Norwood Park Historic District
The Norwood 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 copyrgiht © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Norwood Park Historic District in Asheville, North Carolina is located north of downtown, just to the east of Merrimon Avenue, one of the main north-south arteries through the northern part of the city. The Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1989) is located to the southeast and the Kimberly Amendment to the Grove Park Historic District (National Register 1990) is located to the northeast. The Norwood Park Historic District is bounded roughly by Murdock Street on the west and south, Woodward Avenue on the north, and Norwood Avenue on the east. The twenty-six acre residential district contains concentrations of houses, from greatest to least occurrence, in the Craftsman Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Minimal Traditional, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival styles, dating from ca.1900 through the early 1950s, all of which were built within the historically platted Norwood Park subdivision.
The Norwood Park Historic District forms an intact representation of Asheville's boom time in the first three decades of the twentieth century, along with some additional building which took place in the late 1930s through the 1950s. Outside the Norwood Park Historic District boundaries to the north, east, and south are additional historic residential areas, with modern commercial development located to the west along Merrimon Avenue. The Norwood Park Historic District has retained a high degree of historic architectural integrity.
The topography of the Norwood Park Historic District varies widely. Some lots, such as those along parts of Woodward and Woodley Avenues are nearly level, unlike the steep hillsides and siting of houses high above the street on Murdock Street. Most lots have gently sloping topography, dropping slightly to the rear, often allowing for a full above-ground basement level. Lots are typically small, with houses lining both sides of the streets built close together in a steady rhythm of setback.
The Norwood Park Historic Districtt consists of 154 contributing buildings and outbuildings, one contributing structure, twenty-eight non-contributing buildings and outbuildings, and five non-contributing structures. There are no vacant lots in the Norwood Park Historic District, and non-contributing buildings are a mixture of buildings constructed outside of the period of significance, and historic buildings with significant alterations, such as porch enclosures or the removal of numerous key architectural features. Contributing buildings are those buildings that are at least fifty years old, and retain a high degree of architectural integrity. If a building retains its historic form and detailing, but is clad in artificial siding, it is still counted as a contributing resource.
The Norwood Park Historic District, located on the north side of Asheville, Buncombe County, has a period of significance from ca.1900 to 1951, and meets National Register Criterion C for architecture and Criterion A for its contribution to the early twentieth century community planning and development of Asheville. Unlike most suburban neighborhoods developing on the north side of town concurrently with Norwood Park, the neighborhood appears to have been purposefully planned to fill a need for middle class housing north of the city, with generally smaller houses and lot sizes, higher density, and no land left undeveloped for open space. It is an intact collection of Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Minimal Traditional, Tudor Revival, and Dutch Colonial Revival style buildings dating from the late 1910s and 1920s. There are a handful of buildings dating from the late 1930s and early 1940s, and two farmhouses that pre-dated the planning of the neighborhood were located on the land which developed into Norwood Park.
Historic Background and Community Planning and Development
Buncombe County was founded in 1792 and the county seat of Asheville, originally called Morristown, followed soon after, in 1797. Asheville remained as an isolated community through most of the nineteenth century, with some trade opening up due to the building of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1828. This drover's road connected Greeneville, Tennessee to Greenville, South Carolina, with Asheville being one of the main stopping points along the route. It was not until the railroad arrived in 1880, however, that Asheville began to experience its greatest boom time, lasting until the end of the 1920s. During this period, neighborhoods were planned and many houses were built in the most popular styles of the day. With railroad access, building materials were plentiful and there was seemingly no end to the amount of skilled labor available to meet these construction needs. Asheville's earliest neighborhoods, Montford and Chestnut Hills, located south of Norwood Park, developed in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries as the first residential expansions northward. These communities were served by the new streetcar system which began operating in Asheville in 1889, and many of the houses included carriage houses.
As the population and wealth of Asheville grew in the twentieth century, new residential neighborhoods were built further and from the center of town, extending to the far reaches of the streetcar system, which, by the 1910s, extended as far north as Charlotte Street. However, by this time a new invention, the automobile, had arrived in Asheville, a national transportation trend which rapidly took precedence over the streetcar system. The Grove Park neighborhood, located southeast of Norwood Park, and extending to the east and west of Charlotte Street, was one of these new automobile neighborhoods, laid out with a system of rear alleyways and garages to accommodate the new mode of transportation. Kimberly Lands, built as an extension to Grove Park, and located directly east of and adjacent to the Norwood Park Historic District, also continued this trend of northern movement out of the commercial core of the city. Norwood Park, platted in 1914, followed this same trend of catering to the automobile, and streets were laid out with rear alleys and garages from the beginning.
