Proximity Park Historic District
The Proximity Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Proximity Park Historic District is a residential district located north of downtown Asheville, North Carolina at the foot of Sunset Mountain. Platted in 1907 by the Proximity Park Corporation (PPC), it originally straddled Asheville's city limits. Today it is bordered by the Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1989) to the south and west, the Sunset Terrace Historic District (National Register 2005) to the north, and the Kimberly Amendment to the Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1990) to the north. The Grove Park Inn and its golf course (National Register 1973) lay further uphill to the northeast. Development began in Proximity Park before the Grove Park Historic District (1908-1919), the Sunset Terrace Historic District (1913), and the Grove Park Inn (1913).
The grade generally slopes upward to the northeast but drops off steeply at the Grove Park Country Club Golf Course to the north and rises steeply along the eastern boundary. There is a steep ravine at the corner of Macon Avenue and Charlotte Street that serves as a prayer garden for St. Mary's Church (National Register 1994). Most of the original lots were laid out in an orthogonal pattern on property that was flat or gently rolling. The houses are at street level. Properties at the edges of the Proximity Park Historic District, such as at Howland Street, upper Macon Avenue, and Holmwood Road, are hilly with houses set above or below street level. These lots are larger and conform to the natural topography.
TheProximity Park Historic District contains approximately thirty-one acres that loosely follow the original plats, giving it an irregular shape. It is bounded by Charlotte Street to the west, Woodlink Road to the north, Sunset Terrace and Sunset Trail to the north, and Macon Avenue and Howland Road to the east and south.
Parcels on flat or gently rolling land were laid out on a tight grid with long narrow lots. This ensured that the walking distances to the trolley stops would be short and created a well-defined streetscape. Other parcels along the edge of the Proximity Park Historic District are larger where the houses are less dense and the streetscape is defined by vegetation. There are mature deciduous and evergreen trees throughout the Proximity Park Historic District and as in neighboring the Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1989) hemlock trees were a popular landscape feature. Sidewalks were included along Macon Avenue and Edgemont Street. Parks and landscape features were included at 337 Charlotte Street and the vacant lot on Evergreen Lane where the topography was too steep to build on. The park on Evergreen was never developed and is now overgrown with trees and ivy. Two creeks runs through the neighborhood, beginning at 163 Macon Avenue it runs downhill across the street where it meets with the one running behind the properties along Macon Avenue.
The Proximity Park Historic District includes a wide variety of architectural styles. The earliest houses, at 165 Macon Avenue and 392 Charlotte Street are American Foursquare and Colonial Revival, respectively. The large neoclassical revival house at 86 Edgemont Road was built by Dr. Carl V. Reynolds, a founding member of the Proximity Park Corporation, in 1907.
As the rate of construction increased, the Arts and Crafts styles became dominant. Craftsman, Craftsman Bungalows, and English-derived Craftsman houses, dating from 1905 through the 1920s began to appear. They vary from simple one-story bungalows at 65 Edgemont Road to the elaborate estate at 2 Howland Road. Other notable examples can be seen at 41 Edgemont Road and 59 Edgemont Road, 10 Holmwood Street, 9 Evergreen Lane, and 163 Macon Avenue.
Richard Sharp Smith came to Asheville as the supervising architect for the Biltmore Estate (National Register 1966). He remained in Asheville where he practiced for the next three decades and went on to become one of the most prominent architects in the area. He was known for his adaptation of the Arts and Crafts style and he developed a local interpretation of the Craftsman style known as English Derived Craftsman. It is characterized by roughly textured stucco walls (pebbledash), half-timbering, multiple gables and dormers, clipped gables and dormers, and simple porch brackets, known locally as the Montford Bracket. It is a "simple hefty bracket" that is flat in section, with a quarter round profile set atop a chamfered porch column. Several houses along the southeast blockface of Edgemont Road borrow elements from this style and the house at 80 Edgemont Road is a near replica of "Cottage B" designed for Biltmore Village in this style.
By the late 1910s, romantic revival styles were becoming popular in both the Proximity Park Historic District and the neighboring Grove Park Historic District. Several properties exemplify this trend such as the sanctuary (Gothic Revival) and the rectory (Period Cottage) of St. Mary's Church (National Register 1994) at 337 and 337 1/2 Charlotte Street. They were designed by Richard Sharp Smith. The Colonial Revival style is very common in Proximity Park Historic District as seen at 401 Charlotte Street. Other revival styles include Dutch Colonial Revival (27 Edgemont Road), Tudor Revival (92 Macon Avenue, 110 Macon Avenue and 118 Macon Avenue), Italian Renaissance Revival (46 Macon Avenue), and Spanish Revival (83 Edgemont Road).
