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Dear Internet Visitor:
Welcome to Asheville, NC! Asheville and the surrounding area have long been known as a premier resort destination in the southeastern United States. Nestled between the scenic Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains in Western North Carolina, Asheville provides visitors with abundant natural beauty as well as historic and cultural diversity. Since the late 19th century, famous architects, landscape designers, and entrepreneurs have recognized Asheville as an area of great promise. Even millionaire George Vanderbilt was drawn to the magic of our mountains. Enthralled by the region's beauty, he constructed America's largest private residence, the Biltmore Estate, here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In the early part of the 20th century, Asheville's pristine environment and clean mountain air became known for its “healing” qualities. Tuberculosis hospitals and other places of healing brought many famous Americans to our city including Edwin Wiley Grove and George Willis Pack. Often times they fell in love with the mountains and the city and decided to stay. Much of their early influence can still be seen in the buildings and green spaces around our community including the Grove Park Inn and Pack Square.
Asheville and Buncombe County are fortunate to have retained many of our original historic places. We are proud of the diverse array of architectural styles that often amazes those not familiar with our city's history. Douglas Ellington, Raphael Guastavino, Richard Sharp Smith and other famous architects left their personal mark on this city that is called the "Paris of the South.”
The Asheville community has been blessed with an eclectic blend of cultures that provides us with a rich heritage. From the American Indian culture to a vibrant art and crafts community, Asheville provides visitors with a wealth of fulfilling experiences. Many of these cultures are evident in the architectural masterpieces that we would like to share with you.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy our tour of Asheville's architectural gems--some of the most famous resort and retreat locations in the world.
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in partnership with the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Thomas Wolfe House, North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite you to explore Asheville, North Carolina. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, Asheville is perhaps best known as the location of George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate and the home of major American novelist, Thomas Wolfe. Asheville is also a thriving and eclectic city, dubbed the “Paris of the South” in the early 1900s for establishing itself as an artisan city with unique style and architectural talent. This travel itinerary highlights 45 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that explore the development of Asheville and Buncombe County as an area of world-class resorts and mountain retreats.
Established in 1797 as the trading center and seat of the newly created Buncombe County, Asheville grew steadily through the 19th century. Following the arrival of a railroad connection in 1880, Asheville became increasingly cosmopolitan and grew rapidly as a tourist destination known for its beautiful natural setting and cool mountain air, a pleasant contrast to the unbearable summer heat of the lowlands. The clean mountain air was also believed to have healing qualities benefiting sufferers of consumption and other respiratory diseases, and numerous health retreats were established including the Ottari Sanitarium, Brexton Boarding House, Highland Hospital and the Oteen Veterans Administration Hospital. Asheville's growing reputation promoted the development of luxury inns, resorts and associated cottages such as the Manor and Cottages and Grove Park Inn. While staying at the original Battery Park Hotel, George Vanderbilt decided to build his Biltmore Estate here. To complement his manor house, Vanderbilt established an English-style manorial village surrounding the house, including All Souls Episcopal Church and Parish Hall, the Southern Railway Passenger Depot (Biltmore Depot) and the Biltmore Estate Office. The success of these retreats and the Biltmore Estate fostered the growth of Downtown Asheville, and many picturesque residential neighborhoods such as Chestnut Hill and Montford.
The Asheville, North Carolina, travel itinerary offers several ways to discover the places that reflect the city's history. Each highlighted site features a brief description of the place's historic significance, color photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to four essays that explain more about Asheville's Architecture, Resort Destination, Health Retreat and Preservation. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in the Asheville area, including the Grove Park Inn. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit the Asheville area in person.
Asheville, North Carolina, is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the Nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. Asheville, North Carolina, is the 35th National Register travel itinerary successfully created through such partnerships. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Asheville, North Carolina. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
Architecture There are nearly as many styles of architecture throughout the streets of Asheville as there are buildings. No doubt, Asheville was dubbed the “Paris of the South” in the early 1900s for establishing itself as an artisan city with unique style and architectural talent. Asheville has developed through a history of migration to the mountains of Western North Carolina. The variety of Asheville's architectural styles celebrate its past and illustrate a lasting structural image of the community's diversity. The earliest settlements known to this area were American Indian hunters who set up temporary villages throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. By the early 1800s, Colonial subsistence farmers had populated Asheville and developed more permanent residences of almost exclusively log construction, with the exception of a few brick buildings.
A new era of development and settlement came as a result of the construction of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1827. This road paved the way for a new stream of visitors to Western North Carolina and with them a new definition of style, fashion, quality and worldliness. The development of transportation systems facilitated Asheville's long and fascinating history of architectural development. In the years after the turnpike opened, businesses were established along the roadside; many built with durable materials like log construction and heavy-timber framing. The arrival of wealthy vacationing visitors brought more extravagant tastes and the ability to afford them. Summer tourists, especially landowners from South Carolina and Georgia, began to build their vacation homes in Western North Carolina. Greek Revival and Federal designs, commonly seen on southern plantations, were built true to their fashion but reflected the wilderness of the mountains.
Until the railroad arrived in 1880, Asheville was still a country village where farmland and forest found its way to the front step of the county courthouse. Asheville became the crossroads hub for the emergent railroad, and began to truly grow as an urban center, while Western North Carolina headed into an era of unprecedented development and prosperity. In the three years following the arrival of the first train, Asheville 's population nearly doubled. City residences, factories and buildings of all kinds were constructed with equal speed. In the late 19th century Asheville boomed as a new destination for well-to-do tourists who preferred modern style to rusticity. With the development of lodging like the original Battery Park Hotel and the Kenilworth Inn, both built in Queen Anne and Victorian vernacular styles, their desires were more than accommodated.
No desire was more lush and extravagant than that of George Washington Vanderbilt, who came to Asheville to erect his retreat-home on 125,000 acres, in what he called the Biltmore Estate. In 1889, architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead teamed up to design and construct the Biltmore House and grounds to rival any of the great French Chateaux that inspired it. With the success of his Biltmore Estate, Mr. Vanderbilt hired Hunt to construct a variety of buildings in the style of a manorial English village, including the All Souls Episcopal Church and Parish Hall, the Southern Railway Passenger Depot (Biltmore Depot) and the Biltmore Estate Office.
Following Hunt's death in 1895, Vanderbilt hired Hunt's supervising architect, Richard Sharp Smith, to continue the development of the manorial Biltmore Village with various public buildings, cottages and commercial buildings. These buildings echoed Hunt's template of brick, pebbledash (a type of stucco featuring coarse stone) and heavy timbers creating a recognizable “Biltmore Style” which became the pattern for Smith's signature style.
The legacy of the Biltmore House and its construction was the international attention it focused on Asheville and Buncombe County. Artisans and craftsmen from all over the United States and Europe came to Asheville to work for Vanderbilt, many of whom stayed and contributed their skills to other projects. One prominent artist who came to work on the Biltmore House was Spanish-born architect, Raphael Gaustavino. His most famous contribution in Asheville is the Church of St. Lawrence, featuring a self-supporting elliptical dome, 58 by 82 feet, perhaps the largest in America .
R. S. Smith continued to contribute to Asheville with numerous commercial, civic and religious buildings, including the Young Men's Institute Building and the African American Masonic Temple. Smith's most abundant contribution was in residential development. Entire blocks, streets and neighborhoods scattered throughout the Montford and Chestnut Hill Historic Districts were designed by Smith with his own customized use of the then popular Queen Anne style.
Much of the residential development in Asheville at this time illustrates styles with more grounded features and natural influences. The Arts and Crafts movement, which was inspired by nature, local materials and the expression of skill, thrived in Asheville. Exaggerated sloping roofs, big open porches, ornamentation that expressed craft over embellishment and an overall horizontal form are witnessed throughout the city, from a small one-bedroom bungalow to a grand resort hotel with 500 rooms.
Asheville's growing reputation as a health retreat promoted the development of luxury inns, resorts and associated cottages. During the 1890s, William Green Raoul, a leading railroad executive; Bradford Gilbert, a renowned architect in New York City; and Samuel Parsons, Jr., an important landscape architect, began construction of Albemarle Park, an assembly of inns and residences featuring the Manor along Charlotte Street. Over time, finely designed residences were built along this corridor with Neoclassical, Colonial Revival and Queen Anne features. In 1920 Raoul sold the Manor and Cottages to Asheville's next large investor, Edwin W. Grove.
Grove came to Asheville in 1900. With him he brought an idea for a grand yet rustic mountain-lodge, an inn built to resemble a lodge in Yellowstone Park. Grove began developing the surrounding Grove Park neighborhood at the foot of Sunset Mountain in 1907. By 1913, he had finished the construction of his Grove Park Inn, built of massive boulders reinforced by concrete and capped with a burnt-orange tiled roof. Grove purchased the surrounding area and sold it off for more residential development creating a stock of remarkable and fanciful dwellings, while the roads approaching Grove Park became the setting for a number of significant buildings.
In 1922, Grove announced plans to demolish the existing Battery Park Hotel and the prominent bluff it stood on called Battery Hill, and raise a grand tourist center in its place. Grove recruited Asheville architect, Charles N. Parker to level the hotel, lower the hill by 70 feet, and construct the Grove Arcade, a commercial shopping center in Neo-Tudor style with Gothic style details. Grove's death in 1927 halted the construction of a 19-story tower to top the shopping center, but not before the spectacular terra cotta arcade was completed, which housed one of America's first indoor shopping plazas. A new Battery Park Hotel was built on the leveled site.
The 1920s marked even stronger growth of Asheville as an urban center of government, commerce and tourism in Western North Carolina. More than 65 buildings were erected in downtown Asheville during the 1920s, including the Jackson, Kress and Flat Iron buildings. The visual contrast between rural Buncombe County and urban Asheville grew sharper during this period, and is permanently symbolized by Douglas Ellington's 1928 Art Deco City Hall and the conservative Neoclassical County Courthouse built the same year. The Art Deco movement in Asheville continued well into the middle of the century with the Federal Courthouse, the Wick & Greene building (originally a gas station) as well as Douglas Ellington's other works, including the Asheville High School, First Baptist Church and the S&W Cafeteria.
The Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s hit Asheville hard. Western North Carolina's largest bank, the Central Bank Trust Company, folded. Fortunes vanished, families lost their homes, and the city soon defaulted on its overwhelming debts. Rather than filing bankruptcy, the City of Asheville chose to pay off its debt, taking nearly 50 years to accomplish. Investment in new construction all but ceased. The absence of building activity in Asheville had the effect of preserving several buildings from the wrecking ball, enabling many to survive today.
The next 50 years witnessed slow but steady growth in Asheville. An emphasis on clean lines and simple form evolved in part from the area's stressed economy, but also in accordance to the change in national and international trends towards Modern architecture. Gradually, buildings were being constructed in styles reflecting the period fashion favoring streamlined curves and geometry over heavy ornamentation. At the forefront of this transition was Anthony Lord's 1939 Asheville Citizen Times Building. This era also produced Asheville 's tallest building, the 1964 BB&T Building and other prominent works including the I. M. Pei Building, the Wachovia Bank Building and the First Union Building.
Asheville is a city of rich architectural styles, ranging from Victorian to Arts and Crafts, from Art Deco to Modern design. Although still endearingly called the "Paris of the South” now and again, Asheville has matured as a unique destination in built landscape worthy of its own identity and acknowledgements. Asheville's diversity in architectural style reminds us of its distinct cultural upbringing, ever integrating the sophistication of modern styles with the charm of mountain life.
Historic Resources Commission, An Architect and His Time, Richard Sharp Smith. Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County, 1995.
Swaim, Doug. Cabins & Castles, The History Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina. City of Asheville-Buncombe County, Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1981.
The first visitors to Western North Carolina consisted of American Indians and early white settlers who used the area as a rendezvous and resting grounds. By the 1800s stockraisers in surrounding states, who were using Asheville as a passage and waystop for herds, forced the construction of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1827--opening the area to the outside world and sparking the construction of inns and taverns.
By the mid 1880s, wealthy visitors from South Carolina and Georgia had discovered Asheville's cool mountain air, a pleasant contrast to the unbearable summer heat of the lowlands. Health seekers also took note of Asheville's mild climate. The clean mountain air was believed to have healing benefit for sufferers of consumption and other respiratory diseases. The turnpike was pumping new wealth and activity into the area. Asheville's first hotel was the Alexander Hotel, owned and operated by James Mitchell Alexander, which sat upon the east side of the French Broad River attracting visitors from Cincinnati to Charleston. As more and more attention from Eastern North Carolina and the southern states was focused on Asheville for health and holiday, the area witnessed an early development of lodging and accommodations. James Patton, the developer and namesake of Asheville's first east-west road through what is today downtown Asheville, established the Eagle Hotel in the early 1820s a short distance from Pack Square. The Eagle Hotel was described as Asheville's first “luxury” hotel. At the same time, James M. Smith constructed the Buck Hotel of equal distinction, at the intersection of Broadway and College Street.
Through the period surrounding the Civil War Asheville witnessed slow but steady growth in its tourist industry, mainly appealing to an increasingly wealthy clientele. When the first train arrived in October 1880, bringing modern means of transporting people and freight, the city began to claim upwards of 50,000 visitors annually.
With increased visitors came an increased demand for places to stay. Hostels, boarding houses, hotels and luxury inns were erected at increasing speed. At the forefront of this building boom was the construction of the Grand Central Hotel, followed by the 1880 opening of the four-story brick Swannanoa Hotel boasting Asheville's first bathroom. Colonel Frank Coxe opened the first Battery Park Hotel in 1886. It covered a remarkable 25 acres atop what was known as Battery Park Hill. Col. Coxe foresaw the increase of winter and summer visitors and catered to the finest of tastes with daily music provided by an orchestra, ballroom dancing, fine cuisine, modern bathrooms and elevators.
