past.
“I know I was not alone in feeling some regret watching Asheville’s old stockyards area cleared away, with its collection of old warehouses and small businesses, for New Belgium’s new brewery,” said Ken Abbott, photographer and curator. “Though its passing was inevitable and its new life a wildly positive addition to Asheville’s economy and culture, there were qualities of the old ‘brownfields’ that, like other fast disappearing features of the old mountain South culture, we have not learned the full value of yet even as they disappear, or so it seems to me.”
Beyond romanticizing a place, transition and change need to be marked as a rite of passage, an honoring and remembering and reflecting. Ken Abbott has photographically documented the areas’ transformation over the last five years and curated an exhibit of artist work reflecting on history and future of this place. The Brownfield to Brewery exhibit runs January 15-February 20 at the Asheville Area Arts Council with a reception on February 5 from 5-8 p.m.