Asheville's Proximity Park Historic District is located approximately two miles north of downtown Asheville, at the base of Sunset Mountain. Prior to its development as a residential streetcar suburb, it had been a rural dairy and open farmland. It was then laid out as a nine-hole golf course ca.1900 before being platted into home sites in 1907.
Asheville established its first electric streetcar in 1889, only nine years after the Western North Carolina Railroad commenced service to Asheville. Two years later, railroad tracks were laid through the future Proximity Park subdivision, first to access a stone quarry on the top of Sunset Mountain, then to the newly-developed, end-of-the-line, private amusement park, Overlook Park. The line ran all the way to the summit of Sunset Mountain, via Charlotte Street and Macon Avenue, two roads that are boundaries of the Proximity Park Historic District. Several prominent businessmen invested in these endeavors: Walter B. Gwyn, who build the original quarry line; Richard Howland, who imagined Overlook Park and more expanded rail service; and George Pack, who in his generosity provided the land for a nine-hole golf course at the base of the mountain in 1898. Following Mr. Pack's death in 1906, his family chose not to continue to support the golf course, and they offered the land on Macon Avenue, Charlotte Street, Grand Avenue (now Edgemont Road), Maple Street (now Latrobe Street), and Sunset Trail for sale. A consortium of well-to-do citizens formed the Proximity Park Company (PPC), and purchased the one hundred and thirty acres of land with the intention of platting it as a planned residential neighborhood. In 1907, eighty-eight generous home sites were laid out within the boundary set by three parallel streets in the gently-raising slope up to Sunset Mountain. Along one of the boundary streets, Macon Avenue, twelve home sites that had not been built upon, were re-platted by E.W. Grove in 1919.
The Proximity Park Historic District now makes up a cohesive collection of properties, the result of middle and upper-middle class homeowners moving away from Asheville's downtown core to make neighborhoods of wholesome environments. Proximity Park was an early streetcar suburb in Asheville; it retains a collection of distinctive domestic and institutional architecture, including two Colonial Revival and Craftsman houses that pre-date the original 1907 plat. Other styles, which are illustrative of local and national trends in architectural design, are found in the Proximity Park Historic District. They are English-derived Craftsman, Gothic Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Revival, Neoclassical Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Period Cottage, and they illustrate local and national trends in architecture. The period of significance begins ca.1900, the date of the construction of 392 Macon Avenue, an architecturally significant Colonial Revival-style house, and ends in 1930, at the beginning of the Depression when very little construction took place in the neighborhood.
Proximity Park Historic District is an excellent example of a streetcar suburb, a platted residential neighborhood lying beyond the city's urban and crowded core that offers walking access to streetcar stops making it easy to schedule regular travel to and from the city's downtown. It was Asheville's second such neighborhood, the Montford Historic District (National Register 1977) being the first. Montford was annexed in 1890, had a trolley line by the summer of 1891, and represented the beginning of the movement north of the city boundary. The city continued to expand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and by 1905, the northern city limit ran through what is now the center of the Proximity Park Historic District.
As with other North Carolina cities that boomed in the early twentieth century, the emphasis in urban growth was away from the city center toward the suburbs. City centers were losing their appeal because they were thought to be unhealthy, noisy, polluted places. This was especially true for Asheville, a hub for tuberculosis sufferers coming to the sanitaria of the area. It was thought that the mild climate, fresh air and natural setting found in the mountains could restore health. Those who lived in hotter, more humid places who could afford to do so spent their summers in Asheville, keeping the children away from mosquitoes and disease. Because of the perceived health benefits and the cosmopolitan atmosphere that had been growing since the late nineteenth century, real estate was a lucrative business in Asheville. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a dramatic expansion of Asheville, both in size and wealth; from 1880 to 1900, Asheville's population increased more than five-fold, and from 1900 to 1920 the population doubled. Developers here responded by providing "large-scale, planned, for profit developments" outside the city limits, a pattern of real estate development found throughout North Carolina's urban centers.
Beginning in the 1880's, development northeast of the Asheville's downtown had begun on Charlotte Street, from Dr. Karl Von Ruck's first Winyah Sanitarium, to the Raoul family's development of Albemarle Park farther north. The family opened their Manor Inn on New Year's Day, 1898, the main dining hall for their boarding house, and built a series of large homes-away-from-home suitable for large families in the adjacent Albemarle Park, the northern boundaries of which are the first gentle slopes of Sunset Mountain.