In 1887, the original Battery Park Hotel was host to George W. Vanderbilt who fell in love with Asheville's enchanting beauty and the majestic mountains surrounding the area. It was then he decided to purchase the land to the south “as far as the eye could see,” resulting in an estate totaling 125,000 acres of land. It was here he built his 250-room country estate known today as the Biltmore Estate, America 's largest private home. His presence and love of the area broadcasted Asheville's reputation as a resort city worldwide. The construction of his massive, state-of-the-art home brought world-famous artisans, craftsmen and architects to Asheville.
With the influx of many skilled craftsmen and architects came the building of exquisite buildings and summer residences. Detailed inns with international influence were reflected in the original Kenilworth Inn, resting atop South Main Street (present day Biltmore Avenue ) and the Manor Cottages on Charlotte Street which was completed in 1900 as an English motif hostelry.
The City of Asheville began the modern means of advertising the area's appeal to visitors emphasizing not only the ideal summer and winter climate but also the plethora of activities for tourists and health seekers. These included luxury hotels, golf, horse trails, tour excursions, evening dancing, boating, picnicking, theater and outdoor movies just to name a few.
The period of 1910 to 1930 produced unprecedented growth for Asheville. The city's reputation as a tourist and health retreat attracted men of great vision and substantial wealth. By 1912 the city boasted 14 hotels including the Vanderbilt Hotel, present-day Vanderbilt Apartments on Haywood Street, the Langren Hotel and the Oakland Heights. In 1913, Edwin W. Grove opened the famous Grove Park Inn, which he and his workers constructed in less than one year, taking stone from the nearby Sunset Mountain for the entire building. Shortly after, Grove purchased the Battery Park Hotel, leveled it and the massive hill it stood on, and constructed a new Battery Park Hotel as well as the grand public market, the Grove Arcade.
Although the city witnessed a decline in development through the middle of the 20th century, beginning with the financial depression of the 1930s, Asheville remained a tourist destination. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps contributed significantly to the construction of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, creating much needed jobs in the area and designing a scenic byway leading tourists from as far as Northern Virginia straight into Asheville. The Biltmore Estate opened to the public in 1930 also encouraging visitors to Asheville to imagine for a day what it was like to live like a Vanderbilt. The Grove Park Inn was purchased and continued as a world class inn welcoming the likes of Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and eight U.S. Presidents. By the 1980s and 1990s, numerous residential homes, including historic landmarks like the Richmond Hill House and the O. B. Wright House, were converted into inns and bed & breakfasts to accommodate a growing renaissance in tourism throughout Western North Carolina.
Today, Asheville blends beautifully the desires of urban culture and rural arts, modern tastes and historic style, downtown entertainment and outdoor recreation, maintaining Asheville as a landmark for both health and holiday. Resorts and retreats are a mainstay for Asheville and the mountains of North Carolina. Truly the city's reputation as a place of unprecedented beauty and clean mountain resources were primary contributors to the rise of its popularity worldwide.
A long line of physicians came to Asheville, some to convalesce themselves, and ended up staying, building practices and promoting Asheville as a health retreat. From the late 1880s to the 1930s Asheville rose in prominence as a curative place for tuberculosis. Boarding houses just for those with this condition, such as the Brexton Boarding House, were abundant. It is notable that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tuberculosis was one of the foremost fatal diseases leading to fatalities.
In the 1870s, Asheville was a small town and not very accessible. Dr. H. P. Gatchell, one of the pioneers of treating tuberculosis in Asheville, published a pamphlet promoting the advantages of the Asheville climate for health seekers. It was entitled Western North Carolina--Its Agricultural Resources, Mineral Wealth, Climate, Salubrity and Scenery. Dr. Gatchell opened The Villa, a sanitarium exclusively for tuberculosis patients, in the area that is now the Kenilworth neighborhood. This was the first tuberculosis sanitarium in the United States preceding the Trudeau Sanitarium in New York.
After Gatchell's departure, Dr. Joseph Gleitsmann, a German born and trained doctor, arrived in Asheville to establish the Mountain Sanitarium for Pulmonary Diseases located on North Main Street (now Broadway Street). Gleitsmann systematically studied the United States and “selected Asheville as having an optimum combination of barometric pressure, temperature, humidity and sunlight” which he believed to be conducive to healing tuberculosis. Gleitsmann is credited with helping to establish Asheville as a center for tuberculosis treatment, not because of his sanitarium, but because of the many articles he wrote and talks he gave at medical gatherings promoting the benefits of the Asheville climate. His work was respected in medical circles and patients from all over the country were referred to him and the Asheville area as especially curative.
With the introduction of the railroad in 1880 and further connection to Knoxville in 1883, Asheville was suddenly a day's travel away from many cities on the East Coast and more accessible from the hot humid cities of the South. Tourists and health seekers alike came in hordes to Asheville, prompting the development of hotels, boarding houses and eventually more sanitaria. The area was promoted by business people of all types. One booklet entitled Asheville, Nature's Sanitarium described Asheville as the “mecca of the Southron [sic] as he flees from the mosquito, heat and malaria of the Southern Summer, and the Northerner as he shivers from the blizzards of the North and West.”
One of Asheville's greatest promoters was Dr. S. Westray Battle who came to Asheville in 1885 and turned out to be, perhaps, the most influential doctor to come to the area. Through his connections and reputation, many wealthy individuals and families came and ended up staying in Asheville. Among them was George Vanderbilt, who accompanied his ailing mother. While in Asheville, Vanderbilt fell in love with the area and returned to build his now famed Biltmore Estate. Edwin W. Grove also came to Asheville as one of Battle's patients and stayed on to build Grove Park Inn, the Grove Arcade and the Grove Park neighborhood. Battle himself was very involved in civic activities and established North Carolina's first chapter of the American Red Cross as well as being in the National Guard.
Dr. Karl Von Ruck, along with Battle, was very influential in creating Asheville as a center for tuberculosis care. Von Ruck arrived in Asheville in 1886 and opened the very successful Winyah Sanitarium two years later. In addition to treating tuberculosis patients, Von Ruck also studied the disease. After the discovery of tuberculin in 1890, the microbe that causes tuberculosis, Von Ruck focused his studies entirely on developing a vaccine. When Von Ruck's son, Silvio, joined him in 1902, Von Ruck was able to devote all of his time to his studies.
A long line of physicians came to study with Von Ruck and then moved on to open their own practices and sanitaria. These physicians became highly regarded tuberculosis specialists, further bolstering Asheville's reputation and function as a center for tuberculosis care. Physicians also came to Asheville who were associated with Battle and later became well known in their own right.
In 1900, there was only one sanitarium available, the Winyah, with 60 beds. The rest of the patients that came to Asheville stayed in boarding houses that had open air sleeping porches, thought to be necessary for recovery. Between 1900 and 1910, the number of sanitaria and boarding houses greatly increased. These sanitaria and boarding houses were usually on the outskirts of town, but as Asheville grew, they came to be within the city limits.
By 1930, Asheville bragged 20 tuberculosis specialists and 25 sanitaria with a total of 900 beds. But with the rise of state care and the depressed economy, the market for the private sanitaria had dwindled. The hospital at Oteen had a 1,000-bed sanitarium and provided care to veterans at no cost. In 1937, the State opened a sanitarium offering care at the rate of 50 cents to $1.50 a day, which was by far the cheapest care available. During the 1930s and 1940s the sanitaria and boarding houses for tuberculosis patients closed with just a few remaining into the 1950s. As antibiotic treatment was introduced in the late 1950s, sanitariums were rarely needed. Consequently Oteen was converted in 1959 to a pulmonary and cardiac surgery center and the Sanitarium in Swannanoa was converted to other uses as well.
Asheville is still a health center where people come for specialized treatment. Mission-St. Joseph's Hospital and the many specialists located nearby have made Asheville the prime medical center for Western North Carolina. Also, the Asheville area is considered to be the “New Age Mecca of the East” by many people. The area boasts many massage therapists, acupuncturists and other alternative health care practitioners. The impact of, the growth and development of sanitariums and the medical community between 1870 and 1930 is clear; Asheville attracted many people who ended up staying and contributing to its architecture, civic arena and its sense of place.
Scott, Cuthbert. “The Climatic and Health-Giving Advantages of Western North Carolina: A Historical Survey” Asheville Citizen, October 20, 1929.
Stephens, Irby. “Asheville; The Tuberculosis Era,” North Carolina Medical Journal September, Vol 46, no. 9. , 1985.
Contrary to the economic prosperity and growth of the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s devastated the lives of the people of Asheville. With a number of new public improvements, including a brand new City Hall, a 16-story County Courthouse, and the relocation of Pack Memorial Library, the stock market crash left Asheville with the highest per capita debt in the nation. Rather than file bankruptcy, Asheville's public leaders chose to pay every penny back. With a weary economy and public funds tied up in debt, Asheville's growth came to a standstill.
Despite Asheville's misfortune, the Depression era provided some advantage. Many of Asheville's buildings avoided demolition as the popular “urban renewal” of the 1950s and 1960s sought to replace the old and to build new in other cities. As the city and county diligently repaid its debt, Asheville lay dormant for almost 50 years with little new construction and only minor renovations including cladding original facades with metal and screen. The thinly veiled buildings awaited better fortune until 1976 when the city paid and ceremoniously burned its last bond.
Shortly following the city's repayment, the Asheville Revitalization Commission was created with the goal of revitalizing downtown. The Commission developed a plan called “A Revitalized Downtown,” for making downtown more livable and developing its strengths as an established neighborhood.
In 1979, the Strouse Greenberg Company proposed to build a shopping mall that would demolish and replace 11 blocks in the heart of downtown. The proposal was controversial and deeply divided the community. The project came to an end when a public referendum in November 1981 defeated it by a margin of two to one. The defeat served to galvanize the community and sparked renewed interest in Downtown revitalization and historic preservation.
Local organizations like the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County and the Downtown Commission, a City Council appointed board, provided the much needed leadership in local efforts to rehabilitate Asheville's abundant supply of historic buildings. The establishment of the Historic Resources Commission in 1979 was crucial in designating local historic districts with specific ordinances adopted to protect each district's buildings as well as the surrounding landscape. The designated local districts include the Montford Historic District, Biltmore Village Historic District and Albemarle Park.
The groundswell of interest in preservation and the success of downtown revitalization efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s supported a new trend in acquiring and renovating old buildings, especially those available for historic preservation tax credits. Asheville has since become one of the leading cities in the number of Federal and State historic preservation tax credit projects in North Carolina.
The promotion of heritage tourism has had tremendous success in drawing visitors to Asheville and Buncombe County and preserving historic buildings throughout the area. Numerous partnerships have formed to educate the public about historic preservation, to design tourism programs and to secure funding and lead often painstakingly detailed restoration projects that have all encouraged and preserved the area's unique sense of place. Collaborations between the public and private sectors have accomplished extensive restorations, preserving such important buildings as the Grove Arcade public market and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, which had attracted 30,000 visitors a year before it was damaged by fire in 1998. The state of North Carolina, owner and operator of this National Historic Landmark where American writer Thomas Wolfe once lived, spent six years and $2.4 million to meticulously restore it to its former grandeur, reopening the memorial in 2004.
Much of Asheville and Buncombe County's appeal is in the long history of architectural craftsmanship in the buildings, as well as the history of the people and lives that occupied the area. Asheville and Buncombe County have found historic preservation to be a useful economic and quality-of-life tool. Preservation has been able to stabilize property values and stimulate new investment in older residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. More than 80 buildings in Buncombe County have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and even more are included in locally registered historic districts. With increased tourism, commercial activity and improved appearance, Asheville is now in a new heyday nearly a century later; a renaissance fostered by the preservation of Asheville and Buncombe County's special built environment.
The Black Mountain College Historic District, currently known as Camp Rockmont for Boys, is located three miles from Black Mountain. Six hundred acres, a portion of the original tract, is primarily meadowlands of the Great Craggy Mountains, which is divided by a creek that feeds Lake Eden. The site was first developed in the early 1920s by E. W. Grove as an amusement center and included four summer lodges, a round stone house, a dining hall and two stone cottages. When the resort business dwindled, Black Mountain College purchased the property in 1937. Founded earlier in 1933 at the Blue Ridge Assembly, the college was established at its new site by 1941. The experimental Black Mountain College was internationally known for its modernist advancements in American art and education. The college faculty and students were leaders of the day and included architect A. Lawrence Kocher; composer John Cage; Bauhaus artist and professor Josef Albers; artists Willem and Elaine De Kooning, and Franz Kline; and poet Charles Olson.
The campus was enlarged with the construction of new buildings designed and built by the faculty and students, most notably the Studies Building, built in 1941 by Kocher. Initially, Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius was commissioned to design the building; however, the cost estimate far exceeded the college's budget. College President John Rice asked Kocher to design a more economical building. After consultation with Gropius, he planned a four-part facility that could be built in stages; only the first section was completed. Other buildings constructed for the college include the Jalowetz Cottage, Minimum House and Cabin 24/25, which are a notable collection of International Style architecture. Additionally, the faculty and students designed and built the farm buildings and Quiet House. After the outbreak of World War II, most of the male students and faculty left the campus, resulting in financial struggles and a change in the emphasis of study from visual to literary arts. By the 1950s, Black Mountain College, like many other experimental American institutions, struggled to exist. In 1957, the campus was sold to Camp Rockmont for Boys.
The Black Mountain College Historic District is visible from North Fork Rd., off old Rte. 70, three miles west of Black Mountain and 15 miles east of Asheville. For more information call 828-686-3885 or visit www.rockmont.com.
In-the-Oaks, located in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was originally built as the grand estate of Franklin Silas Terry and his wife, Lillian Estelle Slocomb Emerson. Historically spelled Intheoaks, the estate was named after the oak leaf in the Slocomb family coat of arms. In-the-Oaks was one of the last of the grand estates built between the coming of the railroad to western North Carolina in 1880 and the Great Depression. This was a period of building large, extravagant residences designed by some of America's most notable architects. Designed by the New York architect Frank E. Wallis, the estate was constructed between 1919 and 1921 and included more than 240,000 square feet. Built on 80 acres, the building cost was later placed at $600,000. A grand rambling two- and three-story mansion, the estate was "an authentic reproduction of a Tudor country manor." In 1923 New York architect Francis George Hasselman completed a large recreation wing, designed by Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith.
