With the exception of Fairview and Caldwell Lanes, the primary streets and roads throughout the neighborhood are named after Southern authors and writers. The narrow “byways” are all named for local people who were in the chain of title for property purchased for the New Neighborhood.


Thomas Wolfe, the youngest of eight children, was born on October 3, 1900 in Asheville, North Carolina. His mother, Julia Elizabeth Westall Wolfe, was a third generation North Carolinian. Julia had a rather unusual “hobby” for women of the era. She was a successful real estate speculator. Thomas’ father, William Oliver Wolfe was from Pennsylvania German-English-Dutch farming country. He was a tombstone maker by trade and drank heavily, often shouting at family members and quoting from Shakespeare.

Wolfe attended a private school in Asheville at age eleven and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at age sixteen. He began his writing while at UNC and was the editor of the Tar Heel, the school newspaper. After graduating at age twenty, Thomas went to Harvard where he studied playwrighting and received a Masters Degree in 1924. While at Harvard, he did write two plays, but did not consider himself successful at this form of writing and turned to the novel instead. Wolfe taught English at New York University from 1924 until 1930.

On a vacation to England in June of 1926, Thomas Wolfe began writing his first autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel. This was to begin a close relationship with Scribner’s Publishers and the famous editor, Maxwell Perkins, who also handled writings by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Wolfe finished Look Homeward, Angel in 1929 and followed it with a sequel, Of Time and the River, in 1935.

In 1937, Wolfe signed a contract with Harpers and created the manuscripts for two other novels. Diagnosed with tuberculosis of the brain (tubercular meningitis), Wolfe died on September 15, 1938 while undergoing surgery. His last two novels were published posthumously, The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can’t Go Home Again (1940).

Thomas Wolfe is best known for his autobiographical novels. He firmly believed that great art must, by necessity, be autobiographical.

As I have written each installment, I attempted to read some of the works by that particular author. I decided to read Look Homeward, Angel, but opted to read the original manuscript of his work. The book was originally entitled O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life. Scribner edited about 25% of this manuscript before publishing Look Homeward, Angel. Critics of Thomas Wolfe feel that he uses language to excess and gets lost in detail. However, I would side with others who see magic in his use of words and his extensive vocabulary. In one scene of O Lost, he spends several pages elaborating on the process of making bread from scratch and the use of flour. The description is vivid and, for me, evoked very real images of my own grandmother at work in her kitchen.

Thomas Wolfe is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina. His mother’s boardinghouse (a key setting called “Dixieland” in Look Homeward, Angel) was his home as a child and is now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, a National Historic Landmark. A fire damaged the house in July, 1998, but architects are working to restore the home to original condition.

Information for much of this article was obtained from the Thomas Wolfe Web Site.

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