Many of Asheville's wealthy citizens had a hand in shaping the Proximity Park Historic District. Their investment in real estate parallels similar development in many Piedmont cities. At the turn of the twentieth century, land developers, bankers, publishers, civic leaders and the socially elite participated in a new emphasis on modernization of the public utility infrastructure, and planned and marketed residential lots on the outskirts of small cities across the state. By the early 1900s, three men had bought large holdings on Sunset Mountain and its environs. George Pack came to Asheville in 1885 from Cleveland, Ohio. He had made his money in the lumber industry and was drawn to the area because of the mild climate. Mr. Pack came to love Asheville and worked hard for the city. He cleaned up the downtown, provided intellectual and social advantages to the citizenry, and inspired civic virtue and pride. Richard Howland, an entrepreneur and newspaperman from Providence, Rhode Island, moved to Asheville and had his residence built on Sunset Mountain in 1900; his property was adjacent to that held by Mr. Pack. Mr. Howland bought the rights to the steam dummy line along Macon Avenue and transformed it into an electric line. E.W. Grove, a St. Louis millionaire pharmacist began to buy property in 1904, giving land to the city for E.W. Grove Park on Charlotte Street; in late 1908 the first phase of his residential Grove Park was platted, and in 1913 he opened the Grove Park Inn, above Proximity Park.
Importance of the Rail Transit System
In 1889, under the franchises obtained by the Asheville Street Railway, the first electric trolley lines opened in and around downtown Asheville, making it the second city in the country (after Richmond, Virginia) to establish an electric trolley system. Walter B. Gwyn, a local real estate speculator and an owner of the Sunset Mountain Land company, chartered the Asheville and Craggy Mountain Railway in 1889. On May 1, 1891, a 2.5 mile steam dummy line (with passenger service provided by open passenger coach) was opened from the end of the College Street passenger line at Chestnut Street, northward on Charlotte Street (which was still unpaved), following the curves of Macon Avenue eastward, to the rock quarry at the top of Sunset Mountain, passing through the future Proximity Park plat. A steam dummy was a steam engine enclosed in a structure that looked like a railroad passenger car, so as not to frighten horses on the city streets. Mr. Gwyn's intent was to extend the line all the way to Craggy Mountain twenty-five miles to the north. Apparently, the intent was to make a profit moving rock down the mountain to supply the building trades; however, the line apparently did not make money, as the Asheville & Craggy Mountain Railway went into foreclosure in 1895; it was bought by George Pack, who left the repairs of the line's deterioration to the next owner.
In 1899, the Asheville Street Railway extended its interests by leasing from Mr. Pack the lines on Charlotte Street north of Chestnut Street. The railway owners built what was known as the "Golf Club" station, named for the Swannanoa Golf and Country Club newly located just steps away from the station.
Richard Howland, who was awaiting the completion of his Sunset Drive home on the mountain above Proximity Park, became involved in his new neighborhood. He had been the editor of the Providence (RI) Journal, and would later become the owner of the Asheville Citizen. In 1900, he purchased the Asheville & Craggy Mountain line (A&CM) and began construction of Overlook Park, a twenty-seven acre facility at the top of Sunset Mountain that was to include a variety of entertainments and concessions.
Mr. Howland set about to improve and expand the rail service. He rebuilt the Macon Avenue line, which had been damaged from the heavy rock quarry traffic. The city provided some money for this endeavor, but Howland had problems when he tried to electrify the service. Repairs and upgrades were very expensive, and the electric company was uncooperative. Howland ran into additional revenue difficulties due to seasonal fluctuations and inclement weather. However, the excursions themselves were heralded when they opened in July 1901. The views from Overlook Park and even the Golf Club station were lauded in an advertisement in the Asheville Citizen, July 7, 1901. It read, "No visitor to Asheville should miss this excursion. It is without exception the most beautiful trolley ride in North Carolina." Effective August 1901, service from the Golf Club station every half hour was initiated; special Sunday and moonlight excursions were offered. Justice Spring, a natural spring near the park, also attracted visitors. The trips were popular and drew many visitors to witness the beauty of Sunset Mountain. However profitable these endeavors were, the real profit lay in land speculation and real estate transactions along these lines. By 1903, this portion of Howland's transit holdings would be called the Overlook Line.
At the end of 1906, yet another transit company, the Asheville Rapid Transit Company, planned a new passenger route, up Evelyn Alley to Latrobe Street and around the curve of Macon to the Golf Club station. In 1911, E.W. Grove bought the Overlook Line (which was now called the Sunset Park Railway), Overlook Park itself, and adjacent land, adding to his Grove Park development; part of his right-of-way soon became an automobile road, as well being used for hauling boulders for the construction of the Grove Park Inn.
