Throughout the year as I’ve continued to work on this series and it has gained traction and popularity, hints and suggestions as to what I should write about have come in from various sources. It has been a tremendous undertaking, and sometimes it’s a relief to hear from someone else what you ought to say, especially about a community you’ve lived in your entire life. Often, it’s more difficult to write about your own neighborhood than someone else’s because you feel like you know what there is to know, and part of what has made this series so enjoyable is discovery.
All that said, a few weeks ago I was racking my brain thinking about what I might say about the Newfound Community. My first thought was “Dick’s Creek to Dix Creek, Who is Dick, Anyway?” However, just when I was about to embark on my research for that angle, my dear friend and mentor Dan Pierce wrote me a note that sent me down a different path altogether (though I still want to know who Dick is). Commenting on a photo I posted of the “Entering Newfound” community sign, he asked if I knew who made it (and others like it) around the county and introduced me to J.L. Hall and “Hall’s Seven Acres.”
If you grew up in the Newfound Community or anywhere in western Buncombe County in the 1960s and 1970s Mr. Hall and his “Seven Acres” may be familiar to you. A collection of antiques, outdoor activities and pure creativity and ingenuity, Hall’s Seven Acres was a sight to behold and a resource to everyone in the community, whether you wanted an afternoon of fishing or to gather a congregation for a church picnic. Dan says, “It was a strange but really fun place. And as kids we never considered what it all meant. I’m still not sure I do, but it does seem to be evidence of a very vivid human imagination.”
J.L. Hall, or Lane Hall as he was commonly known, was a founding member of the Newfound Community Club, Asheville City Fire Captain, and all around interesting feller. In May 1958, Hall officially established his park. According to a description provided in a 1966 Newfound Community Club Scrapbook, this piece of property served as a “picnic ground as well as an educational museum.”
Mr. Hall apparently allowed anyone who asked to use the space, and the Newfound Community Club hosted an annual “county-wide” picnic at the property. These large picnics were made possible due to a large picnic pavilion that featured “A large open fireplace” and plenty of seating. By 1966 there were modern restrooms (as opposed to outhouses). Newfound Community Club Scrapbooks feature photos of celebrations and gatherings at the Seven Acres as late as 1980.
As mentioned previously, Mr. Hall wanted the property to serve as an educational museum, so “the younger generation can become acquainted with the farm machinery, cooking utensils, etc… that were used fifty to one hundred years ago.” On the property stood at least one log cabin, a cane mill for molasses making, a grist mill with an operating water wheel, a whiskey still, and a spring with a spring house. The cabin was full of various antiques.
Roaming around the property were a number of fowl, including ducks who populated the two ponds. Also, apparently for educational purposes. Though the property was large, it was full of all manner of not only old and educational, but sometimes surprising items. Dan recalls a box labeled “Baby Rattler” that one could open to find not a snake, but a toy rattle.
There are all kinds of mentions and allusions to Hall’s Seven Acres in our collection of the Newfound Community Club Scrapbooks. You’ll also see his handiwork throughout in the form of hand carved signs for communities, road directories, churches, Pack Memorial Library Bookmobile Stops, and more. The property served the community for many years in exactly the capacity that Mr. Hall intended. Today, it seems it belongs to a different family, but the ponds and some parts of the historical displays like the water wheel might still be around.
You can view and download our collection of Newfound Community Club Scrapbooks here:
Though J.L Hall has long since passed away, anyone who encounters the Hall’s Seven Acres property will know, at least for now, what his intentions were, as a stone marker indicates the intentions of the site.
You can also learn more about the Hall family and their creative talents by visiting the Hunter Library Special Collections at Western Carolina University, where they hold a collection of the family’s papers arts and crafts. View part of the collection here:
We love sharing our collections and stories with you! We especially like when they get a good workout from researchers, the curious, and even the stray interior designer or stylist! Our images and collections are as much yours as they are the library’s. That’s what public libraries are all about!
Come on in and take a look. You never know what you might find!
As a reminder, this post is a part of our 52 Weeks, 52 Communities Series. In this series, we are covering a different Buncombe County community each week. Do you have materials related to Newfound, Leicester or some other Buncombe County community you’d like to let us know about? Do you, your parents or grandparents have a good story to tell? We want to hear from you! The North Carolina Room is Buncombe County’s Public Archive, we want to help preserve and make accessible the history and culture of Asheville and Buncombe County for all its residents.
This post was authored by Katherine Calhoun Cutshall, a librarian working in the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library.