Appalachian Mural Trail

Chicken Alley Mural
"A Ghost Legend"
Asheville, NC

Blue Ridge MilePost: 384
Latitude:35.59767, Longitude:-82.55331


Lead ARTIST: Molly Must
Photo by: Molly Must
Trail Member/Sponsor:   

Mural Description

     Completed in 2011, Asheville NC. 200 square foot mural with a 10-ft. rooster welcomes you to Chicken Alley. Designed and painted by Molly Must. The design of this mural interprets the history of the chicken-processing plant owned by Sam and Argie Young of Asheville, for which the alley is named. Sam and Argieís granddaughter, Sandra Gudger (the only remaining family member with memories of the business), contributed stories and photographs to the project. Sandraís memories are a testament to the rich agricultural heritage of not just her bee-keeping, poultry-raising family, but also of South Lexington Avenue, where a Asheville farmers market and many farm-supply shops used to be. Sandra is depicted in the mural as a young woman holding a jar of honey out to her viewer, with her pet black snake named "boy" at her feet. Molly collaborated with the Sandra in writing a poem further illustrating her visual memories, which is painted on the chicken alley mural.

Artist Bio: Molly Must

    Molly Must is an artist from Lobelia, West Virginia. Driven by a belief in the power of story-telling and cooperative creativity, she began making public murals and organizing community art projects in Asheville back in 2007. Between 2007 and 2015 Molly coordinated two major community murals in Asheville (the Lexington Avenue Gateway Mural and the Triangle Park Mural) in addition to five independent murals between NC and WV. In 2016 Molly decided to take a break from public art return to school to finish a long-abandoned bachelors degree at West Virginia University, and may continue to get an MFA. She is currently refining and growing her painting practice while also studying things she cares about, including precolonial and Native American history, neocolonialism, migration & human rights, solidarity economics, and collectivization. Molly is committed to participating in positive change in Appalachia.

The Ghost of Chicken Alley

    Chicken Alley is a small, narrow alley in Downtown Asheville. Named because of the chickens that would congregate there in the city's earlier days, the most prominent chicken found today in Chicken Alley is the one in the large mural by local artist Molly Must that decorates the entrance. But another, non-poultry, presence is said to lurk in this alley.

    Dr. Jamie Smith was a physician who practiced in Asheville at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Dr. Smith was known for wearing a wide-brimmed, black fedora hat and a long, duster-style coat. He always carried his medicine bag and a cane with a silver pommel on it.

    Dr. Smith was, in addition to being a physician, something of a lover of a good time. Asheville was a rougher city in those days. Men who worked in the logging camps and nearby industries would flood the town on weekends looking for a drink and some company. There was enough money from visiting tourists even n those days to keep the bars and brothels open late. Liquor flowed freely, virtue was easily bought and sold, and Dr. Smith loved every minute of it. There are those who say that the majority of his practice came treating the various social diseases that were the constant companions of the city's good times.

    All of this came to an end in 1902, when Dr. Smith walked in to a bar called Broadway's Tavern, which was located in Chicken Alley. a case of remarkably bad timing, Smith happened to stumble into the middle of a vicious bar brawl. He tried to break it up, but was stabbed in the heart by one of the men in the fight. He died instantly.

    Jamie Smith's murderer was never caught. Broadway's Tavern burned to the ground the year after the fatal stabbing.

    Ever since that night, people have reported seeing a strange figure walking in the alley late at night. He's said to be a shadowy man, wearing a long, black coat and a wide-brimmed black hat. He carries an old-fashioned physician's bag and a cane with a silver head. People have reported hearing the tip of the cane tapping as he walks along the pavement.

    The people who live near Chicken Alley believe that this is the ghost of Dr. Jamie Smith. He has been seen for over 100 years, and throughout that time the figure's appearance has been described with remarkable consistency. Dr. Smith's fashion sense was apparently distinctive enough to make him recognizable even beyond the grave. The locals are divided as to the reason his spirit returns to the spot where he met his end. Some say he is still trying to stop the fight. Some say he still just wants a drink.

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