The Asheville trolley system lasted until 1934. By then the city had massive debts due to the depression and could no longer afford to maintain the service. It switched to a city-wide bus system, and many of the old rail lines were dismantled or paved over. In 1984, the old ties had deteriorated under the pavement on Macon Avenue, and the last of the service was dug up and demolished. A portion of Evelyn Alley, where the Gold Club line ran, became a motor alley; and the trolley's right of way still exists all the way to Latrobe Street.
Importance of the Golf Club
The Swannanoa Golf and Country Club's first fully developed golf course was laid out in the spring of 1900, at the base of Sunset Mountain, on a portion of what would later become Proximity Park residential land. The club's roots as a social institution can be traced back to the Asheville Hunt Club, the primary purpose of which was fox hunting. Only two of its members had seen the game of golf played, but in 1896 the name was changed to prominently include the sport. Members felt that golf needed to be established in Asheville to reinforce the city's position as a resort community. That same year, hunting was abandoned altogether.
The club was first housed in the Battery Park Hotel in downtown Asheville. It quickly became a prominent social institution, enhancing Asheville's appeal as a playground for the well-healed. The golf links themselves were not at Battery Park, however, but at various sites in west and north Asheville. One was adjacent to a slaughterhouse, inflicting unsavory sights and sounds on Asheville's finest. The Asheville Citizen stated that "the swellness, elegance, verve and spirit comprising the cream of Asheville society was mixing with — shall we daresay it? Swine."
In 1898, George Pack, a leading citizen and prominent club member, stepped forward with a generous offer. He agreed to raise the money to build a new clubhouse facility and lease it back to the Swannanoa Golf and Country Club. He would also donate land to be used for the golf links for five years, if the members would agree to build a decent course on it. This new clubhouse, which opened a few months after the agreement with Pack, was built at the eastern end of what would later be Grand Avenue (now Edgemont Road). The links were ready by May 1900, and featured the natural woods, stream, and the trolley line as traps. Little was known about the exact layout of the nine holes until a brochure advertising "The Manor Inn and Cottages" (circa 1905) surfaced; it offers the Manor visitor the benefits of the Swannanoa Country Club (sic) "located just beyond the Manor, at the Charlotte Street terminus of the trolley line of the Asheville Electric Company."
When Mr. Pack died in 1906 his donation of land for the golf course did not continue to be honored by the family, and son Charles sold the 130 acres containing the golf links to a consortium of prominent citizens — Dr. C.V. Reynolds, D.C. Waddell, Jr., H.R. Millard, C.C. Millard and his wife Grace Millard — for $26,000. The newspaper reported that "unless their offer of it to the Golf Club is accepted, the purchasers will plat the land, lay out streets and improve it, and then offer the lots for sale to those who will build handsome homes." The newspaper also reported that the Swannanoa Golf and Country Club had "been aware for some time that the property was subject to sale and has been seeking other sites." Evidently the consortium's offer was not acted upon: Two months later the consortium sold the property to the newly formed Proximity Park Company (PPC). Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Millard bought the golf clubhouse for their residence and had it moved to 81 Edgemont Road, and the country club moved its links north of PPC land. The 130 acres were ready for prime-time development.
Reported by the local newspaper as arising from the Swannanoa Club's ashes, the Asheville Country Club incorporated for $25,000, with stock selling for fifty dollars a share. A club member bought land at the end of Charlotte Street (on what is now the Grove Park Inn's golf course) for new golf links, and a new clubhouse opened there in 1908, just north of Woodlink Road. Donald Ross, the leading Scottish golf course designer of the day, was in Asheville for the opening of the Grove Park Inn in 1913 when club members persuaded him to redesign the golf course. With a large wraparound porch and additional amenities such as squash, bowling, tennis, sleeping and dining facilities, the Inn continued to grow and to serve as an anchor of Asheville society. It also served to cement the new real estate developments in north Asheville. By 1915, it was a focal point for the nearby neighborhoods, such as the burgeoning Grove Park, Norwood Park, Albemarle Manor, Holmwood, and Proximity Park, as well as serving as the Grove Park Inn's "sports complex."
A new clubhouse was built in the style of a French manor house with a steeply pitched roof in 1926 at the north side of the course, close to the southern edge of the Grove Park Inn. In the mid-1970's, the Asheville Country Club sold these facilities to the Grove Park Inn. The 1926 clubhouse has been designated an Asheville Local Historic Landmark, and the golf course is included in the Kimberly Extension Amendment to the Grove Park Historic District (NR 1988, 1990).
