In the early morning hours of July 24, 1998, someone threw an incendiary device through a window at the Thomas Wolfe home in downtown Asheville. This tragic act caused damage to every room in the historic boarding house. Many irreplaceable antiques were also damaged by fire, smoke, and water.
Workers at the state site credit the Asheville Fire Department with saving the home through their quick response and a well-executed attack. Without them, it is believed the home would not be standing today.
The crime happened on the eve of Asheville’s largest and longest-running outdoor street festival, Bele Chere. The home sustained $2.4 million in damages and was closed for six years.
Many theories surfaced about the crime and the culprits. Local and state authorities worked hard to uncover those responsible, but no one was ever convicted.
The upcoming 2012 Bele Chere music and arts festival marks 14 years since the arson.
USA Today named Asheville a Top 10 Literary destination in 2002. And a town with that honor should take care of its long-standing literary heritage.
This summer, Asheville resident Jim MacKenzie reminds the public of this heinous act. He is asking for information that could help solve the case.
“Thomas Wolfe was Asheville’s original prodigal son,” said MacKenzie. “We should honor his memory by not forgetting what happened to his family’s home.”
MacKenzie urges anyone who has information that could be helpful in solving this arson to come forward. All tips should be made to CrimeStoppers at 828-255-5050.
Your call could lead to the arrest of the arsonist and get you reward money.
Author Thomas Wolfe grew up in and around the memorial house, which he called “Dixieland.” Wolfe is best known for his books “Look Homeward, Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Before his death in 1938, Wolfe was considered one of the greatest modern writers of his era.
MacKenzie can be contacted at the Facebook page “Asheville’s Literary Mystery: The Thomas Wolfe Home Arson.”