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  • Architectural style is grounded in history. What story does your home tell you?

    Saturday, December 9, 2023   /   by Amy Brown

    Architectural style is grounded in history. What story does your home tell you?

    Mark shared a diagram with me this morning that I thought was quite interesting. Did you know that you can determine the architectural style of your home simply by the cornices?

    Asheville is known as the second largest example of Art Deco architecture in the country, second only to Miami, Florida. Many of our buildings, especially in the downtown area, have remained classic examples of this movement thanks to influential architects such as Douglas Ellington (Asheville City Hall), Anthony Lord (The Kenilworth Inn), Charles Parker (The Grove Arcade), and Richard Sharp Smith (All Souls Cathedral).

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    Douglas Ellington

    While much recognition has been given to Asheville's Art Deco architectural collection there are, however, numerous examples of other beautiful styles, most of which can be found collectively in the Montford neighborhood. Montford Avenue is immediately recognizable by its charming Victorian bed and breakfasts that line the street but there are also some beautiful examples of Greek Revival, Neo-Classical, and Colonial Revival.

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    The Rankin House, built in 1846 at 192 Elizabeth St., Greek Revival style

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    Mayor John A. Campbell house, built in 1903, Colonial Revival Style

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    Dr. Carl V. Reynolds home, built in 1909, 86 Edgemont Rd., Neo-Classical

    In the absence of property history, how can I more aptly identify the period a home?

    This quick reference guide should help.

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    The shape of the cornice either on the exterior or interior of the home, if it has remained original, reflects the history of the times and tells a story in its own right.

    For example, the American Craftsman movement spread between 1900 and 1929. It was a backlash against the mass-produced, Industrial Revolution fueled Victorian architecture boom that prized ornament and decoration made accessible by new inventions in manufacturing. Craftsman architecture was a reaffirmation of natural beauty and forms highlighting what man could make with his own two hands.

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    You can see much of the American Craftsman movement throughout the Norwood Park neighborhood off of Merrimon Avenue.

    The Arts and Crafts movement which began at the end of the 19th century was another revolt against the Industrial Revolution and a push to remove work from machines and return it to the hands of designers and craftspeople. Marked by simpler designs and native materials you can see evidence of this style in the homes throughout the Grove Park area.

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    The Mid-Century Modern movement truly began after the second World War when people desired functionality over aesthetic. It was considered a vehicle for social change encouraging people to reconnect with nature by spaces with a sense of openness and integration. Pioneered by a generation of architects fleeing Nazi Germany, like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who ran the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology, this movement lasted well into the 1980s.

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    I hope you found this tour into architectural history interesting and encourages you to take a look at your own home and determine what influences it has. You never know...you could be sitting upon a piece of history!