Sunset Terrace Historic District
The Sunset Terrace Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Sunset Terrace Historic District is a small residential enclave located off Macon Avenue to the north of downtown Asheville in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Nestled on a sloping site, the Sunset Terrace Historic District consists of six houses with detached garages situated on a single street, Sunset Terrace, which lends its name to the district. Rose Mary Byrne, an Asheville transplant from New York, developed the property as residences and rental cottages from a single 2.3-acre tract. The cohesive character of the Sunset Terrace Historic District is due in large part to the work of local architect Charles N. Parker, who designed the six cottages, and his brother, Harry L. Parker, an engineer who laid out the streets and landscaping.
Sunset Terrace, the street, traverses the property from Macon Avenue on the east to Woodlink Road on the west, meandering through the property and looping around two cottages — Westview and Blossoms. The narrow winding street, steep topography, and mature vegetation give the neighborhood its distinct, insular feel, which is enhanced by the limited access and minimal through-traffic.
Miss Byrne acquired the property in April 1913, and at the time it was bordered by Macon Avenue on the east, Dr. Carl V. Reynolds' tract to the south, the Asheville Country Club golf course to the west, and the Grove Park Inn (National Register, 1973) to the north. The Grove Park Inn, which was completed three months after Byrne bought her property, stands on Macon Avenue approximately one-half mile to the northeast of Sunset Terrace. The success of the inn significantly influenced the development and character of the surrounding areas in the twentieth century through the type of visitors drawn to the inn and its architectural style. Five acres immediately adjacent to Sunset Terrace on the north were later sold to Curtis and Katherine Bynum, who built a grand Tudor Gothic style stone house in the early 1920s. To the south, the Dr. Carl V. Reynolds House (National Register, 1982), an imposing Neoclassical Revival style dwelling, became the focal point of a residential development along Edgemont Road located immediately south of Sunset Terrace.
The Sunset Terrace Historic District is an intact grouping of six eclectic cottages and associated outbuildings designed by prominent Asheville architect Charles N. Parker and built for Miss Rose Mary Byrne, a tuberculosis patient who came to Asheville for its healthful climate in 1906. The six cottages, built between 1913 and 1920, are all located on Sunset Terrace, and occupy the landscaped 2.3-acre tract acquired by Miss Byrne in 1913. The Sunset Terrace Historic District is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places as an excellent local example of Tudor Revival, Craftsman, and Chalet styles of residential architecture. The period of significance is from 1913 to 1920, the period when the six cottages were designed and built. The Sunset Terrace Historic District presents a cohesive collection of residential structures with a minimal amount of alterations and intrusions to the landscaped setting. Alterations and additions to the individual houses do not detract from the overall integrity of the district, which retains its historic appearance and character.
Rose Mary Byrne and Early Twentieth Century Asheville
Rose Mary Byrne (1880-1924) was the daughter of Dr. John and Mary Winifred Byrne of Brooklyn, New York. An Irish immigrant in the late 1840s, Dr. John Byrne married Mary Winifred O'Connor in 1860 and sired a large family. He established himself as a respected physician who founded the Long Island College Hospital and was chief surgeon at St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn. Despite his extensive medical background, Dr. Byrne's family was devastated by the effects of tuberculosis. Dr. and Mrs. Byrne witnessed the death and burial of eleven of their thirteen children — five as young children and six as young adults. In February 1902, Dr. and Mrs. Byrne and their two surviving daughters, Evelyn and Rose, sailed from New York to Europe to seek treatment and respite. Dr. Byrne died of heart failure on October 1, 1902, at age 76, two weeks after addressing the International Obstetrical Congress in Rome.
Following Dr. Byrne's death, Rose Byrne remained in Switzerland for treatment of her pulmonary illness while Mrs. Byrne and Evelyn returned to the United States. As Rose Byrne's condition improved, Evelyn grew increasingly ill, and she died four years later, in 1906, from tuberculosis. Soon after, Rose and her mother moved to Asheville, which was gaining a national reputation for its healthful climate and as a center for the treatment of tuberculosis. The small mountain city, situated at a moderate elevation in the southern Appalachian Mountains, attracted not only the leading doctors in the treatment of respiratory illnesses, but also wealthy patients from all over the country. Rose and Mary Winifred Byrne took up rooms at the Ridgewood Boarding House on South Main Street (present Biltmore Avenue) in Asheville, which later became St. Joseph's Sanitarium. They later resided at Milfoil Cottage in Albemarle Park (National Register district, 1978) off of Charlotte Street to the north of downtown Asheville, and joined the city's social life as members of St. Lawrence Catholic Church (NR, 1978) and the Asheville Country Club.