Franklin Terry was an industrial giant whose little Ansonia Electric Company surpassed others in the highly competitive market to extend the burning life of the light bulb. Terry ultimately became the first vice-president of the emerging General Electric Corporation and was a recognized leader in the electric industry until his death in 1926 at age 64. Following the death of Franklin Terry, his wife continued to live at the estate until her death in 1956. The Terrys' daughter, Mrs. Lillian Boscovitch, donated the property to the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1957. After receipt of the property, the church established Camp Henry for young people. The camp operated successfully for 39 years, hosting thousands of children for summer camp as well as private conferences for adults. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Andrew Young used the seclusion of In-the-Oaks for a leadership meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on January 20, 1967. Today, In-the-Oaks is owned by Montreat College and is a second church home to many North Carolina Episcopalians. The retreat is so popular that conference weekends are often reserved a year in advance.
In-the-Oaks is located off Hwy. 9 on Vance Ave. in Black Mountain, 15 miles east of Asheville. For more information call 828-669-8012 or visit the college's website.
The Blue Ridge Assembly Historic District is nestled in a beautiful cove between two heavily forested ridges of the Swannanoa Mountains, a range of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. The Assembly area is bordered by two swiftly flowing creeks that run parallel to each other. From this site, one has incomparable views of the Craggy and Black Mountain ranges to the north. Blue Ridge Assembly was founded in 1912, due largely to the efforts of Willis Duke Weatherford, author and humanitarian. Established as a training ground in religious education for the YMCA and many other organizations, the Assembly became one of the area's most important conference centers, assembly grounds and religious retreats at a time when Western North Carolina was gaining attention as a retreat mecca. It played a crucial role in the area's economic, educational and cultural development.
The historical core of the Blue Ridge Assembly Historic District consists of a large and impressive group of Colonial and Neoclassical buildings constructed between 1912 and 1930. Designed by Louis Jallade of New York, the most dominant building is Robert E. Lee Hall, a large three-story frame building with an octastyle portico rising its full height. Flanking this imposing hall are four porticoed, two-story frame buildings forming a large informal courtyard. Behind this group is a series of 19 cottages, most with porches and stone detail, arranged irregularly on serpentine access roads that are informally landscaped with flowering trees and shrubs indigenous to the area. Black Mountain College, famed for its immense contributions to progressive, innovative education, modern art and literature, was established here in 1933, but moved to its own location in 1941. Today, the Assembly is the second oldest conference center in the North Carolina Mountains and continues to serve the southeast as a hub for religious and educational activities.
Blue Ridge Assembly Historic District is located three miles southwest of Black Mountain on Blue Ridge Assembly Rd., 15 miles east of Asheville. It is not open to the public. For more information call 828-669-8422 or visit the Assembly's website.
The inn was described in an 1895 travel guide called Mountain Scenery as having "a fine view" and being "a cool, pleasant place in summer." Although the majority of pre-Civil War guests were from the Carolinas, guests from 14 other states and Ireland appear in the inn's register in the 1850s. After the Western North Carolina Railroad extended its line into Asheville, the inn saw a large increase in visitors from other areas of the country. Between 1880 and 1909, Sherrill's Inn hosted guests from 31 states as well as nine foreign countries. The inn hosted several well-known guests, including U.S. Representative Zebulon Baird Vance in 1859 (later North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator), former U.S. President Millard Fillmore in 1858 and Governor Andrew Johnson of Tennessee in 1859. Sherrill's Inn was operated by the Sherrill family until 1908.
Sherrill's Inn is situated on a hillside, surrounded by extensive landscaping which evokes a lush pastoral ambiance. The present large frame building incorporates two early log structures and subsequent additions. The inn is an excellent example of a saddle-bag log house with an exterior stair. The building has been raised to two stories and clad in weatherboard. Several Federal Revival style exterior features are the result of 20th-century renovations. The east shed room contains large murals depicting the history of the inn, painted in the early 20th century by the present owner's mother, Mrs. J. G. K. McClure. A number of supporting buildings of various ages surround the inn. These include a still-functioning stone spring house, a log meat-house, two rows of cottages and a large barn with a high pitched roof.
Sherrill's Inn is located in Fairview on U.S. Hwy. 74, 1.1 miles southeast of the junction with State Rd. 2813 and 15 miles east of Asheville. The house is privately owned and is not open to the public. Sherrill's Inn has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey
Methodism in the Reems Creek Valley of north central Buncombe County has a rich history dating to 1805. It was in that year that pioneer John Weaver, after hearing Bishop Francis Asbury preach nearby, built a log Methodist meeting house on a ridge overlooking his cabin and farm. Through succeeding generations this small band of believers flourished and new buildings were constructed in various locations throughout Weaverville to accommodate the growing congregation. From 1919 to 1920, the present Weaverville United Methodist Church was constructed on Main Street, becoming the fifth successive meeting facility of the congregation in Weaverville.
Plans to construct the present building began in 1917 shortly after the fourth Methodist Church, then located on Church Street, was struck by lightening and burned. Discussions concerning where to build a new church ensued--some favored rebuilding at the old site on Church Street while others wanted to relocate to a more prominent location on Main Street. On April 12, 1919, Charles R. Moore and his wife Louise conveyed a lot on Main Street to the trustees of the Weaverville Methodist Episcopal Church, for the purpose of constructing a new church building. Contractors Zebulon Vance Robinson and Douglas Conklin Roberts erected the building. The first services were held on Easter Sunday, 1920.
Weaverville United Methodist Church is a well preserved brick building reflecting influences of both the Gothic Revival and the Classical Revival styles. A belfry and steeple were added to the building in the mid-1950s, although a crack in the bell has caused it to hang silently for nearly half a century.
The most striking features of the church are the beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary. The first, and most significant, is the window on the south wall depicting the "Good Shepherd." Given to the church in 1920 by Louise Moore as a memorial to her deceased husband, the window was later discovered to be made of Tiffany glass. The other window, located on the north wall, was given by the Weaver family and depicts three biblical scenes: Jesus Knocking at the Door, The Sower of Seed, and The Good Samaritan.
Weaverville United Methodist Church is located at 85 North Main St. just opposite the intersection of Church St. in Weaverville. The congregation still worships in the building. Call 828-645-6721 for further information.
The Richmond Hill House is located northwest of Asheville on a bluff high above the French Broad River. The Victorian mansion was built in 1889 as the private residence of ambassador and congressman Richmond Pearson. Considered one of the most elegant and innovative buildings of its time, the house was designed by James G. Hill of Washington D.C., Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury in the 1870s and 1880s. The site of the estate, originally purchased by Richmond Pearson's father, was part of 820 acres inherited by Richmond Pearson and his four siblings.
By 1879, Pearson had spent nearly $3,000 purchasing his siblings' shares and held full title to the property. In 1882, Richmond married Gabrielle Thomas and a few years later, the couple moved to Asheville and decided to build a home on the estate. Despite being a 30 minute carriage ride away from Asheville, Richmond Hill was a center of social and political activity for many years. The Queen Anne style mansion could accommodate large gatherings and Richmond's beautiful and vivacious wife, Gabrielle, was a gracious hostess. After Richmond's death in 1923 and Gabrielle's death in 1924, the estate was left to their two children Marjorie Noel and James Thomas Pearson.
The house remained closed for nearly 27 years until Marjorie and Thomas returned, made some renovations and opened it to the public as a museum in 1953. Both Thomas and his father collected valuable objects from all over the world. These objects, combined with family heirlooms and antiques awed visitors to Richmond Hill, many of whom were conducted through the house by Thomas Pearson himself. Neither Marjorie nor Thomas ever married. Before Thomas's death in 1963, he and his sister sold the remaining Pearson property along the French Broad River, including 29 acres of the Richmond Hill tract, to developers of the Bingham Heights residential community. Following Marjorie's death in 1972, the Pearson family sold Richmond Hill to the Western North Carolina Baptist Retirement Home. After many years as a focal point in the community, the mansion faced demolition in 1978. In an effort to preserve and rehabilitate Richmond Hill, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County moved the house 600 feet from its original location in 1984, on land that was part of the original estate. The Mansion was reopened as an inn in 1989. In 2005, the inn was sold to William Gray who fell behind on his mortgage payments. The inn was subsequently foreclosed. The house was destroyed by a fire on March 19th 2009 due supposedly to arson. In February of 2010, the inn ceased operations and was demolished.
The Richmond Hill House is located at 87 Richmond Hill Dr. The inn is no longer available to the public since it was destroyed.
The Ottari Sanitarium was built by a prominent osteopathic physician, Dr. William Banks Meacham, in 1912. Osteopathy is a medical therapy that uses bone manipulation as a corrective technique. Dr. Meacham was a leader in his field. He held degrees from Mississippi College, Harvard and the Boston Institute of Osteopathy. He was elected president of the National Osteopathic Association in 1916, and was re-elected a year later in 1917. He held several offices in the North Carolina Osteopathic Association and the North Carolina Board of Osteopathic Examination and Registration.
By 1912, Asheville was already recognized as a health resort. For this reason Dr. Meacham chose to build his sanitarium in Asheville. It was to be "the finest private sanitarium ever built" with "persian rugs, silk draperies, mahogany furniture and a glass aquarium with fish." The Spanish-mission style building was constructed of brick, primarily covered in white stucco. The opulent luxury combined with state-of-the-art treatment made the sanitarium so successful, that Dr. Meacham added another 23 rooms in 1923. The older, eastern half of the building housed 18 rooms and suites, all with private porches. The 1923 addition enlarged the sanitarium to a total of 40 bedrooms, 35 baths and 30 porches. The appearance was altered as well. The porches were enclosed, new casement windows were installed, an automobile passageway was made in the west end, and the entire building was stuccoed. The roof of the new addition was flat with a mission style parapet. An annex north of the building housed the power plant, providing steam heat. Today the basement of the annex still contains the building's heating source, a boiler, but the upper half has been converted into living quarters and a laundry facility.
Like many people after the stock market crash of 1929, Dr. Meacham lost his property to the bank. After several bank failures, the property was transferred to the City of Asheville and the Buncombe County Commission. The building was converted into 33 apartments in 1937. Three years later, the building was sold to Harry Cutler Coburn and the name changed to The Coburn Apartments. Coburn died in 1948 and the property remained in the family until 2002. At that time, it was purchased by Denise and Bill Palas, who are continuing to operate it as a private apartment complex.
The Ottari Sanitarium is located at 491 Kimberly Ave. It is still a private apartment complex. Public access is permitted to the grounds only.
Biltmore Industries is associated with the lives, work and deals of Mr. and Mrs. George Vanderbilt and Fred L. Seely, all leading figures of 20th-century Asheville. The industries were established in 1901 under the patronage of George Vanderbilt and direction of his wife Edith, owners of the grand Biltmore Estate, to provide the youth of the Asheville area the opportunity "to become productive and useful citizens" through training in the creation of fine handmade crafts. The industries began in Biltmore Village with 12 young men and four years later, by 1905, had grown to 20 young men and women.
Woodworking was the initial focus of Biltmore Industries soon to be followed by the production of fine wool cloth. Woodworkers produced furniture such as the Windsor chair and made cabinets based on designs from pieces in the Vanderbilt's collection of Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Gothic and Chippendale furniture at the Biltmore House. Sheep were bred on the Biltmore Estate to provide wool for the Industries, wool that would eventually become famous for its quality and durability. George Vanderbilt passed away in 1914, and three years later Edith Vanderbilt sold the operation to Fred L. Seely, architect of the Grove Park Inn.
Seely began construction of seven buildings and shops adjacent to the Grove Park Inn that complimented its organic architecture. They form a compact grouping of cottage-like buildings with stuccoed walls, casement windows and broad sloping roofs that mimic those of the inn. The complex includes woodworking shops and facilities to handle all aspects of cloth production from receipt of raw wool to the retail sale of finished cloth. Seely further strived to accomplish Vanderbilt's goal of providing a good living for the members of the Industries together with an education in the traditional crafts. Common to all of the buildings is the presence of folk sayings, painted on walls or carved into doors or ceiling beams, which encourage the workers to give their best. Seely himself is quoted as saying, "Life without industry is guilt; industry without art is brutality."
Biltmore Industries' fame for quality wool fabric extended to the American presidents. Coolidge Red was designed specifically for Mrs. Calvin Coolidge; and Hoover Gray was especially for President Herbert Hoover. Additionally, President Franklin Roosevelt was particularly fond of the Industries white wool fabric. A massive weaving loom was presented as a gift to the Roosevelts and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the shops in 1934.
Though production has been cut back considerably over the past decades, Biltmore Industries still produces fine quality wool fabric using the original equipment and procedures established when the operation was moved to its present site in 1917. The Industries survive as a direct link to the Arts and Crafts movement of England and America during the 19th and early 20th centuries. With a renewed interest in handmade crafts, Biltmore Industries may again see a revival.
Biltmore Industries is located at 111 Grovewood Rd., adjacent to the Grove Park Inn. Today, the buildings house craft and furniture showrooms, an antique car museum, artist studios, an art gallery, weaving and spinning rooms and a restaurant. Several of the buildings are open to the public during normal business hours. For more information, call 828-253-7651 or visit www.grovewood.com.
The Grove Park Inn, built by Edwin Wiley Grove, is an earnest attempt to erect an honest building with no substitution of contemporary popular design for classic construction forms, all the more remarkable because an amateur architect designed it during an era of architectural pretension. Grove, owner of a pharmaceutical company manufacturing Bromo-Quinine, arrived in Asheville in 1900 and found the mild climate so much to his liking that he purchased a large tract of land on Sunset Mountain. Grove had the idea for a magnificent lodge, grand enough to mirror the majesty of the mountains that would provide its foundation. Grove's concept called for a building with the natural rough stone of the mountains surrounding the lodge. After finding that no local architects could grasp his concept, Grove entrusted his son-in-law, Fred L. Seely, to design the building. Seely had no formal training in architecture but undertook the project as both designer and contractor. The Grove Park Inn was completed in 11 months and 27 days and opened on July 1, 1913. The unusual and striking intimacy between the building and its natural environment is one of the factors of the continued success of the Grove Park Inn and perhaps the chief factor in its architectural significance.
