Sunday, October 23, 2022 / by Amy Brown
Located in one of the most beloved historic neighborhoods in all of Asheville is the former site of Highland Hospital, a sanatorium for the mentally ill that prided itself on healing by the merits of exercise, fresh air, good food, and artistic pursuits. Its most famous resident was Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, America's first flapper and the iconic couple of the Jazz Age. An artisan herself, Zelda suffered from schizophrenia as well as a troubled marriage. She was a brilliant writer, painter, and dancer. Her daughter, Scottie, summed it up perfectly when she said, “It was my mother’s misfortune to be born with the ability to write, to dance and to paint and then never to have acquired the discipline to make her talent work for, rather than against her.” She was in and out of Highland Hospital over the course of 9 years from 1936-1948.
On the evening of March 10, 1948, a fire broke out in the Central Building at Highland Hospital where Zelda was staying. Witnesses could hear the harrowing, desperate screams of women on the top floor as flames held them hostage and consumed their lives. There was no way out—some of the windows were locked, others were barred by heavy chains. Corridor doors were locked. The building didn’t have alarms or sprinklers, and the wooden fire escape quickly went up in flames.
Testimony at a coroner’s inquest revealed that Zelda and four other women on the top floor had been given strong sedatives to induce sleep. In all, nine women died in the fire.
Read more about Zelda in Blue Ridge Country Magazine. They have an excellent article abbreviating her life and times.https://blueridgecountry.com/newsstand/magazine/the-tragic-death-of-zelda-fitzgerald/
A plaque currently marks the site commemorating Zelda's time here in our mountains.
You can take a walk through the charming historic homes of Montford and see the old Highland Hospital site at 75 Zillicoa St. Stop in at All Day Darling Cafe and have a sandwich or hot cocoa!