A Little Batty

Asheville’s City Building rises out of City-County Plaza like a frilly pink cake, or maybe a sassy lady dressed in frilly pink, rising out of a cake? In any case, the building is one of Asheville’s most interesting architectural offerings, and was designed and constructed in the early 1900’s by Douglas Ellington.

If I have my facts straight (and as a native, I always assume I do, which is a dangerous assumption!), Ellington also drew up plans for the Buncombe County Courthouse located next door to the City Building. If his design had come to fruition, Asheville would have boasted a pair of groovy, frilly Ellingtons in which to conduct city/county business and to attract even more tourists. It was not to be, however, and the courthouse remains a sober, gray, and very respectable rectangle standing stalwart next to its perky party hat of a neighbor. Sort of like The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit standing close to–but not quite touching–Auntie Mame.

I don’t know who said it first, but I wish it had been me: “The Courthouse looks like the box the City Building came in.” 

There are lots of interesting details about both buildings, but here’s my favorite: at night, in the summer (i.e. right now), the lights on roof of the City Building give off a pink-tinted glow that attracts every bug and flying beastie in the vicinity. I don’t know if the lights are actually pink, or if they just look pink because they’re bouncing off the building’s pink-tiled top, but the whole building is bathed in a peachy baby aspirin hue that you can almost taste. And with that mix of powerfully pink wattage comes moths-gone-mad, and that means…bats. Whirling and swirling and diving and thriving; bats gather around the City Building as if it boasted an all-you-can-eat Sonar buffet: sweep, snap, and swallow.*

Last summer, I spent some time in Austin, TX, which boasts the largest urban bat colony in North America (http://www.austincityguide.com/content/congress-bridge-bats-austin.asp). Although I enjoyed watching them pour out from under the Congress Street Bridge, I still felt that Asheville’s bats–dining in the ambience of the Ellington pink light district**–have the edge when it comes to style, if not numbers.

* I haven’t actually gone bat-watching in a while, so forgive me if times have changed and the City Building is no longer the hot (pink) spot for bats…

**Several breast cancer awareness programs use the term “pink light district,” and no offense is meant to their important work!

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