The Proximity Park Company
In 1907 Dr. C.V. Reynolds (a leading physician practicing in Asheville), D.C. Waddell, Jr. (son of the developer of the Asheville Railway Company), Charlton C. Millard and H.R. Millard (proprietors of a livery business), F.R. Hewitt, and Grace Millard (wife of C.C. Millard) formed the Proximity Park Company (The origin of the corporation's name has not been discovered.) By June 1907, the PPC had bought the land that had been the Swannanoa Golf and Country Club's greens, drawn up the plats, and proceeded to sell lots to its own members, as well as the general public. The company's intent was to evolve a residential development, as the establishment of manufacturing plants, stores for retail or wholesale, tenements, barns, and outhouses were forbidden, in order to maintain the sylvan setting. Throughout the country at the turn of the century, there was great interest in single family suburban dwellings, and many transit neighborhoods were springing up all over North Carolina. The trend favored geographical and racial separation within the cities, and Proximity Park was to be no exception. Dr. Reynolds soon commissioned an impressive Neoclassical Revival style house for himself and his new wife, Edith, within the newly purchased lands at the end of Edgemont Road (then Grand Avenue). The Dr. Carl V. Reynolds House (National Register 1982) established the tone of the neighborhood: upwardly mobile elite and middle-class residential.
A 1907 advertisement in the Asheville Citizen states that "lots are selling fast and many residences will be built here by this fall. Buy now and get the benefit of the advance in value. Choice $500." Several homes had been built by early 1909.
In 1910, the PPC dissolved for unknown reasons. However, buyer interest in this neighborhood was still strong. The Burroughs-Chapman Company took over the holdings to the north and proceeded to plat lots and lay out new roads between Grand Avenue and the golf course. Soon after, Holmwood Realty began platting additional properties. E.W. Grove bought land holdings along the south side of Macon Avenue in 1908, and the north side in 1919. Residential development continued at a rapid pace.
In 1907, Proximity Park was half inside, half outside the city limits, yet it was convenient to downtown due to the electric trolley service. The neighborhood was platted with this in mind for the convenience of the residents. Approximately thirty acres of land were divided into eighty-eight lots. Seventy-nine of these were laid out in a tight rectilinear pattern to the west of the trolley stops. The remaining nine were uphill, to the east of the trolley stops. The eastern lots were larger and irregular, following the natural topography. Because the stops were in the center of the neighborhood, no property was beyond walking distance from public transportation.
By 1917, the automobile was becoming an important element in urban design. Developers responded by providing amenities, such as a communal garage that was built behind 4 Holmwood Street (the foundation wall remnants are still visible). A rare and short-lived innovation, it was an adaptation of a nineteenth-century livery for storing carriages, wagons, and horses in urban settings. Some home owners employed a chauffeur, which made the remote garage a practical solution. Drop-off areas can still be seen at 12 Evergreen Lane. When the trolley line discontinued service in the 1920s, an easement was converted to Evelyn Alley, permitting automobile access. Detached garages began to spring up along the alley, and several still survive.
Another planning idea that had taken hold in Asheville as that of the romantic suburb which were carefully designed to be in harmony with the landscape. Frederick Law Olmsted, known as "the Father of Landscape Architecture," was commissioned to design the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. While in Asheville, he influenced and trained a number of people, including Chauncey Beadle, the grounds-man for the estate. Olmsted's philosophy espoused the eighteenth-century English Romantic Movement, which is characterized by curvilinear streets that follow natural topography, dense vegetation, and irregular lots sizes and shapes. Houses were considered less important than the natural setting surrounding them. Heavy ashlar retaining walls were common in creating outdoor rooms. These elements are seen along Holmwood Street, Evergreen Lane, and Woodlink Road, where houses are tucked away within large, irregular, heavily wooded lots. A park was planned in the ravine, between 10 Holmwood Street and 12 Evergreen Lane. Today it is vacant and overgrown, and it is not known whether it ever functioned as a park (nor whether Beadle was the designer). The Romantic Suburban pattern remained a popular planning philosophy in the decade to come, evident in the neighboring Sunset Terrace Historic District (HR 2005) which was laid out in this manner.
The lot at 337 Charlotte Street is a ravine, and was considered undesirable as a site for a home. In 1913, the Episcopal Church purchased it for a chapel that they were planning. Chauncey Beadle was hired to design the grounds. He had recently completed designs for Grove Park, along the west side of Charlotte Street. The church grounds reflect the philosophies espoused by Mr. Olmsted. Native plants are arranged in informal pattern, providing a naturalistic backdrop for statuary and the chapel. In the mid-sixties, landscape architect Doan Ogden redesigned the plan to reinforce Beadle's intent. Today, it is meticulously cared for by professional gardeners and continues to reflect English Romantic principles. In 1994, the chapel, the rectory, and the surrounding site were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as St. Mary's Church.
