By Kirby Rucker
Asheville’s architecture has been at the forefront of the city’s reputation since the early 1900s when it was aptly dubbed the “Paris of the South” for its vast range of architectural talent. And, after the Great Depression, the city opted to preserve some of these architectural treasures instead of demolishing them and building skyscrapers in their place to consolidate debts through bankruptcy. Though this was one reason that the city was so quiet until its revival in the 1970s, most would agree that it paid off with its historic skyline. Some of these downtown structures are very notable, such as the Basilica of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, the Buncombe County Courthouse, and the Flatiron Building. However, Asheville’s residential homes are often swept under the rug in terms of their architectural notability, though many are just as unique. These are some of Asheville’s historic architectural styles and where to find them.
1. Late 1800s – Late Victorian Era
Victorian-era homes in Asheville can date all the way back to 1870. These homes come in a number of architectural styles, from the more classic “Queen Anne” style to the more unique “Steamboat Gothic.” Victorian homes can mostly be found in the famously preserved Montford Area Historic District near downtown, but are also in Albemarle Park and along Charlotte Street. Most of these homes have been preserved so well that you wouldn’t even know that they’re over 100 years old. Some have more modern coats of paint—even bright pink. However, one unique trait that most Victorian homes in Asheville share are their pebbled stucco facades.
2. Turn of the century – The European Revival
The European Revival style is very recognizable in Asheville’s architecture. This is partially because there are so many of them, but also because of its unique and attractive design. Houses with this architecture were erected in the early 1900s in areas that were meant to attract a wealthier audience that sometimes came from—you guessed it—Europe. These houses are generally part of “villages” or close-knit communities, and that’s why they can be found in both Biltmore Village and Grove Park. They may follow a more traditional “Norman” style, but many also have Spanish influences. Spanish-styled homes can mostly be found in the Chestnut area.
3. 1920s & 30s – Modest Bungalows
The Modest Bungalow is definitely the most plentiful style of residential architecture in the Asheville area. This style became popular as Asheville began to boom (the first time) right around the early 1920s. It was more affordable to build, convenient to maintain, and the right size to start a family with an average of two bedrooms. There are still plenty of these traditional bungalows in most Asheville city neighborhoods, but most notably in areas like West Asheville, Five Points, and Kenilworth. Many have been given a more modern twist but are still traditionally painted with earth tone colors.
4. Mid-century – Brutalist Era
Many may think of the Brutalist style as looking “modern,” and it certainly was for its time, but many of these homes are nearing half a century old. Though many Brutalist structures in Asheville can be found as city buildings downtown, there are some residential homes dotted here and there, mostly in the North Asheville area around UNC Asheville. Brutalist structures are quite the talking point, with blocky, concrete design. Some rally around the design as a historic asset while others deem it unsightly. However, many of these homes have become incredibly appealing staples of neighborhoods such as Edgewood, standing out amongst the bungalows and cottages.