Town of Mars Hill, North Carolina Visitor Guide

Where Knowledge & Music Thrive

Mars Hill is a town that is rich in history, character, and people.  It is known for its beautiful mountain views and picturesque setting.  The town’s history is inextricably linked with that of Mars Hill University, the oldest educational institution still in its original location in western North Carolina.  The college provides town residents many educational and cultural opportunities.  While Mars Hill University drama students stage plays in the historic Owen Theatre during the school year, in the summer season, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre provides entertainment each weekend with old and new plays alike.

History of the Town

The history of the town is linked with its tie to education. The town of Mars Hill itself developed after the residents established an educational institution which would grow into Mars Hill University. And, the university today is linked to a historical marker in the town which reflects the tie of the school to traditional music. Bascom Lamar Lunsford was born here and his collection of music and his letters are housed at the university. Also on the university campus is the Rural Heritage Museum with exhibits about the history of the area. The university would also be affected by the Civil War as recounted in the Civil War Trails marker on the university campus. The townspeople’s commitment to education is also reflected in the historic Anderson Rosenwald School .

A walk down Main Street can immerse you in the history and the culture that contributed to the character of the town. Many of the houses in the blocks surrounding the center of town tell the story of Mars Hill’s growth from its birth until today. There are homes of distinguished members of the community; homes used as boarding houses for students at the college; businesses which reflect the economic development of the town; and a church which can trace its founding to the same time as the establishment of the town itself.  Download the Mars Hill Walking Tour (pdf).