Marshall High Studios - Atlas Obscura

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Marshall High Studios

Marshall, North Carolina

This historic high school was saved from demolition to become an island home for Marshall’s creative community. 

Sponsored by Visit North Carolina
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Blannahassett Island, a 12.5-acre in North Carolina’s French Broad River, has seen its share of owners over the years. It first belonged to a private owner who sold it to Madison County in 1926 for $2,000 with the stipulation that any development be for public use. It was then sold to the town of Marshall, North Carolina, for $3200, with plans to be the future site of the town’s new high school. The building opened in December for that year to what can only be described as fanfare, with one local paper hailing it as “even greater than one could have hoped for after seeing it in the making.”

In addition to the classroom space, it boasted large libraries and an auditorium that could hold almost 1,000 people. Every inch of the building was built to the most modern standards of the era. But as time moved forward, the building and all of its once-gleaming amenities became worn and cramped. The school’s location was prone to flooding, often closing the school. Marshall High School remained in use until 1973 before consolidating with other local schools. But the old building still stood. And stood. And stood. With each year, more and more people saw it as a blight on the island. FEMA even offered the county money to tear it down. But a local artist, Rob Pulleyn, saw the promise in the building. Instead of being torn down, the building found a new life as the Marshall High Studios, a creative working space for artists. “The idea was to create a community of creative people,” Pulleyn told the Asheville Citizen-Times in 2007. After extensive renovations, the school’s former classrooms have been turned into 26 studio spaces for artists in various disciplines. But much of the building’s old charm remains, with the spaces retaining the school’s chalkboards and bulletin boards. One of the space’s early occupants told the Citizen-Times, “it’s big and bright and near the water. I like the idea of being in a building with other serious artists.”

And this creative community often opens its doors to visitors with its annual Handmade Market filled with work from regional artists and through its space rental where its 4,600-square-foot auditorium is available for events. 

Marshall High is now alive again as a home for creativity, and since 2008, a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. As Pulleyn stated in 2007, “It was a neat building that needed to be preserved.” 

Know Before You Go

Though the space does host open studio events, each of the artists generally maintains their own hours. Please check with individual artists before visiting.

This post is sponsored by Visit North Carolina. Click here to explore more. 

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March 1, 2024

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  • “It’s the artist’s life for the old Marshall High School” Asheville Citizen-Times 22 Aug 2007
  • “Marshall’s artist enclave” Asheville Citizen-Times Sun, Dec 23, 2007
  • https://files.nc.gov/ncdcr/nr/MD0062.pdf
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