“Asheville is highly desirable,” Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County executive director Jack Thomson says, “and it’s because of our mountain setting, and because of our historic architecture.”
Asheville has seen its fair share of real estate booms, with the first dating back to the late 19th century. Since then, developers have flocked to the area, each making their mark on a different part of the city. Unlike many other towns in the United States, however, new developments didn’t always mean tearing down the old ones. Because of this, Asheville has become a living museum of nearly every style of American architecture from the 1870s to now, ranging from Victorian-era Queen Anne homes to mid-century brutalist designs.
These designs are commonly tied to one of the town’s many historic neighborhoods that Thomson says all have their own character and sense of space. Each of Asheville’s historic neighborhoods was built at a different time and with a different purpose. All of them provide buyers an opportunity to own a classic American home. While this list is by no means a comprehensive guide to every neighborhood and type of architecture to be found in Asheville, we’ve put together a few popular areas to get you started on your journey through historic Asheville.
Montford is the earliest planned neighborhood in Asheville, and remains one of the most sought-after areas in the city to this day. Montford homes date back to 1870 and it is the largest historic neighborhood both in geography and the amount of historic homes and structures. The neighborhood has incredibly diverse housing stock from the late 19th and early 20th century. Historic homes in Montford are typically late-Victorian, featuring many classic styles ranging from Queen Anne to Steamboat Gothic. Many homes in the area have pebbled ash stucco finish, a uniquely Asheville accent.
Grove Park was developed by Dr. Edwin Wiley Grove between 1904-1905. Grove made his mark on other parts of town, namely downtown’s Battery Park Hotel and Grove Arcade. Grove Park is the result of Dr. Grove turning a plot of farmland into a planned community. Landscaping plays a huge part in the area, with Kimberly Avenue and Edwin Place lined with specific types of trees. The community revolves around its namesake park, in keeping with Grove’s plan to create a neighborhood with its own public space. The development was designed as a high-end community with a minimum (but not a maximum!) house value put in place for every plot of land. Homes in Grove Park reflect the turn-of-the-century aesthetics with a variety of European Revival styles, including Norman Cottages and Spanish influences.
“You ask nine out of ten people from Asheville where Jackson Park is and they probably don’t know,” Thomson says. While it doesn’t carry the reputation of Montford or West Asheville, Jackson Park is a well-knit neighborhood of arts and crafts bungalows built in the 1920s. The arts and crafts movement favored well-built, simple and elegant designs that were a direct contrast to the ornate, machine-built designs of late industrialism. The Jackson name is also significant in Asheville history—the family has been involved in local real estate for over 100 years.
Chestnut Hill has one decidedly strange feature for an Asheville neighborhood: a rigid street grid. Most neighborhoods in the city weave through hills with windy roads, but things here are a little more geometric. Chestnut Hill’s housing stock is characterized by a central core of large houses built from the 1890s to 1920s. This central core is the least dense area of the neighborhood, with comparatively large lots and interesting landscape features.
Much of East End’s historic architecture has been lost as Asheville expanded into the urban center it is today. The construction of South Charlotte Street resulted in the demolition of much of East End, and the street serves as a dividing line between East End and downtown. That isn’t to say there is no historic real estate left, though. The neighborhood has a melange of early-20th-century and post-war homes. “Today,” Thomson says, “East End has been discovered by new urbanites and is trying to balance vitality with gentrification.”
South French Broad
This neighborhood’s historic housing stock dates back to the 1890s. It is centered around Asheville Middle School and was once the approach to the passenger railroad depot in what is now the River Arts District. Visitors to Asheville used to get off the train at the train depot and ride street cars up the hill to the downtown area.
Located near South French Broad, Chicken Hill was historically a working-class neighborhood. “Think of it as a Mill village on the side of a hill overlooking the mills that were down in the River Arts District,” Thomson says. Today, it is a quirky neighborhood with a variety of architectural influences from different eras of Asheville’s development.
Kenilworth is one of many neighborhoods that sprouted up during Asheville’s 1920s boom era. It features an early modernist home built in the 1930s, a number of Mediterranean Revival houses, and some of the area’s most stylish arts and crafts bungalows. This diverse mix is knitted together by the development patterns and era where most of its development took place.
“Biltmore Forest is probably our strongest example of an enclave neighborhood,” Thomson says. It was specifically marketed towards the wealthiest buyers on the market at the time of its inception. The neighborhood was developed to alleviate financial strain on the Vanderbilt family. In fact, land deals like Biltmore Forest and the designation of the Pisgah National Forest were instrumental in the Vanderbilt family saving the Biltmore Estate.
Another result of the 1920s development boom, Lakeview Park is the area surrounding Beaver Lake. It was originally a project for prominent developers from Charlotte but is unique in its long development timeline and broad spectrum of styles represented. Here you’ll find massive, flamboyant European Revival houses from the 20s right next to more modern homes built in the 1960s. The neighborhood’s diverse housing stock includes a modernist home from the 40s built by internationally known architect Marcell Brauer.
If you’re in the market for a historic home and see an Albemarle Park home pop up, don’t hesitate to make an offer. Thomson says listings in this National Historic District are incredibly rare—he’s only seen four or five in the past ten years. Ablemarle Park consists of 25 homes, all nestled perfectly into the mountain landscape. The neighborhood’s calling card is a gatehouse that stands near the intersection of Charlotte Street and Edwin to welcome visitors. While living in one of these homes is a privilege few Ashevillians will ever have, Thomson recommends any fans of 1890s home design take a windshield tour one afternoon.
One of Asheville’s most sought-after neighborhoods, West Asheville is full of vibrant history and classic architecture. While it is considered one of Asheville’s neighborhoods today, West Asheville was once a separate town entirely. Much of the original city’s charm has been hidden by development and attempts at modernization over the last few decades. Thomson says there are still original brick pavers and trolley lines under the asphalt on Haywood Street, and many older buildings have slipcovers—accents like awnings added decades later—or replacement siding put directly over the original wood or brick walls. Take that siding down, Thomson says, “and you go immediately from 1960 straight back to 1920.”
West Asheville is a patchwork of smaller neighborhoods, including Horneyhurst, Burton Street, and Brucemont. These neighborhoods are a densely packed with modest bungalows from the 1920s and 30s and homes that exemplify the American Arts & Crafts design movement. As these aesthetics come back into style, interest in West Asheville has grown immensely and buyers are ecstatic to unearth beautiful original features preserved by siding and carpeting.
Buying Historic Real Estate
This list is only a small sampling of the many diverse neighborhoods and housing styles to be found in Asheville. Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find something that works for you. Thanks to local preservation efforts in these neighborhoods and others like them, the physical history of Asheville will remain in place for homebuyers to fall in love with for decades to come.
This article was written in partnership with the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County. If you’d like to learn more about their preservation efforts and how you can get involved, visit their website to contact them today.
We Are Here To Help
Our agents receive extensive training and are equipped with the latest technology to help you find your next home. Most importantly, they love working with people just like you!