The Inn was built in five sections that join end-to-end and step terrace-like along the mountain ridge. Native uncut granite boulders quarried from Sunset Mountain form the wall surfaces and chimneys of the inn. Grove himself ordered that "not a piece of stone was to be visible to the eye except it show the time-etched face given it by thousands of years of sun and rain that had beaten on it." The Grove Park Inn has enjoyed a long and colorful history with many distinguished guests including Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, F. Scott Fitzgerald and President Woodrow Wilson.
Federal agencies controlled the property from 1942 to 1946 during which time the State Department used the Inn as an internment center for Axis diplomats. Philippine government officials were in exile at this time and were also located in one of the guest cottages. The United States Navy has also used the Inn as a rest and rehabilitation center. Substantial renovations occurred in 1955 and additional wings were added to the Inn in 1958 and 1963. A major expansion, completed in February of 2001, added a spa to the grounds.
The Grove Park Inn is a resort and spa located at 290 Macon Ave., off of Charlotte St. For more information call 1-800-438-5800 or visit www.groveparkinn.com.
Grove Park Inn is a Historic Hotels of America member, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Dr. Carl Von Reynolds House, situated near the foot of Sunset Mountain in North Asheville, was built by Reynolds for his family in 1909. The imposing, porticoed residence was one of the first built in Proximity Park and is one of the best examples of the Neoclassical Revival period in the city. Dr. Reynolds served as the city health officer and later as a state health officer. He was a native of Asheville, descended on both lines from pioneer Buncombe County families. He was instrumental in the founding of the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Reynolds and his wife, Edith, lived in the house until 1920 when they sold it to the Grove Park School, a private institution founded in 1900 as the Asheville School for Girls.
During the 1920s, a classroom building was constructed adjacent to the house. In 1929, Drs. Laura and Lillian Plonk moved their Summer Workshop to Grove Park School. The Workshop stressed "speech, drama and living" and was affiliated with the Curry School of Expression in Boston. The Workshop had been located in several high schools in Asheville, but with its move to the Grove Park School, the name was changed to the Plonk School of Creative Arts. In 1941, the Plonk School moved and the house became the Albemarle Inn. The Inn attracted many celebrated guests including Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. Bartok completed his Third Concerto for Piano, also known as the Asheville Concerto, while residing at the Albemarle Inn. Today, the rehabilitated building continues to operate as a traditional inn, relying on its history in Asheville and its turn-of-the-century architecture to attract guests.
The Carl V. Reynolds House, now the Albemarle Inn, is located at 86 Edgemont Rd. off Charlotte St. It is open to the public; for further information contact the Inn at 1-800-621-7435 or visit www.albemarleinn.com.
This small, but unusual church in north Asheville incorporates both architectural and theological significance for the community. The church and its founding Vestry were a part of the “Oxford Movement” establishing the Anglo-Catholic church (the “High Church”), started in England 1833 and brought to North Carolina and the mountain region by Bishop Levi Silliman Ives in 1849. Reverend Charles Mercer Hall, a charismatic member of the Anglo-Catholic movement, came to Asheville in 1913 to recuperate from a respiratory ailment. When he arrived he was the pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church where he attracted enough parishioners to build St. Mary's Church.
St. Mary's was constructed in 1914 in a cruciform plan in an English Gothic Revival style, incorporating the “correct” ecclesiastical style of Edwardian Anglo-Catholicism. Both the interior and exterior elements of the building reflect the characteristics of Anglo-Catholic churches in England . The red brick church was built with a stone foundation and a steeply pitched gabled roof. The windows are pointed arches with leaded glass diamond panes. Prominent local architect Richard Sharp Smith designed the building and much of the interior furnishings. The rectory stands behind the church and was built in 1925, also designed by Smith. Chauncey Beadle, gardener at George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, developed the landscape plan.
St. Mary's is the only Anglo-Catholic church in North Carolina. The parish continues the tradition of hosting the many visitors aware of St. Mary's reputation. Grace Kelly and Charlton Heston worshipped here and noted author Gail Godwin, a parishioner of St. Mary's, incorporated the church and other Asheville environs in her novel, Father Melancholy's Daughter.
St. Mary's Church is located at 337 Charlotte St. at the intersection of Macon Ave., across from Grove Park . For more information call 828-254-5836.
The Manor and Cottages compose a picturesque small historic district, evocative of Asheville's dramatic turn-of-the-century resort town boom era. The Manor, a resort with an English inn atmosphere conceived by Thomas Wadley Raoul and his father William Greene Raoul, was begun in 1898 on a 32-acre tract of land acquired by the elder Raoul, a railroad magnate. To compete against the lucrative hotels and numerous boarding houses in Asheville, the Raoul family also developed a village of individually designed cottages adjoining the Manor, one of the Nation's earliest planned residential parks. Suffering from tuberculosis, Thomas Raoul moved to Asheville and oversaw the development of Albemarle Park, the dignified name his mother chose for the complex.
Much of the special qualities of the buildings erected between 1898 and 1920 comes from a remarkable palette of residential designs and their integration into the mountain landscape. Working in close collaboration with the Raouls, architect Bradford Gilbert created individually designed cottages that each bear a distinctive design reflecting the eclectic character of the Manor with various combinations of Shingle, Tudoresque, and Colonial Revival styles. Landscape architect Samuel Parsons, Jr. created a superbly planned landscape that takes maximum advantage of the natural mountain setting. Parsons found the site to a be a challenge, offering him opportunities to incorporate its rugged terrain, sweeping vistas, native stands of trees and woodland vegetation as character defining features. Albemarle Park was a groundbreaking achievement for its time because of Parsons's successful manipulation of slopes that averaged a 20 percent gradient. He approached the landscape design with a sensitivity to the property's natural beauty and worked to ensure that the overall effect be picturesque and provide each cottage with a "miniature park."
Gilbert was the logical choice to design the Manor, the lodge (gatehouse), and several of the early cottages because of his work with the senior Raoul on a number of railroad projects. Working with the Raouls allowed Gilbert the freedom to experiment with revival styles at the height of their popularity in the early 1900s. Galax and Rosebank, cottages of the Dutch Colonial Styles, use cantilevered gambrel roofs and wood shingles as siding and roof materials. An example of the half-timbered Tudor style is Clover cottage, which features pebbledash (stone-textured stucco) and pegged timbering. The Shingle style expressed the English concept in cottages like Milfoil, and is covered in wood shingles with heavy timber posts and bracketing. Several buildings call upon the romantic interpretation of the rustic Appalachian architecture, like Crow's Nest and Manzanita that use wood shingles, tree limbs for porch supports and details and rough stonework. The floor plans combine several sleeping rooms with one central living room. Kitchens and dining rooms were not needed, as the summer guests ate all their meals at the Manor. Additional residences were built during subsequent years for private use. While it cannot be determined exactly what buildings in Albemarle Park benefited from Gilbert's expertise after he designed the Manor Inn, a noticeable change in style can be detected after his death in 1911. Architect Neil Reed of Atlanta and Richard Sharp Smith, supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate, continued the pleasant European village atmosphere created by Gilbert and Parsons, with the same touch of the Romantic and Victorian era. Today, the Manor and Cottages district remains intact and survives as an example of the picturesque resort development so important to the history of the North Carolina Mountains. Through the years the cottages became year-round homes and the vacation resort grew into a residential neighborhood.
The Manor and Cottages are located off Charlotte St. on Cherokee, Terrace, Orchard, Canterbury, and Quarry rds., Orchard Pl., Banbury Cross and the Circle. The cottages are private residences and not open to the public. The Clubhouse and the Gatehouse accommodate commercial enterprises.
The Chestnut Hill Historic District is a compact late 19th- and early 20th-century residential neighborhood that began as the outskirts of frontier Asheville. Some buildings were erected in this area even before Asheville underwent its first growth spurt in the 1880s. The construction and population growth brought on by the railroad fostered the development of Chestnut Hill into a fine housing district. Far from being a neighborhood inhabited only by the wealthy, a variety of housing was built and servants and laborers resided here as well as businessmen, lawyers, teachers and other professionals. East Chestnut Street is a busy, tree-lined cross street bisecting the district, lined with large houses that represent the aray of nationally popular architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Respected architects R. S. Smith and J. A. Tennent contributed designs for many of the buildings, including the 1876 Courthouse (later the 1892 City Hall) conceived by the latter.
Chestnut Hill's atmosphere and architecture also attracted several famous names of the day, including Senator Jeter C. Pritchard (later appointed U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge) and State Attorney General Theodore Davidson. Enticed by Asheville's growing health retreat trend, Dr. Karl Von Ruck moved to 52 Albermarle Place and conducted research on tuberculosis at Winyah Sanatorium, located outside the neighbhorhood. Dr. Von Ruck's discovery of a tuberculosis vaccine and his scientific research brought much prestige to Chestnut Hill. During the 1920s, resident and nurse Anne O'Connell constructed another important building in Chestnut Hill--the Princess Anne Hotel at 301 E. Chestnut, which served families of patients at O'Connell's tuberculosis sanatorium. Chestnut Hill today is representative of the growth and development of the city of Asheville.
Chestnut Hill Historic District is roughly bounded by Hillside, Washington, Broad, and Orchard sts. and Merrimon Ave. The houses of the neighborhood are primarily private and not open to the public. Commercial businesses are open during normal operating hours.
The Karl Von Ruck House, home of an internationally known pioneer in pulmonary medicine, is associated with perhaps the greatest era in Asheville medicine. Dr. Von Ruck was a dedicated scientist, medical researcher and a believer in the "climate theory" of tuberculosis treatment. During the 19th century, tuberculosis was the most dreaded disease in the world and the leading cause of death in the United States. It flourished in the rapidly growing cities of the world but was relatively uncommon in the mountainous areas of the United States and Europe. When resting in the cool mountain air, patients began to gain strength and their lesions showed evidence of healing. Asheville offered the best combination of altitude, atmosphere and climate considered essential in the treatment of lung disease.
Von Ruck, who moved to Asheville in 1886, become one of the city's most remarkable physicians. In 1888, he opened the Winyah Sanitarium where he could treat patients and conduct research on lung disease. Fourteen years later, Von Ruck was joined by his only son, Silvio, who had also become a pulmonary disease specialist. In 1904, Von Ruck purchased 20 acres of land, including two sizeable frame houses. The larger of the two became the family home and was eventually connected to the smaller house by a two-story music room designed by Smith & Carrier, complete with 4,800 handmade organ pipes. This created a massive and elaborate residence of weatherboard, shingle and pebbledash, projecting bays, porte cochere and conical roofs. The interior of the Von Ruck house retains most of its original oak and mahogany detailing. The second floor retains Dr. Von Ruck's pharmaceutical glass-front cabinets lining the walls. Von Ruck occupied the house until his death in 1922.
Many notable physicians who studied under Dr. Karl Von Ruck became the famous "TB" specialists of Asheville, including Dr. Chase P. Ambler, Dr. William Leroy Dunn, Dr. Charles Launcelot Minor, and Dr. Martin Luther Stevens. These great physicians established Asheville as the outstanding tuberculosis treatment center in America.
The Karl Von Ruck House is located at 52 Albemarle Pl., off of Charlotte St., within the Chestnut Hill Historic District. The House is now apartments and not open to the public.
Built in 1905 for the estate of the late Captain Thomas D. Johnston, Belvedere was constructed as a residence for his daughter Eugenia. Johnston served as mayor of Asheville in 1869. In later years, the Captain was elected to the State legislature and State senate, and in 1884 was elected as a member of Congress. It is believed that Belvedere acquired its name from the 1929 Thomas Wolfe novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Prominent architect Richard Sharp Smith designed Belvedere and several other houses in the neighborhood. Smith was also responsible for overseeing construction of the Biltmore House and designed several buildings on that estate as well. The picturesque multi-gabled two-story frame house features European style architecture including pebbledash wall surfaces, multi-paned windows, half timbering and a projecting bay window.
Between the years of World War I and the Great Depression, Belvedere was sold many times as the fortunes of the elite dwindled. In 1932, the home was auctioned off on the steps of the Buncombe County Courthouse. More than 50 years ago William Henry Ward and his wife, Nellie, purchased the home. After the death of her husband in 1955, Nellie, who was active in the Asheville Tourist Association, continued to operate Belvedere as a boarding house. Belvedere operated as one of the last of Asheville's old-style tourist homes. Most of the buildings of this type had either become bed and breakfasts or had been converted to rental apartments. Today, Belvedere serves tourists and residents alike as a rejuvenating spa.
Belvedere is located at 73 Merrimon Ave., in the Chestnut Hill Historic District. The house is now operated as a spa. Appointments can be made at The Secret Spa & Salon by calling 828.225.3222 or visiting their website.
The three-story Princess Anne Hotel was built by registered nurse Anne O'Connell in 1922. The hotel played an important role in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Asheville was known as the Nation's most famous location for the treatment of tuberculosis and the hotel was located in close proximity to the home of Dr. Karl Von Ruck, the world-renowned tuberculosis specialist. The motto of the hotel management was "Comfort First" as the accommodations catered to the families of patients that resided in O'Connell's tuberculosis sanatorium, which she owned on Baird Street. According to long-time resident Edith Holmes, O'Connell was remembered as having long red hair and "her head was set on her shoulders perfectly beautifully and her patients called her Princess Anne." O'Connell ran the hotel for several years before selling it in 1929.
