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Home North Carolina Henderson County City of Hendersonville Historical Markers Wolfe's Angel

Wolfe's Angel

Sixth Avenue, Hendersonville, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 19' 7.6836", -82° 28' 9.84"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Marble statue from the Asheville shop of W. O. Wolfe. Inspired title of son Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel. Stands 150 feet south."
     In August 1929 Scribner’s published “An Angel on the Porch,” the “first work of a new writer about whom much will be heard this fall.” The story and the novel published that fall, Look Homeward Angel, took their titles from a statue:

     . . . No one knew how fond he (Gant) was of the angel. Publicly he called it his white elephant. He cursed it and said he had been a fool to order it. For six years it had stood on the porch weathering in all the wind and rain. It was now brown and fly-specked. But it had come from Carrara in Italy, and it held a stone lily delicately in one hand. The other was lifted in benediction, it was poised clumsily upon the ball of one phthisic foot, and its stupid white face wore a smile of soft stone idiocy.
     In his rages, Gant sometimes directed vast climaxes of abuse at the angel. “Fiend out of hell,” he roared, “you have impoverished me, you have ruined me.

     Thomas Wolfe’s father W. O. kept statues of several angels on the porch of his Pack Square monument shop in Asheville. He had ordered them at a high price from a New York distributor of Italian-crafted marble. According to Thomas Wolfe’s sister Mabel, he would periodically (particularly during his “moments of alcoholic depression”) emerge from the shop and curse the statues in which he had tied up so much money. “But he adored his angels nevertheless,” she wrote.

     In 1906 W. O. Wolfe went to the home of a Hendersonville woman, taking with him photographs of several of his stones including the remaining angel. He persuaded her to buy it at a cost of over $1,000.

     Today it stands over the grave of her mother, Margaret Bates Johnson, in Hendersonville’s Oakdale Cemetery. In the 1970s an ardent Wolfe admirer visiting the site knocked it over, breaking a hand and one of the wings. Since then it has been repaired and today it is enclosed by a low stone wall and high wrought-iron fence.

Thomas Wolfe, “An Angel on the Porch,” Scribner’s (August 1929)
Mabel Wolfe Wheaton, Thomas Wolfe and His Family (1961)
James T. Fain Jr., A Partial History of Henderson County (1980)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, November 20, 1949
Dot Jackson, “In Search of the Angelic Muse,” Independent Weekly, October 28, 1992
Alice R. Cotten, “An Angel in Hendersonville,” Tar Heel Junior Historian (Spring 2001): 7-9
Wolfe's Angel Historical Marker Location Map, Hendersonville, North Carolina