In addition to the street and alley design for the automobile, Norwood Park was part of the "suburb beautiful" movement taking place all over the country. This movement consisted of a design philosophy which included a curvilinear system of street design that paid close attention to the natural topography and incorporated within its boundaries amenities such as large lots, sidewalks, tree-lined streets, open spaces, and elaborate high-style houses following the latest architectural trends of the day. The earliest example of the use of this design philosophy in Asheville is in the Albemarle Park neighborhood, laid out by landscape architect Samuel Parsons in 1899.
Albemarle Park is perhaps the best example of a mountain community where the streets follow the curving mountain roads and the houses are constructed of native materials including cedar shingles, tree trunk posts and porch railings, and stone foundations. While earlier neighborhoods such as Montford and Chestnut Hills were laid out in a grid pattern, later neighborhoods such as Albemarle Park, and later Grove Park, designed by Biltmore Estate landscape architect Chauncey Beadle, utilized the "suburb beautiful" concept. The development of Norwood Park was very much in keeping with the 1910s to 1920s trend in Asheville, and the nation, to develop more suburban, park-like neighborhoods located farther from downtown. In contrast to the neighborhoods mentioned above, however, Norwood Park was designed with smaller lots, and a higher density of buildings. Norwood Park, while incorporating many of the concepts of the "suburb beautiful" movement in its curvilinear street patterns, uniform setbacks, close attention to the natural topography, sidewalks, and tree-lined streets, was smaller in land area and was designed to appeal to the middle class homeowner. Houses were generally less elaborate, typically in the Craftsman style, and no land was left undeveloped for a public park, as it had been in Grove Park and Albemarle Park where the centers of the neighborhoods still retain their original public green spaces. Norwood Park filled an important need in Asheville for more middle class housing, meeting a continuing desire of the population of Asheville to move farther from the center of town, made possible by the street car lines and the ease of access by automobile. Norwood Park, in its heyday of development in the 1910s to 1920s, provided housing for the middle class and formed the northern edge of residential communities available within the city limits of Asheville.
Norwood Park was comprised of the property of the Central Development Company, and was advertised as adjoining the golf links (later the Kimberly Lands portion of the Grove Park neighborhood to the east). The plat also noted the neighborhood as being "restricted homesites...city-water, sewerage, paved sidewalks, electric lights and telephones available." G.B. Marshall was noted as being the exclusive agent for selling the lots with "easy terms, reasonable prices." This first layout included Virginia Avenue (later renamed Norwood Avenue); S. Woodward Avenue; Woodward Avenue; Midway Drive; and Lynndon Road (later Murdock Street) noted on the plat. To the west was Woolsey Avenue (now Merrimon Avenue), noting on the plat the location of the electric street car line, which gave ready access to the newly planned suburban neighborhood. The second plat for the neighborhood was laid out a year later, in June 1915. This was also the property of Central Development Company, comprised at this time of three individuals, S.M. Wolfe, superintendent of W.M. Ritter Labor Company, C.W. McCormick, and Guy Weaver, an attorney (all were noted as being of Ramoth, North Carolina on the plat, but all were Asheville residents). This plat included the southwest portion of the neighborhood, including lots laid out along Lynndon (Murdock); Romney Street (later the northwest portion of Ramoth Road); Carolina Avenue (later Ramoth Road); Woodley Avenue; and Hampshire Circle. Lots were small, averaging forty feet in width and one hundred twenty feet in depth, with closely spaced houses. To accommodate automobiles, the later portion of the neighborhood included a system of alleyways located behind Murdock Avenue and Midway Drive. Also platted were several public walkways connecting the houses set up on the hillsides to Murdock Street and the commercial areas along Merrimon Avenue.
While not fully documented, long-time residents note that there are two houses in the Norwood Park Historic District that pre-date the rest of the neighborhood. These are 39 Ramoth Road (ca.1910) and 104 Woodward Avenue (ca.1900). Both of these were farmhouses on the land that later developed into Norwood Park. The land which eventually became part of Weaver Park, on the west side of Murdock Street, was originally a field associated with 39 Ramoth Road. The house presently located at 104 Woodward Avenue was noted as being the Padgett house on the 1914 plat. The Central Development Company also acquired lands for Norwood Park from several individuals. A typical deed from the Central Development Company to new owners included several restrictive covenants which were often included in deeds of this time period in Asheville's developmental history. These included:
...that he will not erect or suffer or license to be erected on the land above described any commercial or manufacturing establishment or factory, or house or building to be used as a sanatorium or hospital of any kind, or at any time use or suffer to be used any building or buildings created thereon for any such purposes; that he will not erect or suffer to be erected on said land any residence to cost less than $2500.00. That in building on said land he will build on the building line as shown and indicted on the said plat hereinbefore referred to...
...that he will not build more than one residence on any one lot of said land, but may build thereon a garage or stable, in keeping with the premises and residence built thereon and of sightly appearance; that he will not during the term of twenty years from the date hereof, sell or convey said land, or any part thereof, to a negro or person of any degree of negro blood, or any person of bad character...
