No longer the town that time forgot, Marshall is reveling in an arts renaissance that has brought new vigor and an influx of visitors. Shoehorned between the French Broad River and the rocky cliffs overhead, this tiny Madison County town is anchored by an antebellum courthouse on Main Street. From there, it’s a short stroll to the cutting-edge work of local artists who were attracted by the town’s inexpensive spaces and exquisite natural beauty.
EAT Hollie West’s sweet and savory breads are a hit at farmers markets throughout the area. Later this summer, fans can join her in person at Marshall’s newest restaurant, The Sweet Monkey Bakery & Cafe. Located in a former car showroom, the cafe plans to offer substantial breakfasts and lunches, including eggs Benedict with freshly whipped hollandaise on homemade biscuits and a pork patty melt on caramelized onion-blue cheese bread. 133 S. Main St.; (828) 301-0238; sweetmonkeybakery.com
SHOP It’s easy to get overwhelmed at artist cooperatives, but not at Flow, a gallery shop behind a Chinese-red storefront that’s a firecracker’s throw from the river. Thoughtfully arranged against the simplicity of bare brick walls and lustrous woodwork are the creations of 40 local artists, including Lisa Mandle’s elegant handmade garments and jewelry designer Deb Karash’s colorful renderings. 14 Main St.; (828) 649-1686; flowmarshall.com
STAY East Fork Farm in Marshall raises sheep, rabbits, and chickens, and also has two cottages to share. The one-bedroom Meadow Branch Cottage has a cedar shake exterior and copper countertops on the inside. East Fork Cottage, with two bedrooms, is surrounded by gardens and trees for privacy. Both bungalows are outfitted with antiques, local crafts, and handmade pottery. Each has a cedar Japanese ofuro soaking tub and comes with complementary local farm products. 215 Meadow Branch Rd.; (828) 206-9075; eastforkfarm.net
PLAY A town largely defined by the train and river running through it, Marshall is the perfect host for The Mission for Temporal Arts, a performing arts space devoted to work of a passing nature. Events, held the second and fourth Saturday of each month, are built around sound, the spoken word, and improvised movement. 68 N. Main St.; (917) 650-7321; themissionfortemporalart.blogspot.com
WHILE YOU'RE THERE:
Walk Right In: Marshall High Studios converted an old school on Blannahasset Island into a collective of artists’ studios, many open to the public.
115 Blannahasset Island,
Sit Right Down: Get craft beer, house-made pickles, and a hand-built growler at Marshall Container Co. 10 S. Main St., (828) 319-5354
Let Your Mind Roll On: Find a perch anywhere along the banks of the French Broad River and lose your thoughts in the currents and eddies.