Albemarle Park, more commonly known as the Manor Inn and cottages, was developed on forty-two acres on the slopes of Sunset Mountain and managed by Thomas Wadley Raoul for his father, William Greene Raoul, former president of the Central of Georgia Railroad. Twenty-year-old Thomas Raoul came to Asheville in 1897, primarily to recuperate from tuberculosis, and later became the foreman for the Albemarle Park development. The Raouls brought in New York architect Bradford L. Gilbert to design the rambling Manor Inn Lodge (present day Gatehouse), and first five cottages. The Lodge, a Tudor Revival style building with tower and wood shingles over pebbledash stucco, was the first structure to be completed in 1898. The Shingle style inn opened on December 31, 1898, with an emphasis on home-like accommodations. It was enlarged with a new wing in 1903 and another in 1913. Built between 1898 and the 1910s and laid out on curvilinear streets, the numerous picturesque cottages, a mix of rental cottages and private residences, display variations of the Shingle, Craftsman, Tudor Revival, Rustic, and Swiss Chalet styles.
Mary Winifred Byrne died in February 1913 at Milfoil Cottage. She was 72. Mrs. Byrne was buried in Brooklyn, and afterward Eugene Berard, Dr. Byrne's attorney and trustee of the family estate, remained in Asheville to assist Rose Byrne with financial and legal matters. As the only living child of Dr. and Mrs. Byrne, Rose Byrne received a considerable inheritance, a portion of which was used to purchase a 2.3-acre tract from Thomas Raoul on April 29, 1913 located off Macon Avenue and adjacent to the Asheville Country Club (present Grove Park Inn Golf Course), approximately one-half mile north of Milfoil Cottage. Byrne immediately set out to develop the property in a manner akin to the Manor Inn and cottages. The Grove Park Inn, which is located a short distance northeast, opened in July 1913, three months after Rose Byrne purchased her property.
Rose Byrne retained local architect Charles N. Parker, who had recently left the reputable firm of Smith and Carrier to open his own practice, to design two cottages, which she called "Rosemary" and "Primrose." Completed in 1913, Byrne established Rosemary Cottage (10 Sunset Terrace) as her primary residence and offered Primrose Cottage (9 Sunset Terrace) for rent. Parker designed three more cottages — Rambler Cottage (23 Sunset Terrace), Westview Cottage (26 Sunset Terrace), and Blossoms Cottage (32 Sunset Terrace) — that were completed in 1915. In 1917, Byrne sold a small parcel at the west edge of her property to her dear friend Amy Coyler, who erected a sixth Parker-designed cottage, Violet Cottage (48 Sunset Terrace), by 1920. Charles Parker's brother, Harry L. Parker, helped to lay out the small neighborhood, which Byrne named "Sunset Terrace." Harry L. Parker worked as a property manager and engineer for E. W. Grove Investments from 1913 to 1927, and was responsible for designing the residential areas of Grove Park (National Register district, 1989), Kimberly Avenue (NR district amendment, 1990), and the Grovemont community in Swannanoa. Harry Parker prepared a plat of the Sunset Terrace property in November 1921, showing the location of the six cottages, garages, main road, and driveways.
During the construction of the Sunset Terrace neighborhood, Rose Byrne incurred several unexpected expenses, including erosion of the road through the property. When Miss Byrne questioned the profitability of her investment, family advisor Berard suggested that the "precipitous declivity" of the property, which was responsible for the expensive drainage and road repair, might eventually add considerable value to the property "by affording such a grand west and south view for all the cottages." Berard also explained that rapidly escalating property values in the city should adequately compensate for the high cost of building materials and the initially low rate of return on her rental cottages.