A May 1915 newspaper article noted that "choice lots" were for sale in Norwood Park, although they were generally smaller than those found in the adjoining Grove Park neighborhood. Over $14,000 had been invested by the developers in improving the Norwood Park property, however, including the grading of streets, concrete sidewalks, city water, electric lights, telephones, and link-up to the city sewage system. The article also pointed out the proximity to the existing street car system, making the neighborhood "one of the most desirable residential sections in or near Asheville." The lots were all to be sold with a specified building line to give the property a "uniform park-like appearance and not to obstruct the view from any lot." There were three homes under construction at the time this article was written, with several more being planned.
According to the 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, there were only seventy-seven houses built by 1925, with the total number of available lots being 178. Some of these have been documented as being built in the late 1910s, but most of these were built in the early 1920s. The next group, which appears on the 1943 Sanborn map, was built in the late 1920s to the 1930s, with a handful being built in the early 1940s. Additional properties were built within the period of significance, in the late 1940s to early 1950s, filling in the few remaining lots in the neighborhood.
Residents of Norwood Park historically were a mix of socio-economic levels. Judging from the rapid turnover of occupants in some of the houses, as well as frequent vacancies, there were likely a lot of renters. In addition to the residents who worked for Asheville businesses, there were many business owners and other professionals who lived in the neighborhood, including physicians, dentists, accountants, lawyers, traveling salesmen, retired army personnel, insurance agents, postal workers, and U.S. and State Forest Service workers. Some of the businesses represented by employees living in the community included Southern Railway, Dave Steel, J.C. Penneys, Ivey's Department Store, Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper, Parkland Chevrolet, American Enka Corporation Mill, Asheville Fish Company, Richbourg Motor Company, Asheville Paint Company, Brown-Williamson Tobacco Company, Asheville Transfer & Storage Company, and Morgan Brothers Wholesale Candy Company. In the mid-1940s, it was common to see many widows listed, an indication of husbands lost in the war. Business owners and executives living in Norwood Park included Ervin R. Bean of S.I. Bean Tile & Marble (22 Norwood Avenue); George R. Murphy, Superintendent of Asheville Cotton Mills (136 Norwood Avenue); G.J. Waechter, of Waechter's Fabrics (1 Norwood Avenue); D. Hiden Ramsey, general manager of the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper (104 Woodward Avenue); James M. Hearn of J.M. Hearn's Bicycles (62 Woodward Avenue); C.O. Stauffer, superintendent, of Williams-Brownell Planing Mill (also 62 Woodward Avenue); Verne G. Moser of Moser Plumbing (39 Ramoth Road); J.B. Bradford, of J.B. Bradford & Company barbers' supplies (11 Woodward Avenue); W.A. Patterson, of Patterson Sewing Machine Shop (11 Woodward Avenue); Mack R. Warren, of Warren Safe & Lock (43 Woodward Avenue); Broadus E. Braswell, of Braswell's Esso Service Station; Isadore Goldstein, of I. Goldstein Department Store (18 Woodley Avenue); Fred D. Severance, publisher of the Asheville News (295 Murdock Street); James P. Sawyer, of Sawyer Motor Company (7 Ramoth Road); and N.B. Clark, proprietor of Haywood Filling Station and Consumer's Oil Company (123 Norwood Avenue).
The houses built in Norwood Park were very much in keeping with the typical styles built elsewhere in Asheville and in the nation. The building styles within Norwood Park Historic District, as mentioned above, are most similar to those seen in the Grove Park Historic District, with examples in both neighborhoods of the Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Tudor Revival styles. However, due to the compactness of the neighborhood, Norwood Park is different in that there is a particularly large concentration of Bungalows, which fit the smaller lots well and were popular among the middle class in particular. The Grove Park and Kimberly Lands neighborhoods, unlike Norwood Park, also have, within their boundaries, high style examples of the Prairie, Classical Revival, Georgian Revival, and Italian Renaissance styles, many of which are larger, more elaborate, and often architect-designed. The houses in Albemarle Park, one of several summer resort communities built in the mountains of western North Carolina, were not originally intended as year-round residences. Most were built in the Shingle and Craftsman styles, but with only a handful being equivalent in size to the Bungalows typically found in Norwood Park. The Albemarle Park houses were purposefully designed to fit into that particular landscape, making use of native materials and topography to best showcase these homes which were originally used as summer cottages.