The Princess Anne was operated as a hotel by various owners until 1945 when it became an annex to Appalachian Hall Psychiatric Hospital. In 1947 it reopened as a hotel and since 1957 has specialized in retirement accommodations. During its years as a boarding house the hotel was advertised as "gracious living for senior citizens, wholesome well-balanced meals" with "beds that refresh, food that pleases." Every room featured a private bath and phone. One of the hotel's most recent and notable residents was activist Florence Ryan. Ryan spent most of her life committed to voter education and registration and fighting for women's equality. In 1985, Ryan was honored by the North Carolina Council on the Status of Women and was the recipient of a "Distinguished Women of NC" award. At age 97, Ryan was active with the League of Women Voters in Buncombe County and drove fellow senior citizens from her apartment to the polls, and continued to do so until her death in 1994 at age 99. In 1995, the Hotel was sold once again to the Maharishi Ayer-Ved University of North Carolina, founded by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought transcendental meditation to the United States and was the famed spiritual leader of the Beatles. The Princess Anne Hotel was completely renovated in 2005 and is now a 16-room inn.
The Princess Anne Hotel is located at 301 E. Chestnut Ave., within the Chestnut Hill Historic District. For more information on lodging, please contact the inn at www.princessannehotel.com or call 828-252-0515.
Few neighborhoods express the rich architectural heritage and vitality of Asheville better than the Montford Historic District. During an era of remarkable growth in Asheville and in an environment of a few powerful individuals with enormous personal wealth, Montford grew as a residential neighborhood for middle-class people. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, architects and the retired all came home to Montford. The origin of the name Montford is unknown. An area of about 300 acres, Montford was a tiny sovereign community just north of Asheville center consisting of about 50 people. James E. Rumbough became the first and only mayor of the autonomous village of Montford when it was incorporated in 1893. The creation of the neighborhood as we know it today was shaped by the development group called the Asheville Loan, Construction, and Improvement Company, chartered in 1889. However, it was not until lumber industrialist, philanthropist and benefactor George Willis Pack took over and rehabilitated the failing business that Montford became a prominent residential development.
Montford retains more than 600 buildings, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920, and includes a variety of architectural influences reflecting the cosmopolitan character of Asheville during the turn of the 20th century. Victorian, Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts styles combined with Neoclassical, Colonial Revival and castle-like motifs, result in an overall complex quality of designs and artistic talent throughout the neighborhood. Asheville architect and supervising architect of the Biltmore House Richard Sharp Smith produced numerous residential homes in Montford. Smith's preference for pebbledash, shingles, high-pitched roofs and heavy stone foundations contributed to an overall form for the neighborhood. Even with the variety of designs throughout Montford, consistent patterns and use of materials like shingles, stucco, pebbledash and half-timbering comprise a cohesive Montford impression.
Montford's history has largely been residential; however the neighborhood maintained a mixed use of several boarding houses and sanitaria for tuberculosis, mental disorders and other ailments. As a destination for meditation, retreat and personal health, Montford has matured with a significant stock of charming bed and breakfast inns with beautifully landscaped gardens, large sleeping porches and finely detailed rooms. Also home to Asheville's Riverside Cemetery, Montford is the final resting place for authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter (better known as O. Henry) as well as Confederate General Robert B. Vance and North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, among others.
Together, the houses in Montford and the neighborhood's many uses reflect the variety and vitality of Asheville during one of its most exciting periods of growth. Montford was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and in 1981 the Asheville City Council designated Montford as a local historic district. Montford's success has been fostered by its proximity to Asheville's city center. The district is located an easy walk or bike ride from downtown.
The Montford Area Historic District is located off Montford Ave,. roughly bounded by I-240, I-26 and Broadway Ave. The houses of the district are private residences and not open to the public. The commercial buildings that house stores are open during normal business hours. Visit the Montford neighborhood's website for further information.
Though predominantly a single family residential neighborhood, land use in Montford has been mixed since the earliest days of development. A number of establishments from boarding houses to public schools to a city cemetery have appeared throughout the neighborhood. Several small, private clinics and hospitals for tuberculosis and other ailments were also established. Best known of these was Highland Hospital, originally known as "Dr. Carroll's Sanatorium," founded by Dr. Robert S. Carroll, a distinguished psychiatrist. His program of treatment for mental and nervous disorders and addictions was based on exercise, diet and occupational therapy, and attracted patients from all over the country. The hospital was relocated from downtown Asheville to the northern end of Montford Avenue in 1909, and was officially named Highland Hospital in 1912.
The campus included landscaped grounds for patients to recover through means of "diversion" and "productive occupation." A variety of buildings built in Georgian Colonial, Norman and Arts and Crafts styles housed the patients and the facilities, most of which still stand today including Highland Hall. The campus also included Dr. Carroll's home at 19 Zillicoa Street, known as Homewood. Dr. Carroll's wife and world-renowned concert pianist Grace Potter Carroll, ran a music school at their house from which she gave lessons and held performances for many years. Among her students was Nina Simone, a nationally known jazz musician herself. In 1939, Dr. Carroll entrusted the hospital to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University. It was during this time that on the night of March 10, 1948, a deadly fire broke out in the main building and took the lives of nine women. Among the victims was author Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Duke owned the property until the 1980s and today the complex functions as an office park and shopping plaza.
Highland Hospital is located along Zillicoa St. on the western edge of the Montford Area Historic District. The grounds currently house commercial enterprises; stores are open during normal business hours.
The O. B. Wright House is located in the Montford community in Asheville and was built around the turn of the 20th century for Osella B. and Leva D. Wright. It is one of Asheville's best surviving examples of a Colonial Revival-influenced, Queen Anne style residence. Queen Anne architecture is characterized by irregularity of shape, plan, texture and color. These irregularities are combined in the O. B. Wright house to produce an unpretentious, yet gracious and formal residence. The enriched style of decoration includes multiple gables, slate roofs, Doric-columned porches, spindle trimming and other decorative detailing. The O. B. Wright property has maintained much of its original appearance and adds to the dramatic mix of architecture in the surrounding neighborhood. Though not mentioned in the National Register nomination, a companion carriage house is located adjacent to the main house and was used to shelter the horse and carriage for the home's first residents. Its main section is one room wide and two rooms deep.
The Wrights were the proprietors of a leather goods shop, the Carolina Carriage House, on Patton Avenue. In 1913 the family sold their property and home on Pearson Drive and Watauga Street to attorney and State Senator Julius C. Martin and his wife, Emily Helen Martin. On the same day, the Martins sold back a portion of the property to Leva Wright. From 1914, only Leva Wright is listed in the city directory. Local sources report that she took in boarders during the following years, although probably on a "word-of-mouth" basis. The property was once fondly known by local residents as "Faded Glory." Leva Wright died in 1945 and the property changed hands several times before being rehabilitated in the late 1980s for use as a bed and breakfast inn. The Wright Inn and Carriage House continues to provide hospitality to travelers visiting Asheville.
The O. B. Wright House, now the Wright Inn and Carriage House, is located at 235 Pearson Dr. within the Montfort Area Historic District. The grounds are open to the public and visitors may contact the inn for reservations by calling 1-800-552-5724 or by visiting www.wrightinn.com.
The Riverside Cemetery encompasses 87 acres of rolling hills and flower gardens overlooking the French Broad River. To answer the growing need for burial grounds, the Asheville Cemetery Company bought land in 1885 to establish what was first called the Asheville Cemetery and later renamed the Riverside Cemetery. The City of Asheville adopted the cemetery in 1952. It is still an active cemetery with more than 13,000 people buried here, 9000 monuments and 12 family mausoleums. Many of the graves in Riverside contain remains which were removed from other burial grounds and reinterred here. Once inside the large iron gates, you may take a self-guided walking tour through ancient oak, poplar, dogwood and ginkgo trees.
Riverside is the burial place of noted authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry. You can learn about Confederate generals James Martin, Robert B. Vance and Thomas Clingman. Some of the names recorded in Riverside Cemetery are those of the city's most prominent citizens: Jeter C. Pritchard, T. S. Morrison, Thomas Patton, and Zebulon B. Vance. Individuals of note interred at Riverside Cemetery include: Isacc Dickson, the first African American to be appointed to an Asheville City School Board; Quenn Carson, Asheville's first female public school principal; George Masa, a Japanese photographer who documented much of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was integral in the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park; James H. Posey, a bodyguard to Abraham Lincoln; and the remains of 18 German sailors from WWI. Riverside Cemetery is maintained by the City of Asheville, Parks and Recreation Department and has been designated a Buncombe County Treasure Tree Preserve.
Riverside Cemetery is located along Birch St. off Pearson Dr. within the Montford Area Historic District. Visitors are welcome 8:00am to 8:00pm during daylight savings time, and until 6:00pm the rest of the year. Self-guided tour packets are available at Riverside Cemetery office Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm. For information visit the City of Asheville's Parks and Recreation Department website or call 828-350-2066.
With the arrival of the railroad, tourism boomed as thousands of visitors boarded trains to Asheville's region for a restful stay in the cool of the mountains. Some came to spend the entire season and built ever more elaborate summer residences. But thousands more could now come by train to enjoy a few days or weeks in a furnished boarding house. Many families expanded their homes or built especially spacious dwellings to accommodate summer boarders. Women, who extended their domestic skill into the new marketplace, usually ran such enterprises.
There were several boarding houses located throughout the Montford residential neighborhood, one of which was located at 33 Starnes Avenue. Constructed to accommodate tourists c. 1895, this three-and-one-half story vernacular Queen Anne style dwelling has symmetrical massing with pitched pressed-metal roofs and notable "half-timbered" gables. Its first known name was "The Brexton," which had been run by various women during the first decade of its operation. In 1906, St. Joseph's Hospital operated a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients out of the building, run by the Sisters of Mercy. During the time the hospital owned the house, it added sleeping porches and two engaged three-story porches to the building. These porches provided plenty of sunlight and soothing mountain air, believed to provide tuberculosis patients with natural therapeutic medicine.
After 1910 the building began serving tourists again as a boarding house under several names such as "The Willard." In 1924, the boarding house turned into the "Osborne Apartments," as more single tourists were looking for year-round occupancy. The house remains an apartment building with 11 units, each retaining its historic "therapeutic" porches.
The Brexton Boarding House is located at 33 Starnes Ave., off of Broadway St., within the Montford Area Historic District. The house is now apartments and is not open to the public.
When it was dedicated on March 6, 1927, the First Baptist Church embodied the distinctive style of its architect, Douglas Ellington, who incorporated traditional Beaux-Arts planning, the stark forms of early Christian church architecture, and fashionably modern Art Deco details in the new church. Ellington's building was the fifth house of worship for First Baptist Church since its organization in 1829. Membership grew from 37 in 1874 to approximately 1,500 in early the 1920s. The new church complex provided seating for 2,000 in the main sanctuary and space for another 3,000 in the surrounding educational buildings.
A slightly bellcast dome capped by a copper cupola sits atop the octagonal main auditorium and a full height hectacstyle portico greets visitors at the entrance. Although the outward form of the church is generally Neoclassical, the decorative patterns and surface ornament reflect the Art Deco style, which became popular in the 1920s. The primary exterior materials, brick and marble, are composed in a variety of patterns and low relief planes that enrich the wall surfaces with variations of texture and color. Terra cotta molding forms alternating bands of chevrons and nail head designs, while geometric star patterns set in low relief panels accentuate the entrance doors. The large, open sanctuary is richly detailed with geometric stars, stylized floral and feather motifs, diamond-shaped panels and abstract diagonal fretwork.
Reverend Robert J. Bateman, pastor of First Baptist Church during the building campaign, noted in The Southern Tourist (September 1926) that the church was "located in perhaps the most strategic point in the Southern Baptist Convention territory, Asheville the tourist city, where thousands of people from all over the country gather each year." He went on to express his pleasure with the new facility, which he described as "a magnificent church of rare architecture, and one in which the denomination as a whole may feel a pardonable pride." He also emphasized that the "elegant simplicity and practicability" of Ellington's design would impress "the throngs, passing that corner, with a silent Gospel message."
First Baptist Church is located at 5 Oak St. at the northeast corner of Oak and Woodfin sts. Visitors are welcome. Services are held Sundays at 8:30am and 11:00am. For further information, visit the church's website or call 828-252-4781.
Established in 1797 as the trading center and seat of the newly created Buncombe County, Asheville (then called Morristown) grew steadily through the 19th century as the economic and government center of western North Carolina. Following the arrival of the railroad in 1880, Asheville became increasingly cosmopolitan and grew rapidly as a tourist destination known for its beautiful natural setting and its first class resorts and health facilities. Downtown Asheville also developed rapidly through the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it experienced a sustained boom in population and real estate speculation that ended with the failure of the Central Bank and Trust Company, Asheville's largest financial institution, at the onset of the Great Depression.
The central business district and associated governmental and institutional areas comprise the core of the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The commercial buildings primarily date from the end of the 19th century to the 1940s along with several churches from the same period and 1920s governmental buildings. The downtown buildings range from small, one-story buildings to modest skyscrapers, and incorporate representative examples of popular architectural styles including Romanesque Revival, late Victorian, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Georgian, Classical Revival and Art Deco. Also within the district are three public spaces: Pack Square, City-County Plaza and Pritchard Park.
The architectural development of Asheville represents a layering of different building periods as bits and pieces of earlier fabric have survived each subsequent redevelopment. The oldest surviving building in the downtown area is the former Ravenscroft School, built as a residence in 1840. The finest late 19th-century building is the boldly detailed, Romanesque Revival style Drhumor Building constructed in 1895. The downtown district contains many early 20th-century examples of the work of prominent local architect Richard Sharp Smith, whose distinctive style lends much to the character of Asheville's architectural heritage. The 1920s period is represented by a large collection of fine buildings by prominent local and national architects culminating with Douglas Ellington's idiomatic Art Deco masterpieces: the City Building and the jewel-like S&W Cafeteria.
The Downtown Asheville Historic District encompasses the finest collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century urban architecture in North Carolina. With increasing preservation awareness and the availability of rehabilitation tax credits, downtown Asheville has enjoyed a striking resurgence over the past decade with a cultural diversity and social vibrancy to complement its rich architectural heritage.