While Proximity Park was expanding northward, E.W. Grove was buying up additional properties at a rapid pace. Mr. Grove sold his first Grove Park residential lot in late 1908. He moved the trolley line from the center of Macon Avenue to the shoulder in anticipation of creating a new motor entrance to his soon-to-open Grove Park Inn. He also purchased Proximity Park properties along Macon Avenue and re-platted them in 1919 to create larger lots. (The south side of Macon Avenue was included in the 1988 nomination of the Grove Park suburb as a historic district, so it is not included in this district.)
The 1917 Sanborn maps document twenty-eight houses in Proximity Park. Twenty more houses were constructed before 1925, a time when real estate development in Asheville reached a fevered pitch. Thomas Wolfe discusses this phenomenon in Oh Lost, wherein his mother Eliza has become obsessed with property: "She talked real estate unendingly. She spent half her time talking to real estate men; they hovered about the house like flesh-flies. She drove off with them several times a day to look at property." Mr. Grove is also loosely referred to as "Mr. Doak," and he was said to "engrave the meadows with sinuous tongues of concrete and macadam." His inn is also referred to as "a great hotel constructed of un-hewn native boulders."
In 1920, Dr. Reynolds sold his house and land at 86 Edgemont Road to the private Grove Park Girls School. Originally founded in 1900 as the Asheville School for Girls, it was considered a prestigious Asheville educational institution. The school built the neighboring structure at 86 1/2 Edgemont Road to house classrooms and the headmaster's house at 89 Edgemont Road. The school continued to operate in this location until the 1940s.
The Great Depression effectively stopped construction in Asheville. Only six houses and apartment buildings were built in Proximity Park after the Depression. Today the properties in this neighborhood serve as single-family homes, bed and breakfast inns, and apartments. The original vision of a middle class and upper-middle-class residential neighborhood has been maintained.
Proximity Park remains an intact collection of residential and institutional buildings, most of which were constructed between the turn of the twentieth century and the Great Depression. It is illustrative of the evolution of popular taste in architecture, both nationally and locally. The first wave of development favored Arts and Crafts, and especially the Craftsman style that grew out of it. These houses were built between 1905 and the 1920s. By 1917, Sanborn maps show that twenty-eight houses were built within Proximity Park and twenty-one were in the Craftsman style. By the end of the 1920s, half of the houses would be built in this style. Later, as in the neighboring Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1989), the period revival styles became prevalent. Although the neighborhood has a rich variety of architectural expression, it is cohesive due to mature vegetation, the use of common building materials, and a similarity in the size of houses and lots. It blends easily with the surrounding neighborhoods.
The house at 9 Evergreen Lane (circa 1910) is a noteworthy Craftsman style home, with a complex roof line of intersecting gables and heavy, oversized, notched beams. Uncoursed stone walls cascade into the surrounding yard, anchoring the house into the site. Stone walls are seen throughout the Proximity Park Historic District in foundations, porches, and retaining walls.
In 1895 Richard Sharp Smith established his firm in Asheville. Born in England, he came here from New York City while working for the firm of Hunt and Hunt. He was the supervising architect for the Biltmore Estate (National Register 1966). While in Asheville he developed a unique style that blending Old English elements with the Arts and Crafts style. He designed several buildings in Biltmore Village (National Register multiple resource area, 1979) in this style and numerous others in Western North Carolina. His rise was dependant on resulting building boom and because of this Smith became the most prominent Asheville architect of his day. He designed several buildings in Proximity Park Historic District and is thought to have influenced many more. James M. Westall, a well known builder and established businessman, also played a key part in Asheville's frenzied development. His family was established in Western North Carolina and he was the uncle of the famous writer Thomas Wolfe. His firm was credited with building "many public buildings as well as scores of handsome residences that are lasting monuments to his skill." Dr. Carl V. Reynolds, a founding member of PPC, hired him to build his residence at 86 Edgemont Road. His firm constructed many of Smith's houses and was one of the most skillful contractor/builders in the area.
Richard Sharp Smith is credited with developing a local variation known here as the English-derived Craftsman style. It is a hybrid of the Craftsman style blended with Old English elements. Heavy pebbledash stucco, multiple gables and dormers, clipped gables and dormers, and simple porch brackets, known here locally as the Montford Bracket, are used to create an Old English feel. The house at 80 Edgemont is a near mirror image of "Cottage B" designed for Biltmore Village. Built to house the workers supporting the Biltmore Estate, the Village was modeled after European villages surrounding old English estates. English-derived Craftsman houses can also be seen throughout the Montford Historic District (National Register 1977) where the signature Montford bracket is prevalent. It is known as a "simple hefty bracket" flat in section with a quarter round profile bracing a chamfered pillar. Mr. Smith's influence is also seen throughout Asheville on many properties not designed by him."Imitation of his work was a source of great irritation to him" and in 1897 Mr. Smith brought charges against Mr. Westall for using his designs without permission, in particular exterior elements. The houses at 68 Edgemont Road (1912) and 72 Edgemont Road (1910s) are among several that reflect the influence of Smith's English-derived Craftsman style. They may be replicas built by Mr. Westall.
