The murder of Helen Clevenger is one of Asheville, North Carolina’s most infamous crimes. In July of 1936, the 18 year old college student was murdered in a room at the Battery Park Hotel. A hotel employee, Martin Moore, was tried, convicted and executed for the murder but his conviction remains highly contested. In fact, some people say his conviction was a case of injustice.
The Battery Park Hotel, that has towered over Asheville since 1924, is the second Battery Park. The first Battery Park Hotel was built on a 10 acre hill which was a former civil war battery.
Built in 1886, the first Battery Park Hotel was known as one of the most modern resorts in the late 19th century complete with a fireplace in each room, electric lights throughout. And it was the first hotel in the south to install an electric elevator. By 1921, the building lost some of its appeal. Years of mismanagement led to the owner selling the property to Edwin Grove who developed Asheville’s Grove Park Inn, the Grove Park neighborhood and Grove Arcade.
Grove wanted a clean slate for his dream of a hotel. He had the original battery park hotel on the hill, demolished and opted to build the new hotel on the original site, opening for business in 1924.
The move, to replace the original Battery Park Hotel and replace it with a grand 14 story neoclassical structure left many of Asheville’s residents…frustrated to say the least. Asheville native and author, Thomas Wolfe, described the new Battery Park Hotel in his book, You Can’t Go Home Again, writing: “It was being stamped out of the same mold, as if by some gigantic biscuit-cutter of hotels that had produced a thousand others like it all over the country.”
Tourists did not share this sentiment. They loved the grand hotel. Many famous people were guests including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Grace Kelly, Boris Karloff and O. Henry. Eventually, even Thomas Wolfe stayed at the Battery Park Hotel
The Battery Park Hotel is now the Battery Park Apartment Homes for seniors. The residents know the dark history of the former hotel and some shared with Asheville’s Mountain Xpress that they believe sprints of the past linger here on the 2nd floor where Helen Clevenger was murdered.
The 18 year old visited the city with her uncle while on a tour of the south. On the morning of July 16, 1936, Helen’s uncle knocked on the door of Helen’s Room (224). He knocked several times and didn’t get an answer. He turned the doorknob to find it was unlocked. As he entered Helen’s room, he saw his niece on the floor. Her night clothes covered in blood. Her once beautiful face almost unrecognizable.
The mystery of who killed the beautiful co-ed in Room 224 of The Battery Park Hotel gripped the nation. Who would murder this innocent young woman? And why?
The rush to find an answer, may have led to an innocent man being executed for the crime.
If you’re visiting Asheville soon, you should check out Joshua Warren’s Haunted Asheville Tours.
Experience the spookiest sites of downtown Asheville with your expert local guide. Enjoy hair-raising tales and dark history, then descend to the basement of the Asheville Masonic Temple to explore the Asheville Mystery Museum. Created & owned by Joshua P. Warren, this is Asheville’s original and ultimate ghost adventure!
“Virtues”, “Resolution”, “Piano”, Drone in D”, “Ossuary 6” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com); “I Am A Man” by Dan Lebowitz; “Not Alone” by Lee Rosevere Licensed under Creative Commons