The Downtown Asheville Historic District is roughly bounded by 1240 Valley St., Hilliard Ave., and Broad Ave. For more information travelers can visit the Chamber of Commerce's website or stop in the Asheville Visitor Center, at 151 Haywood St. (exit 4-C off of I-240), open Monday-Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday-Sunday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, with extended hours in October on Friday & Saturday until 7:00pm; closed on major holidays.
Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), an architect and builder of Spanish origin, came to Asheville to work on the Biltmore House in the mid-1890s. After completing his work at Biltmore, Guastavino settled in nearby Black Mountain. He soon declared the city needed a bigger Catholic church and with the help of friend and architect Richard Sharp Smith began planning an opulent testament to the local Catholic community's faith. Construction on the basilica began in 1905 and was completed in 1909 by Raphael Guastavino, Jr. after his father died in 1908. The senior Guastavino is interred in a niche in the church.
Guastavino was credited with the revival of an ancient tile and mortar building system that had been practiced in the Catalan region of his native Spain. This method used layers of thin tile bedded in layers of mortar to create curved horizontal surfaces. By 1900 Guastavino successfully transferred his patented building method to the United States and worked with the Nation's leading architects.
The Spanish Renaissance Revival style Church of St. Lawrence contains no beams of wood or steel in the entire building; all walls, floors, ceilings and pillars are of tile or other masonry materials. The center dome, which has a clear span of 58 by 82 feet, is reputed to be the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America. The roof is tile with a copper covering. Special interior features of the basilica include a Spanish woodcarving dating from the mid-17th century that represents Jesus, Mary, and St. John at the Crucifixion; a 17th-century painting of "The Visitation" by Massimo Stanzione; stained glass windows taken from the church building formerly on this site; and 10 semicircular windows made in Munich, Germany, which depict scenes from the life of Jesus.
The Church of Saint Lawrence is located 97 Haywood St. The church is open to the public. Please call 828-252-6042 or visit www.massintransit.com/nc/stlawrence1-nc for information on tours and services.
The 14-story Battery Park Hotel stands as an architectural and historic monument to Asheville's tourism and development boom of the 1920s. The hotel was erected in 1924 by Edwin W. Grove "as a capstone of his excavation and leveling of Battery Porter Hill." The new hotel replaced a previous Queen Anne style hotel of the same name that was constructed in 1886 (pictured in the graphic at the top of the page). Local folklore states that from the porch of the original Battery Park Hotel, George Vanderbilt first gazed on the towering peaks and lands that he resolved to purchase and make his home.
The hotel designed by W. L. Stoddard of New York, was built with reinforced concrete, faced with brick, limestone and terra cotta trim with a Mission Revival style roof. The design of the Battery Park Hotel is representative of eclectic 1920s hotel architecture. Thomas Wolfe, author and native son, decried the brick hotel's accented style of Neoclassical and Spanish romanticism as "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." Though critics missed the old hotel, the new 220-room hotel was designed to feature the very latest in modern conveniences. A roof dining area, lounge and open terraces provided breath-taking views of the city and surrounding mountain vistas.
The hotel continued in operation until 1972. During the 1980s, the Asheville Housing Authority, a private developer, converted the old hotel into apartments for senior citizens. Today, Battery Park continues to stand as a sentinel over the downtown.
The Battery Park Hotel is located at 1 Battle Sq. at the corner of O. Henry St. The building houses businesses on the first level that are open during normal operating hours; upper level apartments are closed to the public.
Dr. Edwin Wiley Grove envisioned the Arcade Building, built between 1926 and 1929, as a massive commercial mall with covered pedestrian thoroughfares and rooftop terraces surmounted by a skyscraper tower. It was the most ambitious project conceived by Grove, a wealthy patent medicine manufacturer, real estate developer and major benefactor of the city. Grove graded and cleared a site for his new building in front of the new Battery Park Hotel and hired architect Charles N. Parker to design it. Parker had worked for prominent local architect Richard Sharp Smith and later Smith & Carrier Architects (1904-1918) in Asheville before setting up his own practice. Construction paused when Grove died, but continued under Walter P. Taylor, who completed the arcade portion of the building, but with the stock market crash, chose not to construct the intended tower.
The elaborate, Tudoresque building occupies a full city block with glazed terra cotta covering its reinforced concrete and steel structure. Deep barrel vaults form the major entrances, located at the center of each elevation, while a series of ramps to the roof terraces flank the main entrance at the north of the building. The two interior corridors intersect beneath the foundations of a tower that was planned but never built and form an octagonal space. Handsome wooden storefronts with similar Tudor Gothic Revival style details and cantilevered bronze stairs finish the interior. From the time it first opened until 1942, the Arcade was a booming commercial center for downtown Asheville.
During WWII the Arcade Building was occupied and modified by the Federal government and eventually housed the National Climatic Data Center until the 1990s. In 1985, under a Mayor's Taskforce, city leaders began negotiating a deal to restore the Arcade to its original commercial use. After undergoing extensive renovations, the Grove Arcade reopened in 2002 as a public market with several restaurants, fresh and prepared food vendors and mountain craft shops.
The Arcade Building is located at 1 Page Ave. and occupies a full city block bounded by Page, Battery Park and O'Henry aves. and Battle Sq. The building is open to the public during operating hours of individual businesses. For further information visit www.grovearcade.com.
Inside the building, "no expense was spared to make it modern in every detail." The building included two elevators; one for passengers and one for freight. The task-specific rooms included: retiring rooms, club rooms, office of secretary, visitor's room, porter's room, janitor's room, private dining room, kitchen and kitchenette, main dining room, pool room, card room, reading room, conference room and a lodge room with a stage. In addition, there were 19 bedrooms with communal bathrooms at the end of each hall on the third and fourth floors for visiting lodge members. A dumb waiter serviced all floors including the roof top garden and an early 20th-century phone system connected all rooms of the building.
The building underwent several incarnations through the end of the 20th century. In 1931, the building was remodeled and renamed the Asheville Hotel and was highly regarded for its attractive lobby with handsome finishes. In 1957, the building was converted into a downtown department store. In the mid-1990s, the building was renovated again to house retail establishments on the Haywood Street level and a restaurant on the Walnut Street level. The upper floors were converted into private condominiums.
The Asheville Hotel Building is located on the corner of Haywood and Walnut sts. and is part of the Downtown Asheville Historic District . The individual businesses located in the building are open during normal business hours. One of the businesses, Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, has a website at www.malaprops.com/NASApp/store/
The Ancient Free and Accepted Mason is a fraternal order with a worldwide membership, thought to have arisen from practicing stone masons and cathedral builders in the early Middle Ages. The lodge, first formed in early 18th-century England, is the basic organizational unit. Philadelphia Lodge, formed in 1730, is the oldest Masonic lodge in the United States. The Mount Hermon Masonic Lodge of Asheville was chartered on December 13, 1848, with 107 members, and counted numerous civic and political leaders among them. The lodge had no formal meeting place for more than 50 years until 1909, when the 500 members passed a resolution to acquire a site for the Masonic Temple.
The local architectural firm of Smith & Carrier designed all the fraternal organizations in Asheville, including the Elks Home, Eagles Home and the Asheville Club. The Masonic Temple, designed in 1913 and occupied in 1915, is the only fraternal building that retains its original use. Fronting on Broadway, the striking edifice features robust brickwork and is dominated by a tall portico of paired Ionic columns and a three-story, blind arched window on its Woodfin Street side. The first floor includes offices, fireproof vaults for Masonic records, lodge rooms, banquet hall, massive fireplaces and columns of iron. The second and third floors are used for gatherings of the Masons and the Scottish Rite.
In the years following the completion of the Temple, Mount Hermon Lodge realized Asheville was becoming a health resort, and a committee of doctors suggested that sojourning sick brethren be given attention, which led to the foundation of Asheville's Good Samaritan Mission. The Lodge set an example for the Mission in 1918, during the terrible Spanish influenza that swept through the country, when the members turned over their entire lodge as a hospital for ailing African Americans in Buncombe County.
The year 1920 marked the temple's highest membership with 800 members, which led to the formation of new lodges. As the oldest fraternal organization in western North Carolina, the Mount Hermon Lodge was instrumental in the creation of 40 other Masonic temples in the region.
The Masonic Temple is located at 80 Broadway St., at the corner of Woodfin Ave.,within the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The building is not open to the public.
Thomas Wolfe left an indelible mark on American letters. His mother's boardinghouse, now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, has become one of literature's most famous landmarks. He composed many passages and created many characters based on boyhood remembrances experienced in this house. In his epic autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe immortalized the rambling Victorian building as "Dixieland"--but originally called "Old Kentucky Home." A classic of American literature, Look Homeward, Angel has never gone out of print since its publication in 1929, keeping interest in Wolfe alive and attracting visitors to the setting for this great novel. The sprawling frame Queen Anne-influenced house was originally only six or seven rooms with a front and rear porch when prosperous Asheville banker Erwin E. Sluder constructed it in 1883. By 1889 massive additions had more than doubled the size of the original house, but the architecture changed little over the next 27 years.
In Look Homeward, Angel Thomas Wolfe accurately remembered the house he moved to in 1906 as a "big cheaply constructed frame house of 18 or 20 drafty, high-ceilinged rooms." Wolfe lived here until 1916, when he entered the University of North Carolina. In 1916 Wolfe's mother, Julia Westall Wolfe, enlarged and modernized the house, adding electricity, additional indoor plumbing, and 11 rooms. Julia did not operate the boardinghouse out of any financial necessity. Thomas Wolfe's father, W. O. Wolfe, could well afford to support the family with the earnings of the tombstone shop he owned and operated on Asheville's city square. But Julia, a former teacher, had an obsession for the real estate market and used her profits to buy more property. Descendants remembered Julia, a shrewd and uncompromising businesswoman, as a "driver of hard bargains."
Thomas Wolfe was perhaps the most overtly autobiographical of this Nation's major novelists. His boyhood in the boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street colored his work and influenced the rest of his life. His reminiscences were so frank and realistic that Look Homeward, Angel was banned from Asheville's public library for more than seven years when first printed. Today, Wolfe is celebrated as one of Asheville's most famous citizens, and his boyhood home has become a part of the Nation's literary history.
The Thomas Wolfe House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 48 Spruce St. in downtown Asheville. The Visitor Center is located at 52 North Market St. and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call 828-253-8304 or visit www.wolfememorial.com.
The public square has been a central feature of Asheville since the town's creation in 1797. The county court ordered that lands for a public square be procured in the "most convenient and interesting" place. Lying at the intersection of ancient trading paths, the site chosen encompassed the important existing public and commercial buildings of the young town and established, in essence, a focal point for Asheville's future growth.
The city as a whole and the square in particular benefited from the generosity of George W. Pack, who offered property for a new courthouse on the condition that the former site become part of the public square, and donated two-thirds of the cost for a monument to Buncombe County native and Civil War governor Zebulon Baird Vance. Local architect Richard Sharp Smith designed the Vance Monument, erected in 1896. The new courthouse (no longer standing) was completed in 1903, and in an expression of civic gratitude, municipal authorities renamed the newly enlarged square in Pack's honor.
The earliest surviving buildings on the square occupy the southwest side and date from the 1890s. This group of buildings, which include examples of the Romanesque Revival style, suffered extensive damage following a fire in 1895 and most were subsequently rebuilt and enlarged. The three-story brick building with a projecting corbelled cornice known as the Adler Building at 9 Pack Square anchors the corner and adjoins the former Western Hotel, which is capped by a richly ornamented pressed metal cornice.
Along the south side of the square, a fine collection of early 20th-century commercial buildings survive including the Neo-Classical Commerce Building (1904) and the reinforced concrete Legal Building (1909) designed by Smith and Carrier in the Renaissance Revival style. In 1925, New York architect Edward L. Tilton designed the former Pack Memorial Library also in the Renaissance Revival style. Ronald Greene's unusual eight-story Neo-Spanish Romanesque style building for prominent builder and businessman William H. Westall is superceded visually by the adjacent 13-story Jackson Building, also designed by Greene. Real estate developer L. B. Jackson commissioned the Neo-Gothic style skyscraper--the first in western North Carolina--to promote his faith in the continued strength of the 1920s local real estate market. Fitted with a searchlight to draw tourists to the city, the Jackson Building has been a visual landmark since its completion.
Pack Square has evolved and expanded over the years, yet still remains the symbolic center of Asheville. Although dating later than the defined period of significance for the Downtown Asheville Historic District, two distinctive modern buildings also border Pack Square: an 18-story steel-frame skyscraper (1964-1965) clad in bronze colored anodized aluminum and glass in the style of Modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, and I. M. Pei's concrete and glass office block (1978-1980).
Pack Square is located at the intersection of Patton, Biltmore and Broadway aves. in the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The square is host to numerous festivals and free activities throughout the year. Government buildings, museums, restaurant and businesses are open to the public. Hours of operation and admission vary accordingly. For information on the revitalization of Pack Square visit www.packsquare.com.
Asheville's courthouse, completed in 1928, is one of the most extravagent courthouses in North Carolina. In 1792, after its founding, Buncombe County built its first courthouse in what was then known as Morristown, renamed Asheville in 1797. Several log and brick courthouses were constructed during the 19th century including substantial buildings of 1877 and 1903. By 1923, with the rapid growth of the county and Asheville, county court officials proclaimed that a new courthouse was "imperative and essential."
City planning authority John Nolen recommended the development of a "civic center" as an extension of Pack Square in his 1922 plan for Asheville. City and county officials endorsed the idea of a uniform civic center with paired buildings, but when the city began advancing a scheme designed by architect Douglas Ellington, a rift arose between the two commissions. Whether because of stylistic conservatism or Ellington's lack of experience, the County Commissioners, led by chairman Edgar M. Lyda, selected the Washington, D.C. firm of Milburn, Heister & Company to design the new courthouse in December 1926. The firm enjoyed a national reputation for quality work in public buildings across the southeast. Although founder Frank Pierce Milburn died in September 1926, his son, Thomas Y. Milburn, succeeded him as president with little effect on the firm's operations.