The largest Craftsman-style house is at 2 Howland Road. Dr. George Tayloe Winston and Mrs. Caroline Winston had it built for themselves in 1910. He was a prominent physician who was active in national affairs. As an active member of the Democratic Party, he penned the nomination speech for Woodrow Wilson for the 1912 Democratic Convention. Dr. Winston was also a humanitarian, who in 1916 delivered a speech to the National Child Labor Committee opposing child labor. He favored the education of women and African Americans and the re-education of farmers displaced by industrial expansion, seeking jobs in the cities. He was a staunch naturalist who protested the destruction of Mount Mitchell. Mrs. Caroline Winston was an active member of the Colonial Dames, the Asheville Women's Club, the Red Cross, and Trinity Episcopal Church. Their names frequently appeared in the society papers. Their house at 2 Howland Road was built in the Craftsman style, with features such as a telescoping side-gabled roof, a prominent two-story front porch, knee brackets, simple pickets and columns, a coursed stone foundation, and retaining walls that cascade into the yard. The interior is fitted with classical details, such as heavy crown moldings with dentils, turned balusters and newel posts, and classically detailed mantels, bookcases, and stairs. It is thought that the Winstons had these details incorporated into the interior of their home after returning from their travels in Europe. The south wing is a sympathetic addition, built about a decade after the main house.
Period revival styles became popular in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century, but in Asheville their influence was eclipsed by the popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement. However, after World War I, revival styles regained dominance in the United States and in Asheville, including Proximity Park. Colonial Revival houses were especially popular, but several other period revival styles were built: Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Period Cottage, Gothic Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, and Spanish Revival. As the Period Revival styles gained dominance, houses in Proximity Park began to take on a more formal appearance. Historic detailing and forms are used freely, creating interesting eclectic houses.
Colonial Revival style houses account for about a third of all the houses built, making this the second most popular style in Proximity Park. Common features include side gabled roof forms and regular massing. Facades are generally symmetrical, and entrances are accentuated with elaborate pediments or porches. Cornices are mostly boxed or closed with small overhangs. Windows are rectangular, double hung with divided lights and materials include masonry or wood. Most are side gabled and organized around a central hall. Some have side wings that serve as open porches or sunrooms. The house at 401 Charlotte Street is a noteworthy example of the Colonial Revival style. It dates from the 1910s and is richly detailed, with heavy molding and dentils at the cornice and entryhood.
The stately Georgian Revival house at 12 Evergreen Lane (1917) was built by George Erwin Cullet Stephens, who relocated to Asheville from Charlotte, North Carolina. He developed Myers Park, a notable romantic suburban residential park in Charlotte, and Kanuga resort outside Hendersonville, North Carolina. It later became a conference center. He had an interest in the Charlotte Observer and at one time, owned the Asheville Citizen-Times. He organized the Asheville Holding Company, which bought the Biltmore Village land from George W. Vanderbilt's widow, and developed the Beverly Hills neighborhood adjacent to the Donald Ross designed Asheville Municipal Golf Course (National Register, 2005). His classical house, atop a hill at the end of Evergreen Lane, overlooks the Grove Park golf course. The original house is in the high Georgian Revival style, incorporating symmetrical geometry. Additions in the 1940s compromised the original symmetry, but the massing, materials and details were carefully matched. Classical elements, such as an elaborate cornice with dentils, pedimented dormers, fluted corner pilasters, and fan and sidelights flanking the door, work together to create a lavish dwelling.
The house that Dr. Carl V. Reynolds built at 86 Edgemont Road (1909) is a known in this document as Neoclassical Revival style; it has been referred to as Southern Colonial Revival. With elements such as a two-story portico, Corinthian columns and pilasters, a turned balustrade, fanlights and sidelights, a wide articulated frieze with dentils, and Tuscan columns on the porte cochere, it is one of the most impressive houses in the Proximity Park Historic District.
In the 1920s, a group of Tudor Revival style houses were built on Macon Avenue between Glendale Road and Latrobe Street. They are at 94 Macon Avenue (1924), 110 Macon Avenue (1925), and 118 Macon Avenue (1925). The original owners were Frank L. Hood and E.A. Jackson. They were probably developed together, as they were built from similar materials, are of similar size, and use the characteristic mix of half timbering, brick, and stucco. Their roof lines are steep, with dominant cross gables and entry porches, and some roofs have rolled edges. Most of the windows are tall with divided lights. The house at 110 Macon Avenue includes a parapeted gable, a very popular Tudor Revival element.
