Monday Marginalia – Other Asheville Houses

Solarium at the Smith McDowell House.

Solarium at the Smith McDowell House.

Our trip to Asheville was to see its world renowned house – Biltmore.  However while there we enjoyed two other much smaller but just as lovely in their own way. The first one is North Lodge on Oakland.  The second was the Smith McDowell House.

Ceiling hand stenciled by TCC design students.

Smith McDowell House ceiling hand stenciled by TCC design students.

Sadly I didn’t make any photos of the North Lodge on Oakland which was our B&B there.  Please click on their link there and enjoy the beauty.  We stayed in the library and it was perfect for us.  Sadly we were there for just one night and rolled in there tired on a late evening after climbing all over Biltmore in one day.  But it was a lovely relaxing room with a great private bath.  We were on the main floor and not far from the dining room.  The breakfast was spectacular.  So if you are going to Asheville I highly reccommend it .

It’s history is tied to the Smith McDowell house.  One of the Smith McDowell owners built this home after selling the manison.  Mr. Robert Garett when his new discover of religion had him feel he needed a less showy place.  But this home was less showy only by a fraction, but the sytle is a more comfortable one I think.  Cozy beauty rather than formal beauty.  Then after going through a few owners it became a turberculosis rest home when the moutain air was thought to be a good treatment. It then went back to a private residence changing hands multiple times.  Then in 1990 it was bought and thoroughly refurbished along with innkeeper quarters being added.  Then it was opened as a B&B.  Then  just over a year ago the current owners Gary and Cindy purchased the business.  They were fantastic hosts.


Smith McDowell House restored original basement kitchen

Now to the house before this one – the Smith McDowell house.  It was Asheville’s first mansion.  It was built as a 4 story plantation house in about 1840.  It was made from bricks shipped in and built by slave labor.  Other homes around it were log cabins so it stood as shockingly rich to its neighbors as it did to Biltmore 50 years later (built by free peoples paid New York wages).  The original owner was James McConnall Smith who gained the land from his grandfather’s land grant given for service in the Revolutionary War.  His father was the first white man born west of the mountains in North Carolina. He made his money on a toll bridge across the French Broad river on Drover’s Road linking Greeneville, Tennessee to Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.  He died in 1856 leaving the home to his son John Patton Smith who promptly died. So his daughter and son-in-law (W.W. McDowell) bought it from his estate since he didn’t feel women should inherit.  So WW was an ardent Confederate and being on the loosing side he suffered economic problems.  His lands dropped from 30,000 acres to 15.  The Union troops regularly checked on him being a rebel and one who had organized others against the government before.  McDowell eventually sold the house to Garrett I mentioned before and moved to a very small place in town.  Garrett had a daughter who had TB so he added a solarium to the house that is still lovely today. He modernized the home and connected the Summer kitchen to the house moving the winter kitchen out of the basement. After his religious dedication he sold the home to his son for $1 and moved into the North Lodge he had built just a few blocks away.


Smith McDowell House.  Oringal to the 1830 era handmade crazy quilt with cloth scraps and stitched emblishments.  I loved the 3-D touches like the tassel bow on that fan.

Now we are to the time Biltmore was being built and the house was no long the most impressive in Asheville. The home was sold to Dr. Charles VanBergan who comissioned Richard Morris Hunt who was there working on Biltmore for designing and building formal gardens and a carrage house.  From there it went through several hands again to wind up a boys dorm for the Catholic Diocese school in the 50s and 60s then purchase by Technical Community College in 1974 for restoration and preservation.  TCC are the current owners and their students and staff participate in the research, restoration, and preservation of the home.  Many of the paint tectures, textiles,  and such were done by design students.  The educational activities by education students, and so on.  It’s a living lab .  I highly recommend during your stay at the North Lodge you go by there for a tour.  Allow a couple of hours to see their film, read all their information, and tour the grounds and home.


Upstairs bedroom for the lady of the house.

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