The Courthouse is Milburn's most opulently finished public building. The building's complex setbacks, window groupings and overlay of Neo-Classical Revival ornamentation result in a distinctive building from this period, when courthouses were characterized by simple massing and conservative classical elements. The interior lobby contains a sweeping marble staircase, bronze and glass screens, a coffered ceiling with ornate plasterwork and a mosaic tile floor that echoes the ceiling's tones. The lobby is one of the best-preserved and most elegant Neo-Classical interiors in the state.
Initially estimated at $1,000,000, the final cost ran closer to $1,750,000, and the removal of the old courthouse required another $65,000. The Angle-Blackford Company of Greensboro, North Carolina, served as the general contractors. Upon completion in 1928, the 17-story building was the tallest local government building in North Carolina.
The Buncombe County Courthouse is located at 60 Court Sq. It is open weekdays 8:00am to 6:00pm. For further information, please visit the Buncombe County Commissioners Office website or call 828-250-4001.
The Asheville City Building is a colorful, massive and eclectic Art Deco masterpiece. Douglas D. Ellington, an architect who came to Asheville in the mid-1920s, designed the eight-story building, which was completed in 1928. Originally proposed as part of a joint City-County Plaza development, the City Hall represents the progressive aspirations of the city in the 1920s. City officials proceeded with Ellington's design even though municipal and county officials failed to agree on a common architect and mode of design. Ellington designed other Asheville landmarks including First Baptist Church, Asheville High School, and the S & W Cafeteria. Ellington stated that the design was "an evolution of the desire that the contours of the building should reflect the mountain background," referring to the amazing scenery that surrounds Asheville and serves as the backdrop of City Hall.
Ellington chose building materials that presented a "transition in color paralleling the natural clay-pink shades of the local Asheville soil." The unusual octagonal roof is covered with bands of elongated triangular terra cotta red tiles. Between the two levels of the roof are angular pink Georgia marble piers between which are precise vertical rows of ornamental green and gold feather motifs. The interior of the building is designed in a manner typical of 1920s office buildings--the central core contains public elevators and an enclosed staircase while offices lie along the perimeter of each floor. The second floor houses the distinctive City Manager's Office and City Council Chambers, both decorated in Neo-Georgian fashion. The interior of the council chambers features murals by New York artist Clifford Addams that portray the story of the American Indians and early white settlers in the area. City Hall has changed little since the 1920s and still captivates residents and visitors alike with its bold and colorful style.
Asheville City Hall is located at 70 Court Plaza. It houses the Office of the Mayor and other city department and is open to the public during regular business hours, 8:30am to 5:00pm, weekdays. Visitors may view City Council Chambers by making a request in the Mayor's Office at 828-259-5600 or through the city's website.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a handsome redbrick late Victorian Gothic church, is home to one of Asheville's largest congreations of African Americans. In the spring of 1880, Reverend Robert Parker Rumley established a new African American Baptist church in Asheville, nine blocks west of the current church. Shortly after Reverend Rumley established the church, he and the charter members invited Reverend Frederick Brown from Greenville, South Carolina, to conduct a revival. Until the time of his arrival, the members had not decided on a name for their new church, but during the revival Reverend Brown said, "I will call this church Mount Zion because I have never known a Mount Zion that did not thrive." Reverend Rumley was deeply religious; he preached on Pack Square as well as three church services to capacity crowds every Sunday. Thomas Wolfe's short story "Child by Tiger" draws upon Reverend Rumley's rich and colorful sermons. After 17 years of service, Reverend Rumley left Mount Zion. However, he secured the services of a talented young minister, Reverend Jacob Robert Nelson. In 1919, the new pastor moved his congregation to the heart of the black commercial district.
The church was built in 1919 by the Miller Construction Company, which specialized in the construction of churches and commercial buildings such as Hopkins Chapel, Saint James AME, the Municipal Building and several buildings on the north side of Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville. James Vester Miller, a master mason and the son of a former slave, worked for some of the best contractors in Asheville before starting his own company, Miller and Sons Construction Company. Miller and his company built the church, which rises two and one-half stories from the stone foundation to a tin-shingled roof where three towers are topped by ornamental sheet-metal finials. The large number of Art Glass windows that ornament the towers and walls is a remarkable feature. The massive church bears a cornerstone reading, "Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Rebuilt 1919, Reverend J.R. Nelson, Pastor," reflecting the building's long history and importance to the community.
Mount Zion Baptist Church is located at 47 Eagle St., near the intersection of S. Spruce St., southeast of Pack Square in the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The church is open to the public. For more information call 828-252-0515.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area surrounding the Young Men's Institute (YMI) was the center of the business district for Asheville's African Americans. George Vanderbilt built the YMI in 1893 to serve as the equivalent of the YMCA for black men and boys who helped construct his palatial house during the 1890s. Many of these masons, carpenters, plasterers and laborers also built the YMI.
Local architect Richard Sharp Smith designed the YMI building using a simplified English Tudor Cottage style similar to many of the buildings in Biltmore Village and buildings on the Biltmore Estate. The prominent architectural features shared by the Biltmore Estate, Biltmore Village and the YMI are pebble-dashed walls, red brick quoin trim, multi-pane windows and hipped roofs.
It was Vanderbilt's vision that the building's users would buy the YMI building from profits earned by the stores and offices on the first floor. After much effort on the part of the African American community, the Vanderbilt estate was paid $10,000 for the building in 1906. The multi-use building was the center for social activity in the community where it supported professional offices, a public library and the YMI Orchestra. While the YMI flourished during segregation, integration signaled a new era in the country and the YMI ceased to be the focal point of social life for Asheville's African Americans. Following a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s, a coalition of nine black churches, with the support of both the black and white communities, bought the YMI in 1980. The building was restored and reestablished as the YMI Cultural Center. Since 1981, the YMI Cultural Center has developed a variety of cultural programs and exhibitions of art and artifacts from Asheville to Africa preserving the heritage of African Americans in Buncombe County.
The Young Men's Institute Building is located at the corner of South Market and Eagle sts., south of downtown Asheville's Pack Square. The exhibit rooms are open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. Donations are accepted. For further information visit the Cultural Center's website or call 828-252-4614.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area south of Pack Square was the center of the black business district, complete with doctors, lawyers, restaurants, a drug store, boarding house, library and the Young Men's Institute. Brick buildings had replaced frame ones around the turn of the century, and 42-44 South Market Street is the earliest brick building (built in 1891) in the Downtown Area Historic District. At first glance the circular limestone panel in the stepped parapet indicates that the building was built in 1926. In actuality, the front façade is a 1926 alteration to a much older building constructed for A. M. Gilmer Carriage Works in 1891.
Housing many different uses over the years, the building was home to one of the community's most important institutions, the African American Masonic Temple. The third floor retains the auditorium and raised platforms used in ceremonies from 1912 to 1951. In 1775 15 African American men of Boston, Massachusetts, organized the "Africa Lodge," the first African American Masonic Lodge in the Nation. By the turn of the 20th century, North America had a membership of 39,253 black masons, including the members of Asheville Lodge, #367.
Today, the building continues to serve the Asheville community. Recently, it was renovated, using the Federal historic preservation tax incentives for the rehabilitation of a certified historic structure. An African American owned restaurant is located on the first floor. The second and third floors will be rehabilitated for office and residential uses.
The African American Masonic Temple is located at 42-44 S. Market St., within the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The first floor now houses a restaurant open to the public, Monday-Saturday. For more information call 828-225-3031.
Since the mid-19th century, Church Street has been home to a number of congregations that chose to locate south of Patton Avenue. The Central United Methodist Church met in a frame building beginning in 1837, but the current building was not erected until 1902. Designed by Richard H. Hunt of Tennessee and built by James Madison Westall, the imposing limestone church presents Romanesque Revival style massing and forms, but the detailing more closely reflects the Gothic Revival style. A five-bay loggia, set between two pinnacled towers, fronts the large, gable-roofed auditorium. A Sunday School building was added in 1968 in a complementary style.
Trinity Episcopal Church stands on the southeastern corner of Church and Aston streets. Nationally known architect Bertram Goodhue of the New York-based firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson designed the building in 1912. The Tudor Gothic Revival style brick building with granite trim features a simple, gable-roofed sanctuary with transepts and a short corner tower. The interior opens to an attractive hammer beam ceiling and panel tracery fills the stained glass windows. A compatible parish house and hall were added later around the church.
In 1884, the leaders of First Presbyterian Church commissioned a new building to serve the growing congregation and to provide space for the increasing number of tourists who visited Asheville each summer. The Gothic Revival style brick nave and tower feature deep-corbelled cornices, hood-molded windows and blind arcading at the eaves. Built at a cost of $8,000, the new church could accommodate 600 worshipers. As the congregation has continued to grow steadily, so has the church building been renovated and enlarged over the years.
The cross-plan Christian Church, whose tin-shingled roof is still visible from the street, is now enclosed within the walls of the Swannanoa Cleaners, located at 22 Church Street. The church building was converted to a laundry in 1891, and architect William Dodge designed the current façade, which was added c. 1940.
The Churches of Church Street are all within the Downtown Asheville Historic District. Central United Methodist Church is located at 27 Church St. and is open to the public Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Worship services are Saturdays at 6:00pm, Sundays at 8:45am and 11:00am For more information call 828-253-3316 or visit www.centralumc.org (large groups please call in advance). First Presbyterian Church is located at 40 Church St. Worship services August through June are 8:45am in the Campbell Chapel and 10:55am in the Sanctuary and June to August 10:55am in the Sanctuary. For more information call 828-253-1431 or visit www.fpcasheville.org. Trinity Episcopal Church is located at 60 Church St. For more information call 828-253-9361 or visit www.trinityasheville.org.
St. Matthias Episcopal Church stands at the top of a steep hill in an area of central Asheville known locally as "East End," one of the oldest neighborhoods developed by African Americans in the city. Reverend Jarvis Buxton, a noted Episcopal rector who organized the first Episcopal congregation for free blacks in North Carolina in 1832, founded the original Trinity Chapel in Asheville for newly freed slaves in 1865. By 1896, the church outgrew the small chapel and St. Matthias was built to accommodate the growing congregation. Today, the church continues to serve as the place of worship for St. Matthias parishioners.
The church is a Gothic-style building constructed in a cruciform plan with a gable roof nave. The brick walls are laid with a darker shade of headers presenting a horizontal texture to the building's surface on every face. The nave is four bays deep with the division of each bay marked by buttresses. Centered on each bay is a lancet arch window on a stone sill, topped by a brick hoodmold. The church interior contains a rich display of well maintained dark woodwork fashioned in various Gothic motifs. The walls are white plaster over a wainscot of narrow vertical sheathing. The roof is supported by a heavy timber truss system, incorporating collar beams and braces. Sawn ornamental cusping is inserted between the framing members and the ceiling is a dark wood sheathing. The pulpit, lectern, altar and other furnishings are all original to the church and are decorated with trefoil arch panels, quatrefoil incisions and other Gothic elements. The interior woodwork is considered to be the most sophisticated of any church in the area built during the latter part of the 19th century.
St. Matthias Episcopal Church is located at One Dundee St. near the intersection of Grail St. on a prominent hill east of S. Charlotte St. in Asheville. Tours are available and can be arranged by calling 828-285-0033.
Built in 1927, the Bledsoe Building is the largest building along Haywood Road, the main commercial corridor of West Asheville in the area of town west of the French Broad River. West Asheville had once been a separate town that developed along Haywood Road, which served as the main western turnpike from Asheville into Haywood County and further west during the mid-19th century. West Asheville was incorporated in 1889, but its charter was repealed in 1897 for reasons that remain unclear. The town was incorporated again in 1913, and was annexed into the City of Asheville on June 9, 1917, on a referendum that passed by only eight votes, indicating the desire by many to keep the area autonomous. Even today, West Asheville remains a distinct community within the City of Asheville, with its own businesses and residential neighborhoods.
By 1910, trolley service had arrived in West Asheville, with streetcar lines running from downtown Asheville west to the 700 block of Haywood Road. Some commercial buildings were constructed in the 1910s and Haywood Road was paved in 1914, but the largest period of commercial growth occurred during the 1920s. Haywood Road became the center of community life for the western section of Asheville. Architects, surveyors, real estate agents, garages, barbers, bankers, physicians, building suppliers, restaurants, dressmakers, cleaners, photographers and bakers were among the many types of businesses, professions and services that lined Haywood Road. According to Asheville city directories, the Bledsoe Building was once occupied by plumbers, groceries, bakeries, beauty parlors, cafes, pharmacists, realty offices, furniture stores and dentists.
James T. Bledsoe, owner of JT Bledsoe & Company, a real estate and insurance firm, built the Bledsoe Building during the height of the commercial development of Haywood Road. Designed in a utilitarian Commercial style, considered a reaction to the more ornate Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styles, the Bledsoe Building was erected as a two-story freestanding brick building with a modest pattern work of brick corbelling to divide the floors and form the cornice and a central parapet roofline.
The Bledsoe Building has undergone recent renovations and has once again rejuvenated Haywood Road with a natural foods grocery store, retail shops, restaurants and professional services. With its commanding size and central location along this corridor, the Bledsoe Building has been a catalyst for reinvestment and a commercial hub for the West Asheville community.
The Bledsoe Building is located on the north side of Haywood Rd. at the intersection of Mildred Ave. The businesses in the building are open during normal operating hours, including the Haywood Road Market online at www.onhaywood.com/HaywoodRdMarket .
