River Area
 Stop #

The Flood of 1916

Learn about the Flood of 1916 and the impact on Western North Carolina, specifically the Black owned businesses and neighborhoods in the area now known as the River Arts District. In addition, highlighting the important role of local entrepreneurs and civil rights advocate, meet Mr. Matthew Bacoate Jr.


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In July 1916, hurricanes dropped more rainfall in Western North Carolina than had ever been measured in the United States. The French Broad River overflowed its banks here by more than 20 feet.

Flooding and landslides buried hundreds of homes and businesses in Asheville. The Citizens Relief Committee sheltered White residents. Black churches, schools, and volunteers from nearby Swannanoa and Chunn’s Cove communities aided Black residents. This area, home to the main rail station, factories, and a Black neighborhood, rebounded.

Matthew Bacoate, Jr., Integrator and Entrepreneur

Asheville native Matthew Bacoate, Jr., operated the first Black-owned manufacturing companies in Western North Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s. They manufactured personal protective equipment for medical and scientific use. Mr. Bacoate counseled Presidents Nixon and Carter on Black entrepreneurship. Mr. Bacoate was also the first Black man hired in a professional role at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. He helped integrate an Asheville bowling alley and the Asheville Municipal Golf Course.