Waynesville arch nears fundraising goal
The replica of a decorative arch that once spanned Main Street in Waynesville but was removed in the early 1970s is closer than ever to being reinstalled, after more than two years of efforts by town officials and local civic groups to resurrect it.
“It was so great in the early years having that arch up,” said Mayor Gary Caldwell. “We’re going to bring back lots and lots of memories.”
The original arch stood at the north end of North Main Street from 1933 until Aug. 30, 1972.
The original arch was removed in 1972. DWA photo
Caldwell said that in his younger days, whenever people would find out he was from Waynesville, all they’d want to talk about was the arch.
Although the new arch will end up on the opposite end of town, it will resemble the original in many ways, proclaiming the town to be the eastern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The new arch will feature 4-foot decorative stone pillars at its base, concealing 6-foot pilings that will anchor it into the ground and enable it to withstand 110-mile-per-hour winds. Atop the stone pillars, 16-inch steel columns will support the 4-foot-tall arch, which will curve from 20 to 24 feet above the roadway.
Once the new arch is installed it will not only complement a quaint mountain hamlet’s downtown upon which much time and money has already been spent over the years, but also help rewrite the narrative of the organization responsible for nearly all of that revitalization.
“When we started this project almost two years ago, to the day, it was a little bit of a dark time for the DWA,” said Jon Feichter, a Waynesville Town Council member who has served for years on the Downtown Waynesville Association his parents helped start. “We had lost the town contract to administer the municipal service district, we had lost several members of our board of directors, and eight of us were the last people standing.”
Mismanagement led to the town assuming the duties of the old DWA in 2021, which were to administer property tax revenues and spearhead beautification initiatives as it had done since 1986. It was an undignified end to an organization responsible for much of how the core business district looks today — the absence of power lines, the lighting, the planters, trees and benches and the Church Street Art and Craft Show, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
But the DWA didn’t cease to exist as an entity when it lost its only client. It still had a substantial sum of money in its checking account and it wanted desperately to go out on a good note.
“As we come to the end of our organization, we really wanted to give a legacy gift to the town of Waynesville as a token of our appreciation for all the support that we have received over the years,” said Teresa Pennington, renowned artist, longtime Main Street merchant and chair of the DWA.
The DWA dumped $60,000 into the arch project, which is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $180,000. No net funding from the town will be expended in the erection of the arch.
Members of the Waynesville Town Council, the old DWA and the DWC participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new arch. Cory Vaillancourt photo
“We are even reimbursing the town for the money that they will spend and the efforts that they will put forth to make the arch a reality, to do the drilling and everything,” Pennington said.
So far, according to Feichter, the DWA has raised more than $152,000 toward the cost of fabrication and installation.
Alex McKay, Waynesville’s foremost historian and preservationist, said that when he gives lectures or historical presentations, he gets more questions about the arch than about anything else. He’s looking forward to seeing it in person.
“I don’t remember the arch, but I was told about it so much and when you went to town, that’s what people remembered the most,” said McKay. “I hope people in the future, the next generation and the generation after that, have the same fondness for it that that I grew up with here.”
Want to help?
The Downtown Waynesville Association has raised nearly $152,000 toward the $180,000 cost of installing a replica of a historic arch over Waynesville’s Main Street. No town funds will be used to facilitate the installation, so donations are still needed to ensure the project’s completion. Use your phone to scan the QR code below, or visit waynesvillearch.org to learn more about how you can help.