Last Updated on June 9, 2023
As a small Madison County town, Marshall, NC has made the most of riverside living by focusing on community.
Marshall’s Main Street offers signs of the town’s unique blend of old and the new. Locals frequent the town’s bookstore and numerous galleries, antique shops, breweries, and eateries. Hovering above it all is the historic, cupola-domed county courthouse. The building was completed in 1907 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with 40 other contributing buildings in the Marshall Main Street Historic District.
Today, Marshall remains small, but close knit. The town may not command as much attention as larger county seats in Western North Carolina. But despite its size, Marshall is thriving thanks to its community and arts scene.
Thriving arts in Marshall, NC
A town once ready to close up shop has rolled back out the welcome mat thanks to an enclave of local artists and musicians.
“I’ve been in Madison County for 14 years now. Zuma Coffee has been open about 12 and a half of those years,” said Joel Friedman, owner of the popular caffeine-infused community focal point, in a 2017 interview with Beverly-Hanks. “When I moved here, it was basically offices for the county that were here,” said Joel. “Those moved to the bypass. So, it really opened up this huge space for people to move in and kinda create a neighborhood as we went along. So, very organically, it’s kind of transformed into an arts and music community.”
There are dozens of local galleries and studios in this small mountain town, including the epicenter of local arts: Marshall High Studios. Marshall High Studios occupies a 28,000-square-foot former high school on Blannahassett Island in the middle of the French Broad River that’s connected to downtown by a bridge. The building, which dates to 1925, was renovated and reopened in 2007 as a home for 26 artist studios. In addition to hosting working artists who specialize in numerous different media, the facility hosts regular classes, exhibitions, and performances.
“You know, I’m really fortunate to live in a community where everybody’s an artist of some sort,” said Joel. “It made way for a lot of new people to move here and become part of the community—in particular, the artists studios across the river. And that has, again, solidified the whole idea of this as an arts community.
“Since then, we’ve developed the Downtown Marshall Association, which is really great about doing our Mermaid Parade every year. It does a festival for the arts. So, it’s really made the community much more accessible to [those] outside of the area.”
Thriving community events in Marshall, NC
With the addition of artists and musicians has come the rebirth of venues and organizations to coordinate regular and annual community events. Local favorites include the annual Mermaid Parade, mentioned above, and Marshall Gras, where locals don their purple, green, and gold “for all types of crazy fun.”
One Main Street mainstay in Marshall is The Depot, an old-timey general store. It’s a great community shopping spot that doubles as a performance venue on Friday nights. Local musicians get together to strike up a soundtrack of traditional bluegrass and country music. Mad Co. Brew House, the town’s riverfront brewery, also hosts live music, trivia, and open mics.
Several other local institutions keep Marshall’s art scene humming. The Madison County Arts Center, also on Main Street, presents regular exhibitions of both traditional and contemporary art. They also run wART, a local radio station dedicated to community news and storytelling. Find the station on your dial at 95.5FM.
“I love that it’s growing very slowly and very organically, and that it happens through the people,” said Joel about the town’s recent development. “There’s a real impetus on keeping it community based. So, I see it still continuing to grow in this pattern and becoming a real living community, as opposed to a tourist community.
“When I say community—because that’s the word that just always comes up here—we’re a town that all like each other.”
Live Abundantly in Marshall, NC
Marshall, population 800, is the Madison County seat and sits on the banks of the French Broad River some 20 miles north of Asheville. The area is rich with local history. Marshall was a key way station on the Buncombe Turnpike, an early trading route that ran from Tennessee though Western North Carolina to South Carolina. Today, the town capitalizes on its history to create a community that blends old and new for a timeless effect.
Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Marshall now!