By Dasha Morgan
Bringing together and organizing 360 people to travel from the Foundry Hotel on South Market Street of Asheville and then taking them on a tour of three historic and beautiful homes in the Lakeview Park around Beaver Lake is no easy matter. Hats off to Cynthia Watson, the director of the Gala, Jessie Landle, Preservation Director of Development, and Jack Thomson, PSABC Director for managing to pull together a memorable evening for all. The Gala is indeed a labor of love, with 9 trolleys and 360 people to organize, supervise, and make sure the evening is festive for all—all in the name of historic preservation.
The Foundry Hotel is an ideal spot to launch such a gathering of invited preservationists. A property steeped in history, this hotel is the restoration of the foundry that forged the steel for The Biltmore Estate and many of Asheville’s prominent buildings and features several historically significant architectural features. The hotel is situated in a historic cornerstone known as “The Block” and located just five minutes’ walk from the heart of Downtown Asheville. It is an ideal place to begin this year’s Time Travel Gala. In 2019 the Foundry Hotel at 51 South Market Street was a PSABC Griffin Award winner for Adaptive Reuse.
Guests, many dressed in evening finery,—from tuxedos and 1920’s dresses with head pieces to more casual attire— arrived at the hotel to enjoying hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and/or wine. They could meet up with friends before they then boarded a historic trolly to visit three historic homes: 391 Midland Drive, 144 Marlborough Road and 193 Stratford Road. The Lakeview Park neighborhood was designed by noted landscape architect, John Nolan, who also designed the upscale neighbors of Myers Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. He envisioned the area as a high-class residential neighborhood, providing not only home sites but also local shops, parks and other recreational facilities.
At each trolley stop at one of these historic home, there was entertainment and delicious edibles to be enjoyed. The guests were treated to jazz, folk music, Beatles tunes, and then some familiar Broadway melodies. Guest had time to enjoy themselves and learn about the history of the house they were visiting, before they then returned to the Foundry Hotel for coffee and dessert.
Each house was unique and interesting to visit—with a particular style of its own. In 1924 the home of Dr. James Sinclair began construction of the 391 Midland Drive house. This home could be considered Medieval Gothic style, with coursed rubble granite for the exterior walls. At 144 Marlborough Road, W.R. Campbell with his wife Madge built a charming house with a walled courtyard and cloistered entrance portico. Wallace B. Davis, President of the Central Bank & Trust Company, designed a rambling brick baronial style mansion, reminiscent of a Scottish/British country home, atop of the Lakeview Park development with a view toward the Western mountains. Sadly all three owners later suffered some terrible consequences brought on by the financial crash, which hit soon after their home’s construction.
Undoubtedly the many volunteers and sponsors of the Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County were once again committed to making this year’s fundraiser, The Time Travel Gala, another success. They were thrilled to have McKibbon Hospitality as the Presenting Sponsor and the Ellington Realty Group and Cynthia & Stephen Watson as diamond sponsors. Many other companies and organizations gave generously and participated as donors and sponsors.
PSABC plans to continue their amazing work by giving sizable grants for historic preservation in this area. Their efforts have certainly helped to stop the wrecking ball from destroying many amazing architectural pieces and preserving them for future generations. Twice a year the organization has given $20,000 in grants, up to $5,000 each. And they have plans to continue doing likewise this year. This year grant money will be going to assist the slave cemetery at St John A Baptist church—possibly one of the oldest Baptist churches in western North Carolina and located in the Kenilworth section of town—achieve national registry status. (For further information on this go to: https://avltoday.6amcity.com/african-american-cemetery-wnc/.) In addition grants will be given to the Guastavino Alliance for a historic exhibition at Pack Memorial Library this fall on this well known architect and builder who after contributing significantly to the architecture of this area —The Basilica of St. Lawrence and Biltmore House— retired to Black Mountain, and the Rabbits Motel on McDowell Street—once known for its amazing soul food—near Mission Hospital with a restoration that will have facilities for musicians.
The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County has many projects in the hopes of preserving Asheville’s legacy for future generations. The organization can provide support for property owners who have challenges and seek solutions for historic properties. Each year, they award preservationist with a Griffin Award for outstanding historical renovations; they meet monthly with members so they can learn about the history of a particular area. In fact, on October 19th, Tom Marberger will discuss the history and architecture of Asheville School which was built in the Tudor style. The meeting starts at 10:30 AM at the Asheville School chapel. Guests and new members are welcome. For further information go to www.psabc.com or call Jack Thomson, PSABC Director.