Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Asheville's Greatest Architectural Finds

Asheville's Greatest Architectural Finds

In the 1540's, the first European visitors came to Asheville.  Asheville was used as their hunting grounds until the middle of 19th Century. Their presence in Asheville greatly influenced the architecture of the most prized and valued buildings that we have right now.

Knowing Asheville's history and all the hardships that the city had gone through makes me feel proud and feel a great amount love for this amazing city. I know it wasn't a good time for everyone during the great depression, but we were able to survive the hardships and what we went through wasn't for nothing.

I was going through pictures and cannot help but admire the intricate details of the buildings, how they stood the test of time and them being part of history. These architectural designs are an absolute work of art. Perfectly preserved for everyone to see and for some lucky residents, they go to work there. If only buildings can talk, they will provide us a detailed story of the past and recent ones. I wonder how it feels to work in a functional and historical building... Maybe I am just an old soul who loves art.

Enough of what I think or what I feel about Asheville's architecture. Here are the list Asheville's Greatest Architectural Finds.

1. Art deco, Asheville's City Hall

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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. -  

2.  Pack Squre

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.  Pack Square has evolved and expanded over the years, yet still remains the symbolic center of Asheville. -Source:

 3.  First Baptist Church

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Completed in 1927, with later additions, is the building that brought Douglas Ellington to Asheville. Ellington designed the church in Beaux Arts and Renaissance styles with distinctive Art Deco ornamentation. The octagonal building of marble and brick has a massive two-story entrance with six brick columns, topped by a large tiled dome with a copper cupola. The sanctuary is a large, circular auditorium seating 2,000 on two levels. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

5. All Souls Episcopal Cathedral 

All Souls was built by railroad baron George Washington Vanderbilt II in 1896 to serve as the local parish church for Biltmore Village, which had been developed near his Biltmore Estate

The Right Reverend G. Porter Taylor is the current bishop seated at the cathedral.
The church was established in 1896 as a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. It is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Church and Parish Hall were commissioned by George Vanderbilt and designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate.

The chancel organ was installed by the Casavant Frères organ company of Canada in 1971. The Cathedral of All Souls was designated as the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina on January 1, 1995. The Right Reverend G. Porter Taylor is the current bishop.

The church and its parish house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 as All Souls Episcopal Church and Parish House. .- Source:

6. Drhumor Building

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The Drhumor (pronounced "drummer") Building purportedly is the oldest standing commercial building in downtown Asheville. It was built in 1895 by William J. Cocke, an attorney who studied at the University of North Carolina and at Harvard. The building was named for the ancestral Irish island of Cocke's Scots-Irish grandfather and rests on the land where Mr. Cocke's childhood home and birthplace once stood. Architect Allen L. Melton designed the grand Romanesque Revival building, and Biltmore Estate English stone carver Frederic Miles was commissioned to carve the limestone frieze above the first-floor exterior.  -


7.  Grove Arcade

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“It is generally conceded that the Arcade Building would do justice to a city many times the size of Asheville. It is by far the finest structure in the South and there are few, if any, finer in the entire country.”

— E.W. Grove, 1927
The Grove Arcade was the grand dream of E.W. Grove, a self-made millionaire who moved to Asheville in 1910. By 1915, he had completed the Grove Park Inn and become involved in other civic projects. Grove understood that a successful city needed a vibrant downtown. In the early 1920’s, he began plans to build an elegant new building to enliven the downtown of the city he had come to love. He conceived of the Arcade as “the most elegant building in America”—and as a new kind of retail center. Architect Charles N. Parker designed the Arcade, which was originally envisioned as a 5-story base with a 14-story tower, filled with shops, offices, and living spaces.

Grove died in 1927, two years before the building was completed. Only the base was built, yet at 269,000 square-feet, it was by far, the largest building in the region. When the Arcade opened in 1929, it quickly became home to a fine collection of local shops and services. Tenants included candy and cigar stores, a haberdashery, a public stenography office, fruit stands, millinery shops, beauty parlors and barbershops, a photography center, bookstalls and specialty groceries. Offices filled the upper floors. For 13 years, the Arcade was the center of commercial and civic life in Western North Carolina.
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8. The Buncombe County Courthouse

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Asheville's courthouse, completed in 1928, is one of the most extravagant 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."

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. - source:

9.   Basilica of St. Lawrence 

Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), an architect and builder of Spanish origin, came to Asheville to work on the Biltmore House in the mid-1890s. 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. 

 10. Biltmore Estate


In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, began to make regular visits with his mother, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt (1821–1896), to the Asheville, North Carolina, area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to create his own summer estate in the area, which he called his "little mountain escape," just as his older brothers and sisters had built opulent summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York. Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore derived from "Bildt," Vanderbilt's ancestors' place of origin in Holland, and "More," Anglo-Saxon for open, rolling land.

The Biltmore Estate (c. 1900) Construction of the house began in 1889 and continued well into 1896. In order to facilitate such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite, and a three mile railroad spur was constructed to bring materials to the building site. Construction on the main house required the labor of well over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. Construction on the main house required the labor of well over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. George Vanderbilt engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century: architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) Vanderbilt went on extensive buying-trips overseas as construction on the house was in progress.

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