Civic

Wrecking Ball to Demolish Arts & Crafts Homes

Screenshot from Instagram.

Asheville – The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County has confirmed that most of the 100 block of Charlotte Street from Chestnut to Baird Street is being considered for demolition.   A development company named RCG and the Killian family have plans to demolish 11 – 13 charming, historic homes and to replace them with 194 residential units, 30,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet for retail.  They have brought on the architectural firm of McMillian Pazdan Smith Architecture, which has designed a number of projects in Asheville (for instance, the apartment complex between Asheland and Coxe Avenues on the South Slope downtown).  They are talking to the city about their demolition plans for these lovely Arts & Crafts era homes.  Lindsey Rhoden is the senior architect in charge of this plan and together with Peyton Shumate they made a presentation in McMillian Pazdan Smith’s Asheville office.  The plans, after being reviewed by Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission,  must be submitted to the City of Asheville for consideration.  The project requires that Asheville City Council grant a conditional zoning.

The impact of this project on the historic character of the neighborhood, local infrastructure, the environment and the community is mind boggling!  A petition is underway by the Preservation Society to encourage the owners to seriously consider other options that would preserve the historic flavor of the Chestnut Hill National Historic Register District. Once this neighborhood has been wiped out by the bulldozer, there is no way the charm and flavor of these historic houses can be restored. It is currently the gateway to the Grove Park Inn historic district and a new complex like this would certainly not be appropriate. 

This is a wholesome neighborhood, where talking to one’s neighbors is a natural occurrence, and residents are often seen walking on the sidewalks which are lined with oak and elm trees. In fact bears occasionally surprise these homeowners, as they start to leave their house only to find a Mama bear with her cubs standing across the street or even near their door.   Many folks on Facebook are saying,  “Replacing these homes with a cold, modern bricks-and-mortar structure is a very bad idea.”  The heritage and integrity of the area will be totally destroyed. This is a special neighborhood with a distinctive personality; the impact would be devastating.  Every February for the last 34 years Bruce Johnson, noted author and director, holds a National Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn, where thousands of visitors come from all over to attend and celebrate the beauty of the Arts & Crafts style. This was a movement away from machine-made goods and a return to fine, traditional craftsmanship.  This year due to Covid 19, the conference will be a month-long virtual experience with teleconference seminars, tours, and discussions throughout February.  The Chestnut Hill historic district around Charlotte Street  is the gateway to the Grove Park Inn itself and was built as a street car suburb.  It was built during the rise of the Craftsman movement, bringing different socio-economic facilities together.  The houses to be slated are part of this extraordinary Arts & Crafts Movement. Some of the 11-13  houses to be demolished have undoubtedly been a part of the yearly tours given by the Preservation Society during the Arts & Crafts Conference, and should perhaps be highlighted this year due to current events.

These Charlotte Street  historical homes are set to be demolished. Photography by Dasha Morgan.
These Charlotte Street historical homes are set to be demolished.

The Preservation Society believes that the owner, Hume Killian, son of the late Dr. John H. Killian,and his family could sensitively redevelop the homes and area.  He could make it perhaps something like another Biltmore Village in North Asheville and revitalize the area profitably,  rather than demolish these attractive, appealing homes and trees. The character and charm of Asheville is at stake. Why turn a delightful neighborhood into another concrete modern big city block?   These are well-built historic homes that date most probably to between 1910 and 1920,  one even having been designed by the highly acclaimed local architect Richard Sharp Smith. Modern craftsmanship is in no way equal to that of this era.  

The Killians could borrow money, receive substantial tax credits and restore the historic properties that are in need of repair, rather just tear them down to replace them with a big-city metropolitan design.  The Chestnut Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.   The Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County is asking local residents to sign the petition here: https://psabc.org/charlotte-street-demolition/ to help stop this “demolition threat”  and save these picturesque homes.  By signing this petition, you will be helping them send a message to the developers and to city hall that this is not a project residents want.  

Asheville is currently known for its artisans and its unusual, historic architecture. Think about the noteworthy buildings from this era that attract thousands of tourists each year to Asheville. It has become populated with young craftsman—silversmiths, glassmakers, woodworkers, and other artists. The character of these unique homes on Charlotte, Baird and Chestnut Streets built in the 1920’s should be restored if in disrepair and preserved, not torn down and destroyed.  Jessie Landl, Executive Director of The Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County feels strongly that  there are many more appropriate areas for such a project.  There are certainly other places that would require no destruction of fine old homes.  Go to: psabc.org for more information or to sign their petition opposing this project. 

Please note: The architectural firm and head architect involved in this project were contacted and asked to 

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