The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County held its Time Traveling Gala, with PSABC executive director Jack Thomson acting once again as host.
Three hundred attendees assembled for cocktails at the historic Foundry Hotel on South Market Street, formerly the Asheville Supply and Foundry Building. The fourth annual event was once again sold out to capacity.
“Tonight you’re going to visit three different countries,” Thomson said. “You’re going to enjoy traveling on numbered trollies, and you’re going to see the effects of a particular effort here in Asheville in the late 19th century. This building supplied the steel for the construction of much of downtown Asheville, and the Biltmore House. The skilled craftsmen and a vision of the Biltmore House and the Vanderbilts directly influenced the houses you’re going to visit tonight.”
Thomson gave credit to Cynthia Watson for initiating the inaugural Time Traveling Gala.
“She’s a dear friend of mine. I consider her a sister because sometimes we fight, but I want to personally thank Cynthia,” said Watson, noting she has the easiest volunteer job ever. “It’s because of one person. She’s sweet and humble, and her name is Jessie Landl. She does all the hard work for this event. She is really the logistical wiz behind all this,” Watson said.
The houses spotlighted included the Sinclair House, the Campbell House and the Davis House.
The home of Dr. James Sinclair at 391 Midland Drive was built in 1924. Dr. James Sinclair was an Asheville dentist and one of the of the newly formed Central Bank & Trust Company. Javier S. Adiarianzen, a Peruvian architect, designed the home. He chose a rustic, yet palatial Medieval Gothic style for the design of the home.
Coursed rubble granite was used for the exterior walls, and ashlar faced stone for the front door and window.
The Sinclair family was only able to live in the home for about five years because the 1929 economic crash hit suddenly causing the crash of the Central Bank & Trust Company. As a director of the bank as well as a majority shareholder, Dr. Sinclair was hit harder than most and had to relinquish his beautiful home.
The Mediterranean fantasy house at 144 Marlborough Road was completed in 1926. Scottish architect S. Grant Alexander designed it for W.R. Campbell. Campbell worked in real estate and development including acting as sales manager for the Grove Park neighborhood.
The home was reflective of the vast wealth Campbell was accumulating as a successful developer in the booming 1920s. This charming house with its walled courtyard and cloistered entrance portico brings a bit of old world charm to the banks of Beaver Lake.
Unfortunately the stock market crashed just three years after W.R. Campbell and his wife Madge moved in and all was lost.
By 1930, Campbell was living and working at the Manor on Charlotte Street and shortly afterwards divorced.
Wallace B. Davis, president of the Central Bank & Trust Company, built one of the largest houses at 193 Stratford Road on one of the choicest lots in the new Lake View Park.
Stratford Towers sits majestically atop the development with a commanding view of the western mountains.
Wallace and Kate Davis purchased their lot in 1926 and chose a recent Scottish immigrant, S. Grant Alexander as their architect. Unfortunately, the Davises’ extravagance of building a rambling baronial style mansion was short lived. The stock market crash came just four years Stratford Towers was built.
Davis lost his personal fortune, and was indicted, convicted, and sentenced to five to seven years for his role in mismanagement of the Central Bank & Trust Company.
Food and beverages were served at each location on the tour. Trollies returned attendees to the Foundry hotel for dessert.
Thomson announced that the Preservation Society exceeded their goal for the Preservation Grant Program, raising $25,000, and funding seven preservation projects across our community.
“I’m going to focus on only one, the South Asheville Cemetery. It is the burial place for enslaved African Americans. There are over 2,000 graves there, with 93 marked with a name, date, or both.”
Thomson said some of them have field-stones as markers.
“George Avery was the original caretaker. He was an enslaved individual owned by William Wallace McDowell of the Smith-McDowell House,” Thomson said. “McDowell donated the land for the cemetery, and Avery went on to fight for the Union Army. The cemetery is run by a very small but committed group of individuals trying to hold this place together. We are so proud to announce that we are going to fund the nomination of the South Asheville Cemetery to the National Register of Historic Places. They can take that nomination and leverage it for their next round of fundraising,” Thomson said.