By 1915, Richard Sharp Smith had begun to draw from the revival styles. He was a member of St. Mary's Church and was commissioned to design the chapel and the rectory (National Register 1994). The rectory was built in the Period Cottage style. Details such as exposed rafter ends and clipped dormers and gables are reminiscent of his earlier work. The brick and smooth-faced plaster signal a departure from the pebbledash and more naturalistic materials of his English Craftsman. The Gothic Revival style church is a strict interpretation, with historic details reproduced. It is cruciform in plan, with a steeply pitched roof. The details evoke medieval Gothic architecture — for example, parapeted ends and dressed stone caps, tripartite windows with leaded stained glass, pointed arches, and buttresses.
Several other period revival houses are scattered throughout the Proximity Park Historic District. The Italian Renaissance Revival style house at 46 Macon Avenue, was built in 1924 by Fred Oates, the son of J. Rush Oates, the vice president of the Central Bank in Asheville. It is an impressive brick structure with rich stone detailing, such as window surrounds, keystones, lintels, a beltcourse, quoins, a decorative plaque, and a broken pedimented entry surround. The Italian Renaissance Revival style took features literally from Italian buildings and monuments, however elements are borrowed freely in this house. The apartment building at 83 Edgemont Road (1920s) is the only example of the Spanish Revival style in Proximity Park. This eclectic style draws from a variety of traditions, including Moorish, Byzantine, and Renaissance. Characteristic features include a red clay tile roof, wrought-iron balcony rail, stucco and stone surface treatments, and arched opening.
There are thirteen historic architectural styles within the Proximity Park Historic District but the sleeping porch is a popular element throughout. It gained popularity from the trend of visitors seeking the health benefits of the mountains. Asheville drew many visitors because it was known nationwide as a healing center for tuberculosis. The preferred method of treating tuberculosis was to keep patients in rooms that were "thoroughly ventilated with at least one window open day and night, winter and summer." Asheville had the perfect climate. Because it was relatively far south and was protected by the Blue Ridge Mountains, its winters were mild and its summers were not too hot. Sleeping porches became ubiquitous in Asheville, and Proximity Park Historic District was no exception. Twenty-four of sixty-two contributing houses have them, and many others have side porches as seen at 36 Macon Avenue and 46 Macon Avenue. By the 1920s other treatments were becoming popular, but the sleeping porch was still a desirable feature for the mountain climate.
Bailey, David C., Joseph M. Canfield and Harold E. Cox. Trolleys in the Land of the Sky. Forty Fort, PN: Harold E. Cox, 2000.
Bishir, Catherine W., Michael T. Southern and Jennifer Martin. A Guide to Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Bishir, Catherine W. and Lawrence Earley, ed. Early Twentieth Century Suburbs in North Carolina: Essays of History, Architecture, and Planning. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1985.
Buncombe County Tax Assessment Books: Ward 2 and Beaverdam Ward. Buncombe County Central Records, Asheville.
Buncombe County Register of Deeds, Buncombe County Courthouse, Asheville.
Carley, Rachael The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture. New York, N.Y.: Henry Holt and Company, 1994.
Country Club of Asheville, The. One Hundred Years: The History of the Country Club of Asheville, Inc. Asheville, NC: The Country Club of Asheville, 1994.
Colloway, Stephen and Elizabeth Cromley. The Elements of Style. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Klein, Marylin W. and David P. Fogle, Clues to American Architecture. Washington, D.C.: Starhill Press, 1985.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to the American House. New York, N.Y.: Knopf Publishing Group, 1984.
McQuilkin, A.H. "Asheville Pictures and Penciling: A monthly journal illustrative and descriptive of the social life and industrial progress of Western North Carolina." Asheville: A.H. McQuilkin, February and June editions, 1899. North Carolina Desk, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville.
Rojas, Pat. "Writings on Richard Sharp Smith" (manuscript). North Carolina Desk, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, 1988.
Smith, Richard Sharp. Inventory of Richard Sharp Smith Architectural Drawings, circa 1895-1922. North Carolina Desk, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville.
Swain, Douglas. Cabins and Castles: The History of Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1981.
Winter, Robert and Alexander Vertikoff. Craftsman Style. New York, N.Y.: Henry N. Adams, Inc. Publishers, 2004.
Wolfe, Thomas. O Lost Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.
†NRHP Nomination form (2006) prepared by: Helen Purdum, Local Historian and Kathryn Scott, Architect, Grove Park/Sunset Neighborhood Association, Proximity Park Historic District, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.