In addition to her real estate project and active social life, Rose Byrne enjoyed traveling, often with her friend Amy Coyler, a former teacher and nurse who bought the property for Violet cottage from Byrne. Experiencing more health problems, Rose Byrne was diagnosed with diabetes in 1920, and sold Blossoms cottage to Coyler in 1921. Byrne's declining health led her to rent a cottage in Highlands, North Carolina, in the summer of 1924, and she died in July that year. Byrne's remaining four cottages were sold upon her death, including Primrose cottage to Amy Coyler, Rosemary cottage to C.W.R. Radeker, and Westview and Rambler to Maria Louise Stevenson. All of the cottages in Sunset Terrace have remained as private residences since the 1920s, with most of the cottages averaging eight subsequent owners after Rose Byrne and Amy Coyler. Primrose cottage is the exception with only four additional owners, each keeping the property for approximately twenty years. The architectural character of the neighborhood has survived, in part, due to covenants that Byrne requested be placed in the deeds to subsequent owners requiring that the existing roads and driveways always remain open "for the use and benefit of all the owners of property in Sunset Terrace" and that any later buildings or improvements "conform architecturally to the buildings now on the Sunset Terrace property." It is a testament to Miss Byrne's vision that later owners have worked diligently to preserve the neighborhood as her legacy.
The Sunset Terrace Historic District is an intact collection of residential architecture executed in the Tudor Revival, Craftsman, and Chalet styles. Designed by architect Charles N. Parker, four of the cottages embody the distinctive characteristics of the Tudor Revival style, one of several styles influenced by English architecture that became especially popular in Asheville during the early twentieth century. Richard Sharp Smith, supervising architect for the construction of George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate (NR, 1966), was the man most responsible for introducing and popularizing English architectural models in Asheville. Born in England and professionally trained, Smith opened his architectural practice in Asheville in 1895. He designed more than two dozen buildings in Biltmore Village (NR multiple resource area, 1979), employing pebbledash stucco, brick, and half-timbered exteriors to invoke an English feeling. Smith designed the Young Men's Institute (NR, 1977), at the corner of Eagle and Market streets in downtown Asheville, utilizing an English cottage form on a civic building. He went on to design numerous public and commercial buildings, churches, and domestic structures in Asheville neighborhoods such as Montford (NR district 1977), Chestnut Hill (NR district, 1983), and Grove Park.
Charles Parker, a native of Hillsboro, Ohio, moved to Asheville in 1904 with his mother and brother, Harry, a civil engineer. Parker worked as a draftsman for Richard Sharp Smith, who joined with Albert Heath Carrier in the firm of Smith and Carrier in 1906. Parker was clearly influenced by Smith's individual style and stayed on until around 1913, when he opened his own practice. Parker concentrated on Asheville's lucrative residential market during his career, designing several imposing Tudor Revival style house in Biltmore Forest, but he became best known as the architect of the Grove Arcade (NR, 1976), a monumental Tudor Gothic commercial building constructed in the late 1920s on the site of the old Battery Park Hotel. One of the city's most prominent developers and owner of the Grove Park Inn, Edwin Wiley Grove conceived of the Arcade, a reinforced concrete and steel structure covered with glazed terra cotta panels, as the base of an office tower, but Grove's death and the onset of the Great Depression halted the project before the tower was built. Parker later joined the firm of Six Associates after World War II and continued to practice architecture until his retirement in the late 1950s. He died at his home in Asheville in 1961.
The Tudor Revival style — like the Shingle, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman styles — became popular across the country in the early twentieth century and appealed to buyers in Asheville's fast-growing neighborhoods and suburbs. The earliest examples of Tudor Revival architecture in the United States date from the late nineteenth century, and the style achieved widespread popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s. Although the name alludes to sixteenth century Tudor England, the style derives primarily from Medieval English prototypes, mixed with eclectic American expressions and materials. Tudor Revival style houses are generally united by an emphasis on steeply pitched, front-facing gables, and typically incorporate decorative half-timbering, grouped multi-pane windows, prominent chimneys, and stucco, masonry, or masonry-veneered walls. The use of masonry walls for Tudor Revival style houses was a variant more common in the United States than in England. The work of Richard Sharp Smith heavily influenced the use of the Tudor Revival style in Asheville, especially the vernacular English character created through the use of pebbledash stucco, brick, and half-timbering for exteriors and his elegant but comfortable interiors.