The Craftsman style is most commonly found in Norwood Park Historic District. Craftsman Bungalows, nationally popular from 1905 to 1930, typically are one to one-and-one-half stories, with either front or side-gable roofs, with porches often including details such as battered posts on piers, solid balustrades, and an irregular floor plan. They make use of natural materials such as brick and stone, and Norwood Park is no exception to this stylistic feature. Particularly notable examples of the Craftsman style include the C.O. Stauffer House 1917), with its side-gable roof, knee braces, shingle siding, stone and brick foundation, and front porch with triple corner posts and a solid shingled balustrade; the house at 11 Ramoth Road (1926), with its steeply pitched side-gable roof with knee braces, large front-gable roof dormer with its own balcony at the front of the house, and massive truncated posts on brick piers; and the Clyde R. Pike House (1935), with its unusual engaged front porch with truncated triple corner Doric columns capped by oversize beams, ribbon of five-light casement windows, and oversized knee braces.
The second most popular style built in the neighborhood is the Colonial Revival (1880-1955), including several examples of the Foursquare form, which typically is two rooms tall and two rooms deep in massing, with either a gable or hip roof and a full-width porch. One good example of the Foursquare form is the R.L. Spaulding House (1924), with its hip roof, typical Four Square massing, German and shingle siding, attached, full-width front porch, and four-vertical-lights-over-one and diamond-pane windows. The Colonial Revival covers a wide range of building forms, but all typically include two stories, symmetrical massing, and often side-gable roofs with end or central chimneys. This popular style can also be seen at a larger scale with a central portico, hip roofs and a full-width porch. Good examples of the Colonial Revival style in Norwood Park include the Joseph Kartus House (1923), with its side-gable roof, wide eaves, cornice returns, front door with fanlight and sidelights, and exterior end chimneys; and the house at 39 Ramoth Road (ca.1910), with its hip roof, shingle siding, diamond-pane-over-one windows, multiple brick chimneys, and notable central, two-tier porch. A sub-group within the Colonial Revival which is seen in small numbers in Norwood Park is the Dutch Colonial Revival. An example of the Dutch Colonial Revival is the house at 97 Woodward Avenue (1923) with its symmetrical massing, central brick chimney, front entry stoop with a pedimented roof supported by square posts, German siding and gambrel roof.
The Tudor Revival (1890-1940) house, of which there are a few examples in Norwood Park Historic District, typically is asymmetrical in massing, is built of masonry construction, with steeply pitched multi-gable roofs, casement windows, and an entry stoop. It can include applied half-timbering on the walls and there may be brick surrounds at doors and windows. There are two excellent examples of the Tudor Revival style in the neighborhood, the Hamilton Block House (1924), with its stucco walls, steeply pitched side-gable roof, multi-light casement windows, and v-board door; and the house at 30 Norwood Avenue (1932), with elongated concrete block walls, contrasting concrete quoins and window surrounds, steeply pitched multi-story side-gable roof, exterior end concrete block chimney, and multi-light front door.
The Minimal Traditional style (ca.1935-1950), of which there are a handful of examples in Norwood Park, was a transitional style between the Craftsman and the modern house. These houses were typically one-story and incorporated asymmetrical massing, gabled roofs, and a wide variety of materials including wood, brick, or stone. An example of this style in the neighborhood is the Milton R. Williams House (198), with asbestos siding, recessed entry with front-gable stone surround, patio, stone foundation, stone chimney, eight-over-eight and six-over-six windows, and a multi-panel door with transom.
As is the case with most historic neighborhoods, there have been some architectural changes made since Norwood Park was first laid out in 1914. In most instances, these are minor alterations that do not significantly interfere with the architectural integrity of the houses. These include replacement doors and windows, artificial siding, and small additions that do not overwhelm the original building in mass and scale. Some architectural changes within the neighborhood that have changed building integrity, include full porch enclosures, large additions, major changes to entries, and complete re-designing of prominent front porches. However, despite these changes, Norwood Park Historic District retains a high degree of architectural integrity in its presentation of architectural styles, setback, massing, materials, and street layout, retaining its sense of place and setting.
Asheville City Directories 1919-1956.
Buncombe County Deed Records.
Bowers, Sybil Argintar and Carolyn Humphries. "Grove Park National Register Historic District Nomination," 1989.
Mathews, Jane Gianvito and Richard A. Mathews. The Manor and Cottages. Asheville, North Carolina: The Albemarle Park-Manor Grounds Association, Inc., 1991.
McAlester, Virginia, and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
"Norwood Addition Will Be Exploited." Asheville Citizen. 28 May 1915.
Sanborn Map Company, Asheville, Buncombe County, 1917, 1925, 1943.
Shepard, Shirley Whitener. Resident of neighborhood from 1940-2003. Interview by Sybil Argintar, 13 December 2006.
Swaim, Douglas, editor. Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina. Asheville, North Carolina: County of Buncombe, 1981.
†Nomination document prepared by: Sybil H. Argintar, Southeastern Preservation Services, Norwood Park Historic District, 2008, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.