And now, benches to enjoy 'Valley in the Alley'


After finishing its extensive interior renovation last summer, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center, with the help of grant funding, has begun to beautify its exterior for use by the community.

One ongoing project, known as "Valley in the Alley," has also helped fund the improvements. Valley in the Alley is a brick mosaic exhibit that, once all bricks have been purchased, will create a stylized map of the Swannanoa Valley. Granite pavers will outline the ridgeline of the valley and include major peaks, gaps and locations. The first brick installation occurred in January, and now the ridgeline has begun to take shape. The second installation will occur this summer. Bricks designating locations across the valley are still available for purchase.

New benches beside the Swannanoa Valley Museum will give people a chance to contemplate the many people memorialized in brick the inscriptions.

The alleyway in between the museum and the Dripolator coffee house has long been enjoyed by the community, not only as a thoroughfare, but as a place to relax away from the sometimes heavy traffic on State Street. Purchased bricks covered the cost of renovating the alleyway, and thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Black Mountain–Swannanoa Valley Endowment Fund, the museum was able to purchase and install three benches in the alleyway on May 10. The benches, identical to those in Black Mountain’s Town Square, serve as a quiet space to enjoy the Valley in the Alley exhibit.

“We hope the community will enjoy the renovated space and the new benches,” museum director Anne Chesky Smith said. “It’s important to us that the space is respected as an exhibit, too. Many people have memorialized friends and family in brick inscriptions.”

The alleyway is not the only outdoor exhibit the museum has created this year. With the help of the town of Black Mountain and donations from Hedrick Industries, Vulcan Materials Company and The Quartz Corp, the museum has installed a geology exhibit directly behind its building. Consisting of six large boulders from Western North Carolina, the exhibit tells the story of the Valley’s earliest formation and topography. The oldest rock in the garden, a sample of gneiss from northern Buncombe County, is more than one billion years old.

A grant from the Black Mountain Beautification Committee will fund signage identifying each rock, its age and where it was mined. The signs will be installed and the geology exhibit finalized this summer.