The Craftsman style is also represented in the Sunset Terrace Historic District. This extremely popular architectural style grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement, which spread from England to the United States in the late nineteenth century. Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman magazine (1901-1916) became the chief disseminator of Arts and Crafts beliefs in the United States, and his company, Craftsman Workshops, produced furniture that promoted design unity of both house and furnishings. He published house designs — complete working drawings and specifications — in The Craftsman that could be ordered from the company. Craftsman houses, as they came to be known, represented the Arts and Crafts ideal of vernacular revival, honest expression of structure, responsiveness to site, and the use of local materials for comfortable domestic architecture that provided "the proper atmosphere for the pursuit of the simple life." The Arts and Crafts movement and Craftsman style in Asheville was made popular through resort architecture, especially the design and furnishings of the Grove Park Inn, built in 1913. In residential architecture, the Craftsman style often employed wood or shingle siding (frequently in combination), open eave overhangs with exposed roof rafters, decorative beams or braces in gable ends, and square or tapered porch posts supported by piers extending from above the porch floor to ground level without a break. Doors and windows also typically contained a distinctive glazing pattern with multi-pane areas across the top or multiple lights over a single pane in double-hung sash.
The Chalet style, while decidedly less common, sat easily in the built environment of Asheville, drew heavily from resort architecture, and directly responded to the mountainous landscape of the region. Perhaps best described as a subtype of the Craftsman and nineteenth century Shingle styles, Chalet style houses were influenced by Swiss models as well as examples in the great summer camps of the Adirondack Mountains, whose rustic lodges inspired resort and camp architecture at Linville, Blowing Rock, and other sites in western North Carolina. Chalet style houses are typically defined by their wood shingle siding, steeply pitched roofs with broad eaves, and elaborate decorative and exposed structural woodwork. Clio cottage in Albemarle Park, designed by Bradford Gilbert and built ca.1900, is a rare surviving example of the style. Although the Chalet style was not especially prevalent in Asheville, the romanticized concept of mountain living at the time greatly influenced not only the occasional Chalet style house, but also the much more prevalent examples of the Craftsman and Tudor Revival styles.
In her vision for Sunset Terrace, Rose Byrne was clearly influenced by the eclectic and picturesque character of Albemarle Park, where she lived for a time with her mother in Milfoil cottage. Built ca.1900, Milfoil cottage was a Shingle style dwelling covered with heavy timber construction and decorative shingle patterns in the gable ends. In addition to the Tudor Revival style Lodge and rambling Shingle style inn, Albemarle Park was carefully landscaped and dotted with cottages rendered in the Tudor Revival, Shingle, Craftsman, Rustic, and Chalet styles. Byrne's development was much smaller in scale and not intended as a resort of any kind, but it incorporated many elements of Albemarle Park's planned community that extended on the slopes above the Manor Inn.
Sunset Terrace is remarkable as an intact and cohesive collection of popular residential architectural styles, which is attributable to both the vision of Rose Byrne for the development and the work of Charles Parker as architect for all six cottages. The Tudor Revival style of Rosemary, Primrose, Rambler, and Westview cottages show the influence of Asheville's residential architecture, particularly the work of Richard Sharp Smith, who used forms, massing, and materials to imbue his domestic buildings with a distinctly English character. Drawing on his apprenticeship with Smith, Charles Parker invested the Sunset Terrace cottages with a similar feel, but also incorporated eclectic elements from the Shingle, Craftsman, and Chalet styles — including the Craftsman-influenced Blossoms cottage and the Chalet-like Violet cottage. These elements clearly reference the architecture of Albemarle Park and other Asheville landmarks such as the Grove Park Inn.
The few alterations and intrusions that have been introduced do not detract from the overall character of the Sunset Terrace neighborhood. Additions to Rambler and Violet cottages are in keeping with the design, materials, and workmanship of the original houses, and are generally detectable only on close inspection of the buildings. The Primrose cottage garage, built after 1980, also closely emulates the style of the house. Other additions to the structures and landscape, such as wood decks and fences, are minimal; they do not diminish the integrity of the district. The Sunset Terrace Historic District survives as a small residential enclave of picturesque Tudor Revival cottages that closely resembles the original vision of Rose Byrne and her architect, Charles Parker.
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† Clay Griffith, Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc., Sunset Terrace Historic District, Buncombe County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.