The Smith-McDowell House is one of the finest ante-bellum constructions in western North Carolina and Asheville's oldest brick residence. Situated on a portion of a land grant issued to Colonel Daniel Smith after the Revolutionary War, the c. 1840 Smith-McDowell House was built by Smith's son, James McConnell Smith. James Smith, born June 14, 1787, was the first child of European parents born west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. He was also one of the wealthiest landowners in the county during the early part of the 19th century and one of the leading businessmen of pre-Civil War Asheville and Buncombe County. In addition to building and operating a toll bridge over the French Broad River, he owned and operated a tannery, a mercantile business and the Buck Hotel in downtown Asheville. In 1849 Smith served as the second mayor of the City of Asheville. After his death, Smith's daughter, Sarah Lucinda, and her husband, William Wallace McDowell, lived in the house until 1880. McDowell was a banker and planter who served as a major during the Civil War, and the couple raised nine children while living here.
The three-story brick house was designed and built as a five-bay mansion in Adamesque and Federal styles. The double-tiered front porch provides a vista of the mountain ranges to the southeast. The interior of the house contains much of the original Greek Revival woodwork. By 1910, the house had been sold, and the new owners secured the architectural services of Smith & Carrier Architects to design additions and modifications to the house and hired the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead to design a landscape plan for the property.
The house remained a residence until it was converted to a school in 1951. The Western North Carolina Historical Association leased the house in 1974, and it was restored over a six-year period, reopening to the public as a house museum in 1981. Areas of the house have been restored to reflect different periods of the evolution and renovations made to this magnificent building.
The Smith-McDowell House is located on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and is operated by the Western North Carolina Historical Association, Inc. It is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm year-round, and April-December also on Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. There is fee for admission. For more information call 828-253-9231 or visit the museum's website.
George Washington Vanderbilt's vision for his Biltmore Estate was not limited to his grand mansion, but included a picturesque, manorial village that would serve as an ornament of the landscape and solve the practical problem of housing estate workers and servants. The architect of the Biltmore Estate, Richard Morris Hunt, was also responsible for three of the architecturally significant buildings of the Biltmore Village, including the Estate Office, constructed from 1894 to 1895. As early as 1893, the need had already arisen for a management office for Vanderbilt's massive estate. Hunt employed his Biltmore vernacular style of brick and pebbledash walls and red clay tiled roofs in his design of the Estate Office. The handsome one-and-one-half story building features prominent half-timbered dormers on each elevation and a large engaged porch across the front which faces the Plaza. Fine carved wood trim enhances the building.
In addition to housing the office for estate manager Charles McNamee, the Estate Office also served as the office for Vanderbilt's Biltmore Village rental properties. When the estate was officially opened to the public in 1930, tickets were purchased from this location. Later in the 1930s the estate office was sold to the Asheville Fire Department, and garages for the fire trucks were accommodated behind the office. In the 1970s, Biltmore Estate repurchased the building and it currently houses the offices of the Biltmore Company.
The Biltmore Estate Office is located at 10 Biltmore Plaza on the corner of Lodge St. within the Biltmore Village Multiple Resource Area. It is not open to the public.
The village of Best, named for owner of the Western North Carolina Railroad ,William J. Best, was the location of Asheville's first railway station with its initiation October 3, 1880. Railway passengers traveling to Asheville and surrounding areas used the small depot in Best for 15 years, until George W. Vanderbilt purchased the small town as the site for his Biltmore Estate and surrounding village. The small, undistinguished station was replaced with a symmetrical, one-story depot with half-timbered pebbledash walls and a brick foundation, designed by Richard Morris Hunt. A central porte cochere, low-hipped roof, wide overhanging eaves and heavy, chamfered brackets distinguish the exterior. The depot, along with Hunt's other designs in the village, stands in striking contrast to Hunt's more monumental efforts, such as the Biltmore Estate.
The arrangement of the interior is typical of small railway stations of the period. Double waiting rooms, one originally for whites on the right and a smaller one formerly for African Americans on the left, are separated by a center ticket office and vestibule. The depot's placement is directly in the line of sight of All Souls Church, so passengers arriving by train had an impressive view of the church. This central axis was the focus for Biltmore Village. Passenger service on the impressive Southern Railway line continued to arrive in Biltmore Village until August 1975. Today, the building serves visitors as a restaurant and lounge.
Southern Railway Passenger Depot is located on Brook St., across from the Plaza, within the Biltmore Village Multiple Resource Area. The restaurant is open 11:00am to 11:00pm, daily. For more information call 828-277-7651.
The All Souls Church and Parish Hall, sanctified in 1896, are at the pivot point of Biltmore Village's fan-shaped plan, opposite the train depot and tapered plaza, so passengers arriving by train had an exaggerated perspective view of the church. The powerfully composed and beautifully detailed church was one of architect Richard Morris Hunt's last works before his death in 1895. All Souls, one of three buildings designed by Hunt in Biltmore Village, is also Hunt's only surviving intact church. The exceptionally fine Romanesque Revival church exemplifies Hunt's idea that the short-nave, Greek cross offered a better church plan than the more usual, long-nave, Latin cross, for it allowed all the congregation to see and hear the service. The compact edifice features a square tower rising at the crossing, transepts, a boldly curving apse, pebbledash wall surfaces, brick and wood trim and expansive tile roofs. The Parish Hall features the same materials as the church, but its design is considerably different. The one-and-one-half story building exhibits a hipped roof with wide eaves, dramatic dormers and trefoil trim, and a high brick foundation wall. In 1954, a portion of Swan Street was closed and a one-story classroom wing was built which joined the Parish Hall to the church, creating an asymmetrical courtyard. Vanderbilt selected the brass electroliers and lectern to complement the pulpit, altar and choir stall furnishings designed by Hunt. The stained glass windows were designed and executed by D. Maitland Armstrong and his daughter, Helen, of New York City. Additional windows were installed in the mid-1990s.
The All Souls Episcopal Church and Parish Hall are located on 2 Angle St., at the corner of Hwy. 25 (Hendersonville Rd.), within the Biltmore Village Multiple Resource Area. A docent is available during visitors' hours, Monday-Saturday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. For more information call 828-274-2681 or visit the church's website.
Shortly after All Soul's Parish was established in 1896, George W. Vanderbilt gave the land and contributed handsomely to the endowment of the Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital, incorporated on June 13, 1900. The hospital was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, architect of most of the buildings in Biltmore Village, at a cost of $75,000. The one-and-one-half story stucco building with casement windows, molded details, shingles and dormers was built as a memorial to a cousin of Vanderbilt's and as a mission of the church. Vanderbilt took the responsibility of all costs and expenses incurred in construction and maintenance. Originally built for minor care for 10 patients, it was soon enlarged in 1902 by architect W. H. Lord with the addition of a ward and operating rooms. One former resident of the Biltmore Village recalled that it was "light and airy, and the beds were not too close together." Another wing designed by Lord was added in 1916 raising the bed capacity to 50. In 1919, the hospital received its independence from church jurisdiction and its name became Biltmore Hospital. A devastating fire in 1921 destroyed the main portion of the hospital leaving only the wings.
A major change in Biltmore Village came with the construction of a large new hospital adjacent to the remaining wings. Begun in September 1929, the new hospital was designed by Douglas Ellington, an important Asheville architect who created a number of the city's notable Art-Deco landmarks including City Hall, First Baptist Church and S&W Cafeteria. When the second building was constructed, the original hospital wing, which had previously served as the obsetrics and gynecological ward was used as the nurse's dormitory and later a nursing school. In 1947 the hospital merged with Asheville's Mission Hospital, and finally closed its doors in 1951. The Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital has since housed offices and a series of nursing homes. Current plans call for the building to be converted into condominiums.
The Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital is located on an extension of Angle St., within the Biltmore Village Multiple Resource Area. The building is closed to the public.
George W. Vanderbilt, youngest son of William H. Vanderbilt and grandson of "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, enjoyed visiting western North Carolina for its mild climate and spectacular scenery. During a visit in the mid-1880s, Vanderbilt was inspired by a view from Downtown Asheville so spectacular that he purchased 125,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains for his summer estate. His legacy is the Biltmore Estate, embodying his vision as well as that of architect Richard Morris Hunt, supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
The centerpiece is the Biltmore House, a four-story French Renaissance manor designed by Hunt and completed in 1895. Exterior walls are Indiana limestone brought by rail to the site. Its steeply pitched roof has a copper roofline with Vanderbilt's initials repeatedly inscribed along the crest. Said to be the largest private house in the United States, the interior floor area of the 250-room house covers four acres. It was designed as a country retreat for Vanderbilt, his family and friends, and to showcase his vast collection of art and antiques gathered in world travels--a collection that remains intact today. At a time when bathrooms were virtually unheard of, Biltmore House had 43. There are 65 fireplaces and three kitchens, along with 34 bedrooms, a grand Banquet Hall and a Library containing 10,000 volumes. Frederick Law Olmsted designed the three-mile approach road and the estate's gardens including the Walled Garden, an Azalea Garden with one of the country's most complete collections of native and hybrid azaleas, a formal Italian Garden and a glass Conservatory.Included on the estate's present 8,000 acres are vineyards that provide more than 250 tons of grapes for the Biltmore Estate Winery, as well as farmland, pastures and forests. In addition to Biltmore House, the estate operates four restaurants, eight shops and its award-winning winery. The 213-room Inn on Biltmore Estate opened in spring 2001. Biltmore Estate is still privately owned and operated by George W. Vanderbilt's descendants.
A National Historic Landmark, the Biltmore Estate entrance is located on U.S. Hwy. 25, at exit 50 off I-40 or four miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Estate is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, January-March from 9:00am to 4:00pm and April-December from 8:30am to 5:00pm. There is an admission charge to visit the estate. For more information, visit www.biltmore.com or call 800-624-1575.
Asheville has long been known as a health retreat, beginning first with American Indians who set this region aside as a place to bring their sick and ailing. Dr. Z. P. Gruner opened the country's first private sanitarium in Asheville in 1875. In 1918, US Army General Hospital No. 19 opened in Asheville to serve the soldiers in the area who were training for duty for the First World War. When the U.S. Veterans' Bureau was created three years later, the hospital became part of that system, and part of the Veterans' Administration (VA) when it was organized and replaced the Bureau in 1930. New frame Colonial Revival and stucco Georgian Revival buildings were built for the Oteen Veteran's Administration Hospital from 1924 to 1932, replacing the previous wooden hospital buildings. The Asheville Citizen-Times remarked on this construction with a headline on September 10, 1928, that read "Oteen Growing Beautiful With New Buildings." According to Colonel Henry Hoagland, he suggested the name Oteen as it was an American Indian word meaning "chief aim" and it was the chief aim of every patient to get well. The hospital's primary focus was the treatment of tuberculosis, and it was the only VA hospital in the southeast devoted to the treatment of respiratory ailments.
A total of 18 buildings were constructed from 1924 to 1932, including an administration building, wards A, B, C, D, E and F, a kitchen and dining hall, four officers' quarters, two staff apartments, two nurses dormitories and attendants' quarters for African Americans. Semi-subterranean corridors were built connecting wards D, F and E. Several smaller utilitarian buildings were also built including a power plant and a laundry. Today, thirteen major buildings remain. Unfortunately, the new hospital and buildings obscure the planned landscaping which was such a primary focus in 1924. The hospital remains a part of the VA system today.
The Oteen Veteran's Administration Hospital is located at 1100 Tunnel Rd., also known as Rte. 70. Still a Veterans Administration Hospital, it is not open to the general public.
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
City of Asheville
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Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County
Western North Carolina Heritage
Asheville Urban Trail Heritage Tour
North Carolina Office of Archives and History
North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office
Preservation North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway
Great Smokey Mountains National Park
National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers
Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Historic Hotels of America
National Scenic Byways Program
Asheville's Historic Montford District. Asheville, NC: Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County, 1985.
Bishir, Catherine W, Michael T. Southern and Jennifer F. Martin. A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Black, David. Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville, NC: Division of Archives & History NC Department of Cultural Resources, 1979.
Brunk, Robert S. May We All Remember Well, Volumes I & II . Asheville, NC: Robert S Brunk Auction Services Inc, 2001.
Dykeman, Wilma. The French Broad. New York, NY: Rinehart & Co, 1955.
Fields, Jay. The Craft Heritage Tour of Western North Carolina. Asheville, NC: Handmade In America, 2003.
Greenberg, Sue. Asheville: A Postcard History, Volumes I & II. Dover, NH: Acadia, 1997.
Kerr, Tom. The Underground Asheville Guidebook. Asheville, NC: Underground Asheville Guidebook, 2000.
Mitchell, Ted. Thomas Wolfe, A Writer's Life. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives & History, 1999.
Mathews, Jane G and Richard A. The Manor and Cottages, Albemarle Park Asheville NC: A Historic Planned Residential Community. Asheville, NC: Albemarle Park Grounds Association, 1991.
Morley, Margaret W. The Carolina Mountains. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1913.
Ready, Milton. Asheville: Land of the Sky. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications, 1986.
Swaim, Douglas. Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, NC. Asheville, NC: Historic Resources Commission of Asheville & Buncombe County, 1981.
Tessier, Mitzi S. Asheville: A Pictorial History. Norfolk, VA: Donning Company, 1982.
Tessier, Mitzi S. The State of Buncombe. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co, 1992.
Warren, Joshua P. Haunted Asheville. Asheville, NC: Shadowbox Publications, 1996.
Asheville, North Carolina, was produced by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in partnership with the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Thomas Wolfe House, North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick W. Andrus, Heritage Tourism Program Manager, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. Asheville, North Carolina, is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St., NW, Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Thursday.
The City of Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, Thomas Wolfe House and Asheville Area Conventions & Visitors Bureau conceptualized and compiled materials for the Itinerary. National Register web production team members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide, and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Maps were designed by Rustin Quaide. Property descriptions and essays were written by Jamie Metsch and edited by Shannon Bell. Additional information for some of the properties was provided by Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe Co., Albemarle Park-Manor Grounds Association, Inc., Asheville-Buncombe County Library-North Carolina Collection, and the D. Hiden Ramsey Library-University of North Carolina Asheville. National Register interns, Rebecca Dorfman, Brown University, and Lindsey Wallace, Ohio State University, provided assistance with research and project compilation.